Thousands came to Sydney Town Hall on Sunday to the Bust the Budget march in protest against the Coalition’s May budget.
Speaking to The Big Smoke, Unions NSW Secretary Mark Lennon said, “This protest shows that there is a high level of anger about the budget out there in the community. If you get 10000 people* out there on the streets seven weeks after a budget then people aren’t happy.
“Importantly, we want the new senators to know that community concern about the budget remains and they should vote down not the budget bills. We still want government to function but they should vote down the changes in the budget, in regards to healthcare, pensions, petrol tax and others.”
Mr. Lennon said that while he hadn’t personally been in contact with the new senators, union colleague’s had.
There was a diverse demographic in attendance a the Bust the Budget march, with the elderly, the young, middle-aged, and parents with children out in force. A wide variety of groups with differing interests were scattered amongst the rally – Labor, Greens, Teachers Unions, Health Care Unions, students, communists and anarchists.
This protest was one of many across Australia, with Unions in each state coinciding their marches for July 6, including in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra.
The budget, introduced May 13, has been criticised for being too extreme; measures in the bill included rises in University fees, a tax on GP visits and prescriptions and cuts to the ABC.
Tara Waniganayaka, President of the University of Sydney Union attended the Bust the Budget march with major concerns about tertiary sector deregulation.
“The deregulation would be the main thing I was here for, but my father is a public servant, his office has already seen a lot of the affects of informal budget cuts and now that the actual budget cuts have come through they have already started cutting jobs and giving redundancies.
“So I suppose in that perspective I am definitely very angry and then I mean the list is pretty excessive, pensions, taxes.”
Michael de Wall, former teacher and currently an organiser for NSW Teachers Federation, was representing the “I Give a Gonski Group”.
“Gonski represents a significant shift to needs-based funding, insuring that every school meets a minimum resource requirement and what has happened under this budget is that the Abbott government has walked away from the fifth and sixth years (of funding) and essentially walked away from needs based funding.
Each speaker at the demonstration represented various interest, and included Aunty Shirley from Redfern; Kerry Rodgers, a registered nurse; Lyn McIver of “Fair Go For Pensioners”; Jade Tyrell former President National Union of Students; Maree O’Halloran, NSW Welfare Rights Centre; and Dave Oliver, Secretary of the ACTU.
Aunt Shirley was strident in her determination to see the budget torn apart.
“We are going to bust the budget and we are going to bust Tony Abbott.”
While walking along Pitt Street among the Bust the Budget march a song rang back and forward between chant-ee and chanters to the tune of When the Saints...
Oh when we all,
Oh when we all,
Throw Abbott out,
Throw Abbott Out,
Oh when we all throw Abbott out,
Oh how I want to be in that number,
When we all through Abbott out.
Robert Wirth holding aloft a sign, ‘The Lying King’ with a picture of Tony Abbott, complete with mocked up mane, declared what he wanted to achieve from the demonstration.
“Double dissolution, I want him out, the Liberal party is a neoliberal fascist, the propaganda machine is just like Nazi Germany, it shocks me that this is happening in Australia in the 21st century,” citing the case of Tamils being returned to Sri Lanka, a country known for committing torture.
“We are going to bust the budget, and we are going to bust Tony Abbott.”
Since announcing the Budget, the Coalition has seen a significant drop in popularity, a recent Newspoll for The Australian, showed voters moving support to Labor, the Green’s and Others. Prime Minister Abbott’s popularity has followed this trend, with the same poll showing that 62% of interviewees said they were dissatisfied with Abbott’s performance – the highest level in the six polls – and with 44% saying Bill Shorten would make a better Prime Minister.
*The Sydney Morning Herald reported police estimates at 6000