Police estimate 5000 protesters rally against federal Coalition policies in CBD march

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Herald Sun: Police estimate 5000 protesters rally against federal Coalition policies in CBD march. Samantha Landy 31 August 2014

Protestors walk along Bourke St to the steps of Parliament on Spring St during the anti-Abbott rally in Melbourne. Picture: Mark Dadswell

Cries of “shame, Abbott, shame” rang through Melbourne’s CBD today as thousands of people marched through the streets in protest of the Federal Government’s policies.

Police estimated up to 5000 people had flocked to the State Library of Victoria at 1pm for “March Australia” before marching down Swanston and Bourke Sts to Parliament where they heard several speakers, including human rights lawyer Julian Burnside.

The issues being protested — among them the Abbott Government’s stance on asylum seekers, the environment, welfare, education, foreign aid, women’s issues and the tax system — were as diverse as the marchers themselves, with primary-school aged children through to pensioners walking side-by-side.

MORE: Three charged after East-West protesters clash with police

Groups of serial protesters — including the anti-East West Link demonstrators — dotted the crowd.

A looming puppet of the Prime Minister also stood among them.

Protestors gather at the State Library. Picture: Mark Dadswell

The comic figure had smoke shooting from his behind to signal him being a “liar liar, pants on fire” and used his giant hands to “break promises” written on cardboard signs.

Trams and traffic were disrupted by the horde of demonstrators, who clasped signs reading “Abbott is un-Australian”, “#teamaustralia is worse than Collingwood” and “burn the detention centres, deport the government, welcome refugees”.

The protesters also voiced their displeasure at the Abbott regime, chanting “we deserve better”, “this is what democracy looks like” and “Joe Hockey f*** you, we drive cars too”.

But police commended their behaviour.

“(There were) no issues,” Insp Steven Cooper said.

“They did what they told us they were going to do. It was peaceful.”

The speakers at Parliament slammed the government’s treatment of a raft of issues, led by MC, writer and social commentator Van Badham.

“We are the political force that Aboott has shafted at his peril,” Ms Badham said.

“It’s the people gathered here today that will bring this … government down.”

Mr Burnside — a human rights advocate and prominent QC — condemned Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s treatment of asylum seekers as “deliberately harming young men, women and children” and “a crime”.

A Tony Abbott figurine at the anti-Abbott rally in Melbourne. Picture: Mark Dadswell
A Tony Abbott figurine at the anti-Abbott rally in Melbourne. Picture: Mark Dadswell
“When the next election comes around, remember the crime, remember the cruelty, remember the lies, and kick them out,” he said.

Year 12 student Marlee Gorman told the crowd the government’s changes to university fees could make it financially difficult for him to continue his education.

“My education could cost me $100,000. I couldn’t vote in the last election and I am going to suffer,” the 18-year-old said.

Lock the Gate Victoria co-ordinator Ursula Alquier and Greenpeace chief executive David Ritter criticised the government’s environmental policies, while Destroy the Joint director Jennie Hill said Hockey’s budget had “hit women the hardest”.

Friends of the ABC campaign manager Glenys Stradijot said funding cuts could threaten the national broadcaster, while Doctors’ Reform Society vice president Tim Woodruff canned the government’s health care policies.

MC Van Baham speaks to the crowd on the steps of Parliament during the anti-Abbott rally in Melbourne. Picture: Mark Dadswell

It was the second anti-government rally held in Melbourne this year, with another in March drawing as many as 30,000 people.

Rallies were due to be held in 27 locations across Australia this weekend.

samantha.landy@news.com.au

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