The invitation to march, circulated via social media, calls on people to “participate in democracy”.
“Democracy doesn't end at the ballot box,” the invitation says. “It is the right, if not duty, of all Australians to hold our elected representatives to account; to remind them that they are, above all else, public servants.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten distanced himself from the rally, telling reporters the Labor Party is not formally involved. Labor was criticised at the protests with some placing blame on the previous government for bringing back offshore detention.
However, unions were present. Demonstrators waving placards have today voiced anger on issues including climate change, the treatment of asylum seekers, marriage equality, the tax system and media ownership. Parents, students, environmentalists, refugee supporters, cab drivers, teachers and children gathered to tell the government they are not happy."We demand better!" and "Not in my name!" while others held placards that stated: "Abbott, you're a disgrace". What united them was anger and frustration at everything that's happened since the federal election. They feel excluded, ignored, neglected and abandoned by Abbott’s government.
At the Sydney protest British singer Billy Bragg gave a speech about equality and fairness. Bragg took aim at mining baron Gina Rinehart over her recent call for Australia to adopt Thatcherite policies. But he said "cynicism" was the real enemy. "The true enemy is not actually capitalism or Conservatism - it's cynicism," he told the crowd. "It's the cynicism that we see in the right-wing press, it's the cynicism we see on the internet.”
Van Badham, who spoke at the Melboure rally, said she was surprised to see how the protest was organised by people she hadn’t previously met in Melbourne’s activist and social justice circles.
“It’s not the usual suspects. They’re here, but they’ve had nothing to do with the organising,” she said while marching down Bourke Street. “This protest is so community focused and taps into this real sense of displacement and moral anger, which is quite unusual.”
At the Newcastle protest the biggest issue of the day was refugee policy and the loudest cheers of the day were – to these ears – given to Newcastle Greens councillor Therese Doyle, representing the Refugee Action Network Newcastle.
Newcastle Trades Hall Council secretary Gary Kennedy launched a vitriolic and pointed attack on some of what he regarded as the biggest symbols of corporate greed, describing Gina Rinehart as a ‘‘filthy animal’’ for the way she protected her wealth while calling on others to work for less, and saying Qantas chief Alan Joyce should be ‘‘shot in the back of the head’’ for proposing to sack 5000 workers to pay for his failed management strategies.