News National Protestors united in national opposition to PM

Protestors united in national opposition to PM

Anti-Abbott protest
Terry Brown
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The March in March coalition of the unwilling has one more problem with the Coalition Government before it starts tramping.

In six months as Prime Minister, Tony Abbott has rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way.

Now, as protesters gather, their freedom to fully express themselves has been limited. Simply put, there are more grievances to be aired than there is room on even the big signs.

The choice is between incomplete or illegible.

Freja Leonard from Frankston, south east of Melbourne, opts for short and sharp, “Tony Abbott – Stop Being Awful”.

“I was going to bring one that said ‘Abbott, stop being a dick’,” she says.

“There’s so many things. I was going to bring a sign that listed all the things, but there’s no way I could carry a banner that big.”

The range of slogans is unmatched in a Melbourne protest. It isn’t just one thing about Mr Abbott.

“Boo Abbott,” one sign says succinctly. “Resign, Dickhead,” urges another. One has no words at all, just red togs with a black diagonal line through them.

Anti-Abbott protest
Too many problems to list. Photo: Terry Brown

The available gripes run well into three figures, Russell Cornelious and Chantal Teague say. They have squeezed about 100 on their sign, accusing Mr Abbott of doing over everything from Medicare to Sumatran Rhinos.

“There’s a lot we couldn’t fit on here,” Mr Cornelious says.

In Sydney, British singer Billy Bragg spoke about equality and fairness, while protesters waved a colourful placards protesting everything from asylum policies and indigenous welfare to shark culls. In Brisbane, protestors took the chance to protestor Premier Cambell Newman’s bilie laws.

Back at the Melbourne march, the Tertiary Education Union’s Colin Long accuses the PM of trying to re-run the 1950s, only without the good music.

“Isn’t it extraordinary the number of people Abbott has been able to politicise,” he says. Police have been told to expect 3000 to 5000. The early estimate is low by a factor of four.

MC Van Badham says she is shocked by the higher turnout.

“Unlike the Cabinet, these people look like Australians. Oh my God, there are women here!” she says as the march is about to start.

Children and the frail elderly are ordered for safety to the front of the flatbed truck leading the procession until the inadvisability of that is pointed out. “Behind the truck!” it is corrected.

The march starts with four official chants: “Shame Abbott Shame, We Deserve Better, Not In My Name and People Not Profits, the latter point lost on a man selling $10 Abbott cleaning rags.

As it reaches Parliament, the procession is still leaving the State Library four big city blocks away. Police say it is 12,000 strong. Organisers say 20,000-plus.

A Japanese couple are getting wedding photos on the steps. They pose with the march behind them.

The signs come in all shapes, sizes, fabrics. Knit Your Revolt has the PM stitched up with a patchwork “Misogynistic Nitwit. Not PM Material.” Others hold a quilt. “Asylum Seekers Welcome Here.”

“Kindness matters. Ditch the warlock. Turn back the oafs. Tony, at least you could have bought us dinner first. Dirty Coal. Superman was a refugee …” Something for everyone.

And at Treasury Gardens, winding down, things get deep, deeper.

“We march on solid land for the creatures and flora of the seas,” an environmentalist says.

The signs are mixed, all over the place and all over half of the city, but the message is clear from at least one placard.

“I’m so angry I made this sign.”

Most recently a senior reporter at the Herald Sun, Terry Brown has been a writer/journalist for half his life. As a columnist, colour writer, humorist and news hound, he has been in the thick of almost every major stories and events since 1987.