Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has led a rally of thousands of disgruntled educators in Perth, who have closed more than 100 schools with a strike protesting education funding cuts.
Teachers, parents and students brought Perth’s CBD to a standstill with a march up to state parliament, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and WA Premier Colin Barnett the main targets.
With Mr Shorten at the head of the march, he accused Mr Barnett of “selling out” the state.
“It is not just about the politics, not just about the shameful cuts, it is fundamentally about our children,” Mr Shorten said.
“It is a terrible betrayal of our kids that we have people in power cutting school budgets.
“Our children have to compete with the rest of the world. How dare the Barnett government, how dare the Abbott government say that the average is good enough.
“The average is never good enough for our children.”
As the march flowed up St Georges Terrace, Mr Abbott and his cabinet would have been able to hear the chanting as they held a meeting in one of the nearby city office towers.
Earlier, Mr Abbott told Fairfax radio he was “not familiar with the particular grievance today” but said “the place for teachers is in the classroom with their students”.
He defended the Liberal state government’s management of education, saying funding in WA was probably more generous than other Australian jurisdictions, and again praised its independent schools model.
“So I know that there are lots of good things happening in WA schools,” Mr Abbott said.
The state government says the strike action is unlawful and politically motivated ahead of the re-run Senate election on Saturday.
While protesters held up placards mocking the state government, a plane flew overhead bearing the banner: “Let’s fix this mess – vote 1 Liberal”.