Thousands protest budget measures

There were large rallies yesterday in Melbourne, Perth, Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane and Darwin, with smaller gatherings in regional areas.

Families, students, retirees and pensioners joined union groups yesterday at Bust the Budget protests to voice their outrage at the planned budget measures. The proposed measures, which include a $7 GP co-payment, changes to pension indexation and deregulation of tertiary education, will go before the Senate for approval over the next three years.

Dave Oliver, secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) said that the wide range of people who attended sent a strong message to Tony Abbott. “This budget is going to hit the most vulnerable in our society,” he said.

“What this budget is doing is sending our country down the same path to where the United States is today … they have a country that is divided by a nation of haves and have-nots.”

Melbourne had the largest reported crowd, which was estimated at about 12,000, while 2000 turned out in Sydney’s CBD. Greens leader Christine Milne, who was at the Sydney rally told reporters that the protests were born out of frustration with planned cuts and changes to the welfare system. “(Tony Abbott) is making life harder for people,” she said. “He’s making life a misery for people who are unemployed and searching for work.”

Treasurer Joe Hockey, who is responsible for the measures announced in his first budget, said the criticism was based on “1970s class warfare” and that it should be more about equal opportunity.

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Opinion: Will it make a difference?

This is not the first time people have taken to the streets to protest against the budget measures, with the previous rallies happening in May, just after Joe Hockey delivered his plans to balance the books. But what is to be gained by taking to the streets? The Coalition Government is not about to change its mind just because thousands of people have rallied to voice their displeasure, but its important that those who will be responsible for passing the measures, the new members of the Senate, know just how unhappy and concerned the public are.

The new Senate, some of who’s members will be experiencing politics for the first time, has an important task ahead. It has to decide if the Government’s planned budget measures are best for the country, or whether the voices of those protesting in the streets are worth listening to. And remember, those people protesting in the streets may just be the very same people who voted them into the Senate.

While protesting in the street may not have a direct impact on whether or not the budget measures pass the Senate, it is important for people to feel as though they have a voice. Given that it’s at least two years before Australians get the chance to have their say at the polls, taking to the streets is better than doing nothing and it might just be enough to have members of the Senate think twice before approving the budget measures.

Do you think protesting is worthwhile? Would you march against harsh budget measures? Or are there other, more effective ways of sending a message to the Federal Government?

Written by Debbie McTaggart