Page 4169 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 15 November 2005

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industrial relations changes. Today will go down in the history books. Today, over 360,000 workers took a stand for their rights and the rights of their children. Over 200,000, as reported by the ACTU, gathered in Melbourne. The Sydney Morning Herald reports 120,000 in New South Wales, including Sydney, 20,000 in Perth, 15,000 in Tasmania, 10,000 in both Adelaide and Hobart, and in excess of 4,000 in Canberra.

In addressing the country this morning as it rallied together, via live telecast, Greg Combet, ACTU secretary, said:

Today, by rallying in such huge numbers, we declare that working people will not be denied a central place in Australia’s future.

Working families built this country. They fought and died for it.

They do not deserve to have their rights at work taken away.

The government’s laws are motivated by ideology—the articles of Liberal Party faith—the prejudices of the Prime Minister.

We face these laws simply because the Government has won control of the Senate and has the power to do what it wants.

And in the next couple of weeks the Government will abuse that power and ram these laws through.

When it does so, it will not signal any setback for our campaign.

Rather, it will signal the start of a determined, relentless effort to overturn these laws and put in their place decent rights for the working people of this country.

That is our goal.

Despite every attempt by employer groups around the country to scare employees from attending today’s rally, they turned out in droves. Mums and dads with their children, retired workers in support of their working families, and union members all stood up for their rights. “Your rights at work, worth fighting for” is the slogan of the ACTU campaign, and it is fitting. But I think it extends beyond your rights. As Sharan Burrow, ACTU president, stated this morning in Melbourne, we are in danger of being the first generation who will leave to our children worse working conditions.

Your rights at work is about all rights at work now and in the future. No worker should have to choose between losing annual leave with his or her family or the sack for not signing an AWA with such clauses. No worker should have to pay huge legal costs for fighting an unfair dismissal. No worker should lose penalty rates in the name of flexibility. These things we believe now and we believe for the future.

Four thousand workers and their families turned out to this rally this morning, despite Mr Mulcahy’s belief of its irrelevance, despite the threats by employer groups and despite the fanciful figures on public service cost of attendance. Our Chief Minister received a 4,000-strong standing ovation, a fantastic response from the Canberra community.

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