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Tag Archives: March In March

March in March 2017: Are You Angry Enough Yet?

Are you angry enough yet? That is the question March Australia would like to know. In 2017, March in March are taking it to the streets again!

In 2014, Tony Abbott and the Liberal National Coalition Government saw the anger well up in so many people and March in March took it to the streets. Three years later the Australian people are still angry and Malcolm Turnbull, like Tony Abbott before him, still does not have a positive or progressive agenda.

Although this morning on Twitter John Wren thinks he knows where the Prime Minister’s agenda might be. If only Irona was not on holidays! ????

The Liberal and National Coalition Government is still NOT listening to the people and March in March is BACK!

The Liberal Government has failed miserably under Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull and the list of things the Australians are angry about is almost endless.

It is time to Stand Up Australia! Instead, this year bring your best banners of Fizza, as the Lyin King has been removed and replaced! Thank you Australia! Give yourselves a round of applause!

How Many are YOU Angry About?

Here is the list presented by March in March as some of the things you may be angry about. If you are angry about any of these things, something else, or maybe just the flat-out incompetence of the Turnbull Coalition Government – then get amongst it. Boots on the ground people!

march-in-march-1

March in March – Get Involved Today!

Watch the Video below for how to get involved today; or visit the March Australia Activist Interchange Facebook Page:

 

What is the Point?

As we saw with the influence that marches like these had on the influence of the removal of Tony Abbott and the influence of pure people power to remove Campbell Newman from power in Queensland, with Labor and other parties taking 40 seats off the LNP Government. The removal of the Newman LNP Government freed Queenslanders from mass sackings, removal of civil liberties and the closure of many vital and important public and community services and the privatisation of our important assets.

Boots on the Ground does make a difference.

Get involved today!

Originally published on The Red Window Blog

March in March

For those who want to express their displeasure with the direction this government is taking us, March in March is happening again on the weekend of 21/22 March.

This is especially important in NSW with the state election the following weekend. The following is from the organisers of the Sydney March.

AHEAD OF THE NSW STATE ELECTION, SYDNEY WILL MARCH IN MARCH AGAIN! SUNDAY 22nd CBD 1PM

The people have spoken but the fight is far from over!

March in March is on again – an empowering day to unite with fellow Australians to call for a better government! Come and voice your concerns, stand up for what you believe in and demand better policy making now and for our future ahead of the NSW State Election on March 28th!

In March 2014 over 20,000 people joined us in Sydney to be counted. Are you ashamed of this government? Are you concerned about the direction our country is headed? JOIN US IN 2015!

Abbott may relinquish his leadership but the current government still has a lot to answer for and the buck stops with us! The people have been outspoken – so far cuts and changes to healthcare, welfare and education have been rejected but there is still much to fight for – ABC funding has been cut; the environment, science, climate change, the treatment of refugees and our indigenous people are among many issues which are dangerously disregarded; healthcare, welfare and education are under continual threat. Mining and environmentally destructive methods threaten our land while lining the pockets of those in power; our government ignores climate change and the needs of it’s people while the mainstream media pushes its own agenda…

The war has only been half won but we have their attention!

We want the government to listen to our demands for a fairer future for all!

JOIN US ON MARCH 22ND – ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

 

Other marches that have been organised so far are listed below.

Perth : www.facebook.com/events/788089714593655

Adelaide: www.facebook.com/events/770422876358010

Sydney: www.facebook.com/events/369091693273364

Canberra: www.facebook.com/events/1554387471483989

Horsham: www.facebook.com/events/318807181658517

Albury/Wodonga: www.facebook.com/events/728018177319092

Bega Valley: www.facebook.com/marchaustraliabegavalley

Taree: www.facebook.com/events/1410121332632637

 

For updates the home page can be found here.

 

The purpose of March Australia: demanding change for the better

Why do we march against the Abbott Government? Admittedly marching will not change the government or the government’s ideology, but it will help to raise awareness of important issues and get people thinking, writes Gosford organiser Kym.

I first came across the March in March at the end of last year, but took my time in deciding whether or not I wanted to be involved in an organisational role. One thing lead to another, and . . .

I had never been to a rally in my life, let alone help organise one! I guess that up until then I had never been around the right people or groups to think about becoming more involved; not just about the march itself, but also with the issues we were marching for or against. I had seen the media bias and I had seen the damage this bias had caused; both at a personal level and towards our national psyche. I knew that we could never rely on the media to support our cause. That, however, is a different story.

I know we are a ‘lucky’ country lucky because we do not have war or famine and are free to choose our beliefs. However I know from experience, observation and plenty of research that this beautiful rich country does have some great inequalities and injustices. I know enough to not believe everything the media says and that things aren’t as simple as black/white or lefties and Tories. I found March in March appealing because it was not aligned with any political party, was grassroots and calling for decency, transparency and accountability in government.

I put my hand up to help organise the Gosford march, on the NSW Central Coast. After taking this step and setting up the Gosord Facebook page (now Central Coast), I felt a bit overwhelmed and thought to myself “what have I just done”? I did a call out on the page for volunteers and had a great response. I set up a Facebook group we could liaise in and this grew into countless nights organising the march and and promoting it via the social media.

The Gosford March in March was very successful, with an estimated 1200 people marching, which is amazing for Gosford and probably the largest rally Gosford has ever had. Nationwide we were 100,000 strong. Even though 50,000 marched in Melbourne and we were seemingly hard to ignore, the mainstream media still managed to ignore us.

I also went to March in May in Sydney and was part of the organising team for March in August on the Central Coast. I have to say all three Marches were a positive and inspiring experience. They were well-organised, peaceful, and had great, well-informed speakers. There were a wide range of people represented: young, old, students, professionals, disabled, and people from a range of political back grounds, including a few disgruntled LNP voters.

If you have never been to a rally or don’t know anything about rallies, then it is easy to misunderstand the purpose of the March Australia Marches and dismiss the people marching as just lefties having a whinge or people who want handouts. That way it can be brushed under the carpet instead of acknowledging that most people who marched are hardworking, educated people who have paid taxes their whole life. Many are either personally affected or know someone who is affected by the government’s policies.

Many who aren’t affected are informed enough to know what the impacts of theses policies are on the poor and our environment. It is a strange thing when some of the people, who are most informed, genuinely concerned, and trying to contribute to making change for the better, are the ones labelled as lefties or whingers. I am actually not a member of any political party. Personally, I think we need a third major party and also to make some changes to ‘the system’. I don’t like to talk endlessly about politics or push my beliefs on to people, although I have no problem standing up for social justice, inequality, human rights and the environment. For me it is not about political parties but about humanity, truth and doing what is right.

It is quite easy to get caught up in propaganda without any real knowledge or understanding of the issues, where we have deep-seated political beliefs that aren’t based on any facts or of any use in reality. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all take the time to do a bit of research, use intelligent evaluation and actually have an adult conversation about some of the issues and come together up with some better solutions? It is time to move beyond the sudden deadly silence when anything remotely political is mentioned. Why can’t we promote understanding and education on issues, instead of judgement and fear? It is mind-boggling to have an election based around ‘stop the boats’ and ‘axe the tax’.

Are Australian’s really so concerned about a small amount of asylum seekers that wouldn’t even fill the stadium at Homebush? Especially since most asylum seekers come by plane? Do we ever hear ‘stop the planes’? What about ‘stop the ignorance’ and ‘stop the fear mongering’? Using words like ‘leaners’ and ‘illegals’ does nothing to help people understand the situation. Why not tell people that ‘it is not illegal to seek asylum, whether by boat, plane or any other means necessary’, and that most boat people have proved to be genuine refugees? It even says so on the parliamentary website. Why pander to people’s fear and ignorance? This type of ignorance is being fueled by political ideology and the media. If people were a little more educated then they most probably would have a different view. More understanding does not necessarily mean open borders either. It means we can work together on creating a more humane policy.

Australia has a fairly well-targeted welfare system. It was created as a safety net for those who need it most. Yes there is plenty of room for improvement, but labeling people as ‘leaners’ or wanting handouts does not help at all. This type of attitude and labeling creates unnecessary stigma and actually demoralises people. Most people on welfare payments do not want to be on welfare. Newstart is way below the minimum wage and very difficult to live on. Most want a job and do not want to be in the position they are in. It is unfair to lump everyone together, just because a few take advantage of the system. There will always be people who take advantage of the system, who lie, who steal. There are unfortunately some people like these everywhere, and in every industry. This type of stigma is not fair on pensioners, the single parents, low income families, those who were made redundant, who have not enough jobs in their area, who are disabled, ill . . . the list goes on and on.

What ever happened to the view that those doing it tough were seen as ‘Aussie battlers’? Everyone wants to add their judgements and criticisms. Before passing judgement about certain groups of people, ask yourself: have I ever experienced, met, worked with or found out more information about asylum seekers, homeless people, unemployed or people with a disability? If the answer is no, then why do you have such strong opinions on something you have no experience with and know nothing about? I understand that some people aren’t into politics, especially since watching parliament can be like watching a high school rabble. It is quite easy to see that type of nonsense and decide not give a crap, because whatever I or say do is not going to make much difference any way. I am too busy; I have my own life to live. I have a roof over my head, I have friends, I have beer, and it doesn’t affect me. Why should I care? Why should I go marching around like an idiot for something that doesn’t affect me? Why don’t people just contribute to democracy with their vote at the next election? These are some of the attitudes and comments I have come across. Is it really so silly to take the time to do some research and have some discussion about what is happening in our country and our communities? Are we just supposed to stick our head in the sand like an ostrich and be oblivious to everything until next election rolls around? Does it not matter that the funds have been ripped out of vital community services? My electorate has high youth unemployment rate and the local youth refuge has lost its funding. Maybe these youths should go and get a job. Who cares if there are more unemployed than jobs available, they should all just get a job. Does it not matter that there are homeless families sleeping in cars because there is a lack of services to support the homeless? Maybe these homeless should just chose not to be homeless. Does it not matter that abuse, domestic violence, redundancy and mental health issues are some of the reasons for homelessness? Does it not matter that my electorate has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in Australia, yet funding to one of our local domestic violence support services has been cut? Legal aid has also been cut, so it is harder for women who are victims of domestic violence to ‘leave’. These are just a few of the many Central Coast, NSW issues. I’m sure each electorate has their own issues.

Marching will not change the government or the government’s ideology, but it will help to raise awareness of important issues and get people thinking, talking and contributing new ideas. We can’t all help everyone all the time or change the world on our own. Every person’s input makes a difference and when working together we can make change. We can all make the effort to question things and become a little more informed. This is the whole point of marching; to raise awareness and in unity work together for the common good: Australians. The more people that become aware, the more likely change will happen.

March in March Seeks Online Volunteers

Got some spare time and want and want to help the March in March team? Then this message from Loz Lawrey is for you.

I’m a helper with the March in March Australia people’s movement, part of a small team that provides admin support and assistance to over 40 regional groups working under the banner of “The People United For Better Government”.

If you followed the March in March rallies you’ll know that we strive to provide a platform for all people to speak out on their issues of concern, and with this current government there are more than ever!

Recently our team has lost some members who’ve had to scale back their involvement for personal reasons.

Many hands make light work, they say, and we’re hoping to share the load among more volunteers so that we can all experience more balance (and sanity) in our lives.

We are looking for help from people with the following skills:

  • Technical/internet/social media
  • Art and graphics
  • Secretarial/clerical

Ongoing work includes: Facebook support, admin, clerical work (eg. mailouts), meme-making, info sharing etc, in fact anything and everything that oils the machinery of this movement and helps to maintain our network.

If you’d like to contribute a few hours of your time and energy each week your assistance would be greatly appreciated.

If you’re interested in volunteering, please email us at March Australia: info@marchaustralia.com

Protest Australia

Protest Australia It’s glaringly obvious that Australians in their thousands have had enough of the incompetent yet unconscionable Abbott Government.

And they’ve voiced their disapproval.

This year we’ve seen the successful March in March where over 100,000 people took to the streets in a nationwide protest, and more recently the March in May were people also took to the streets in some major cities (with more planned later this year). Social and independent media sites have been filled with the shocking truths about this government, and finally, since the budget (some sections of) the mainstream media have also joined in on outrage.

And the voices of disapproval don’t look like stopping.

Which brings us to Protest Australia; the organisers of which have asked if we would issue this statement on their behalf:

A national action protest day will be held on the 24th of June. The purpose of this action is to call for the removal of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister. We will also be calling for transparency in politics and policies that uphold the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The protest will involve action such as marches and rallies around the country as well as a call out for a 24 hour national strike. We will be encouraging those who are unable to strike or rally to show support via a letter writing campaign and displaying signs at private residences and businesses.

The budget proposed by Tony Abbott is based on lies and does not benefit the Australian people. It is our belief that the policies of the current government were not disclosed with clarity during the election. This has interfered with the process of democracy as people did not get what they voted for. We are calling for transparency in all aspects of government in order to protect the administrative effectiveness of our democracy.

We ask that all Australians put aside political affiliations and stand for the people. This is not a normal Liberal budget and it comes with many discriminatory, harmful policy changes. This is an attack on the Australian way of life. If this budget is passed it will be the end of the lucky country, the end of the fair go and the end of Australia as we know it.

Details of events that have currently been organised are available here (https://www.facebook.com/events/660780343970691/669984033050322/). Our aim is to hold protest marches and rallies in every Australian city and town. New events will be announced on this page as they are released. We are encouraging non violent forms of protest only.

Disclaimer: Some people may argue that it is unconstitutional to call for the removal of a ‘duly’ elected prime minister. And some people may argue that a call for a national strike might do nothing but inconvenience thousands of people who rely on essential services. But it is hard to argue that this government has not lost the respect and support of millions of Australians and it is their right to show their disapproval in the direction the government is leading this country.

 

March in May

MiM SW March in March saw tens of thousands of disenchanted voters take to the streets across Australia in protest against the Abbott Government. But it was just the beginning. After the marchers had dispersed, the anger at the government still simmered.

Now the people are marching again.

The AIMN has been contacted by the organisers to promote the next instalment: March in May.

This we are more than happy to do.

After March in March many in the mainstream media ridiculed it as nothing more than a rabble. It was just a group of lefties, they mused, coming along for the walk and waving a placard.

March in May will have a clear message (see list below). The media will know why people are marching. It would be foolhardy to ignore it.

Here is the promo The AIMN received:

Media Diary, Sydney Event Alert for May 18 2014
MARCH IN MAY TO TAKE PLACE SYDNEY, ADELAIDE AND PERTH
SUNDAY MAY 18TH 1PM

MARCH IN MARCH saw over 110,000 Australians rally together across 33 locations to express their concern and disdain for the policies of the current government. This grass-roots movement gave a voice to a broad demographic including the elderly, young families, first-time activists, long-time activists and even Liberal voters.

This event was a positive, empowering and uplifting exercise in unity and democracy attracting a range of speakers from many walks of life. To follow on from its growing success, there will be a snap demonstration to register public objection to the ongoing irresponsible and dangerous decisions of our current Federal Government and the impending budgetary announcement – Sydney, Adelaide and Perth will again MARCH IN MAY 2014.

What exactly are we marching for? Better policy making NOW and better governance long-term; transparency, accountability, ethics and equity. We want a progressive Australia which reflects the open-minded, conscientious and intelligent nature of its citizens.

Core areas of concern include:
– Education (cuts to funding and new fees)
– Public services (healthcare, welfare, ABC & SBS funding cuts, the National Broadband Network)
– Environmental Issues (animal rights, climate change, dredging of the Great Barrier Reef, logging of heritage-listed forests, coal seam gas and mining)
– Human Rights (asylum seeker rights, indigenous issues, women’s issues, worker’s rights)
– The Economy (anti-Trans Pacific Partnership)
– Corruption within the government and pandering to corporations
– Political bias in the media.

MARCH IN MAY – SYDNEY SUNDAY MAY 18th
BELMORE PARK, CBD
AN EXCITING LIST OF GUEST SPEAKERS AND PERFORMERS TO BE ANNOUNCED

The message was delivered: no confidence in the Abbott Government whatsoever

A Statement of No Confidence in the Abbott Government has been delivered to the Australian Parliament as a message from the 100,000 people who took part in the March in March. And, writes MiM organiser Loz Lawrey, “As the intensity of the public’s dissatisfaction with this toxic government continues to grow, the message will be delivered again and again, over and over”.

“Let it be known, and entered into the public record, that on this day, Monday 17 March 2014, the People of Australia delivered this document to the Parliament of Australia.”

On a sunny Monday in March, a delegation of Australians presented a handwritten parchment to Adam Bandt, the Federal Member for Melbourne, at Parliament house in Canberra.

Adam had graciously agreed to accept the Statement of No Confidence and present it to Parliament on behalf of the more than 100,000 people around the country who attended the March in March rallies protesting the governance of the Liberal/National Coalition.

A few days later Senator Scott Ludlum attempted to table the Statement in the Senate, but sadly the tabling was disallowed on a technicality. Such a document had never been presented before, and the Abbott government narrowly avoided the need to officially respond.

The March in March 2014 Statement of No Confidence in the Liberal/National Coalition Government From the People of Australia was written and rewritten, passing through one set of hands and then another, from laptop to smartphone to desktop screen, added to and tweaked, then jigged and rejigged until it truly was a document “of the people”.

Those of us who took part in this joyous assertion of public sentiment knew all along that successful tabling and debating of this document was unlikely, since it didn’t fit the strict layout and presentation requirements for a petition and had no supporting signatures attached.

We also knew that petitions, even if they are tabled, are easily dismissed and require hundreds of thousands of signatures if they are to achieve any sort of real acknowledgment or response.

The Statement of No Confidence did not protest any single issue and made no demand for any particular outcome. With or without signatures the Statement was, and remains, an overarching assertion of public disapproval of this government’s decisions and the direction in which Abbott and his cronies are taking our country.

Although not yet officially tabled, the document still entered the public record via media news cameras and print coverage.

Despite the Abbott government’s refusal to publicly acknowledge the March rallies, it is aware of the Statement’s existence, and of its contents – the marchers’ message of No Confidence was delivered.

For the government and its cheer-squad in the mainstream media, a head-in-the-sand avoidance of the rallies and the Statement was the only possible response. To respond otherwise was to risk a humiliation even deeper than the serial embarrassments brought on daily by the public utterances of Abbott and his ministers, blithely reported by so many journalists.

The rallies that took place around Australia were a clear demonstration that there is great opposition to the ideologically-driven agenda of the Abbott government and that there is ever-growing public consternation (note the current polls) at the obvious attempts at social engineering, the blatant suppression of information, the retreat from transparency and accountability, the rorting and trough-snouting, as well as the lies and broken promises.

Oh, and it seems that some people are worried about the attacks on democracy and human rights, the abuse and mistreatment of refugee asylum seekers, the dismantling of environmental regulation and general trashing of our natural environment, the assault on wages and entitlements, and the closing down or defunding of every institution and organisation established to support and inform the public interest.

The lugubrious, repetitive pronouncements from “Smokey Joe” Hockey, whose pants seem to occasionally ignite and smoulder (leading to on-camera sweating and obvious discomfort), are grooming us for an austerity regime the like of which Australia has never seen. Let’s not forget that Abbott considers Maggie Thatcher a mentor to emulate.

Our country is suffering a concerted attack, by a government owned by vested interests, upon our vision of ourselves as a nation respected by the rest of the world for upholding standards of fairness and decency at home and abroad.

Thanks to Abbott and his cronies we are now viewed with global contempt – a xenophobic, racist raft of white supremacists floating in the Pacific, abusing all who come near. How have we allowed this perception of our multicultural society to take root and grow? Is this the reality?

Australia has never managed to grasp the opportunity afforded by the coming-together of our immigrant society (which includes most of us) and the First Australians whose land it is, to create an exemplary modern society of equals and forge a new history, free from the constraints, mistakes and influences of the past. Instead we import the dumbed-down culture of the deeply dysfunctional United States, ignoring the wealth of world culture that permeates our society.

Once, we were known as the land of the Fair Go. That’s right, the Fair Go. Sadly, according to Smokey Joe, the Fair Go gave us all a sense of “entitlement” which was simply not sustainable. So the Fair Go, and along with it all sense of decency and righteousness, of empathy and inclusiveness, must be swept aside to balance the books and satisfy the “bottom line”.

Apparently this will elevate us to the transcendent, nirvana-like state of “surplus”, despite the fact that many Australians will endure lives of misery and hardship in the process.

Conservative governments notoriously and conveniently ignore human suffering, dismissing any concept of social justice and equity, and reducing the discussion of public affairs to a mathematical equation of dollars and cents.

Only the elements of profit and loss are factored in, while the values and considerations of human hearts and minds, of skills, knowledge, intelligence, understanding and caring ( the very stuff of life) are sent to the margins.

And nowhere on the page is there any reference to the common, or public good.

Somehow it comes about that government of humans by humans no longer regards the human condition itself as relevant in the decision-making process.

Somehow the dollar, the measure of greed, becomes not just one factor among others, but the only consideration. A perversion of governance becomes entrenched in our system which government messaging and media manipulation grooms us to accept as the norm.

The marchers who attended the March rallies told their stories through the number and diversity of messages on the placards expressing community concerns and through the words of those who spoke. The Statement of No Confidence is the symbolic summary of those concerns.

The marches and rallies will continue. This people’s movement will grow. Already Marches are planned for Sydney, Adelaide and Perth for Sunday 18 May, while regional marches around the nation will take place at the end of August.

As the intensity of the public’s dissatisfaction with this toxic government continues to grow, the message will be delivered again and again, over and over.

And one day soon, to use the religious imagery favoured by Abbott, Australians will be delivered from evil.

Statement Of No Confidence Large

A statement of no confidence in the Abbott Government (image courtesy of Loz Lawrey)

Protesting for protesting sake?

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

Tracie Aylmer attended the Villawood protest yesterday. Tracie is a migration agent and solicitor who comes into regular contact with asylum seekers. In this guest post she expresses her disappointed at the behaviour of many of the protesters whose behaviour, she laments, did nothing for the cause of those in detention.

I have only been to two protests in my entire life.

The first protest was a few weeks ago – the March In March. It was so well organised, that people respected not only themselves, but others and the police. There were no arrests, even with the tens of thousands of people who marched with me.

The second was yesterday – on 5 April 2014 – at Villawood Detention Centre.

Before I go into detail in relation to my experiences of the asylum seeker protest, I think I should explain who the asylum seekers are. I am in constant contact with the Hazara community. They are peaceful, gentle and very respectful members of our community. They do not like to fight, which is why so many are tortured and/or die at the hands of the Taliban in areas such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. They actually refuse to fight back!

My contacts in the Hazara community saw the video (now made private) that was recorded yesterday. Their direct response, and I am quoting, is “it is not good”. They were very disappointed that so many people were behaving as they were in that video.

Due to these very lovely people, who have accepted me with open arms into their community, I respect everything they do and say. They are very gentle, and do not believe that people should be deliberately trying to become arrested in their name.

I cannot say how asylum seekers in Villawood Detention Centre would have reacted to the fact that people were arrested in their name, but if they are anything like my contacts in the Hazara community they would have felt ashamed.

Being vocal would have helped them realise that there are people outside of Villawood Detention Centre who do care for them, but ignoring police direction and going so far as to kick and punch police officers for doing their job goes above and beyond.

I believe some police officers do create ‘ultra vires’ moments. There’s little doubt of that – particularly considering why ICAC was formed.

But, the directive to move the asylum seekers came from far higher than the authority given to the police officers who were there yesterday. They obeyed orders. They did not make the orders. The buses were going to leave anyway. No matter what.

This government cannot ‘stop the boats’. That much is obvious, even if we now don’t hear about it. So what makes anyone on that day think they can ‘stop the buses’? Especially those officers that were there yesterday.

The police asked for people to move to the footpath. Considering the footpath is quite large, it sounded like a reasonable request. People could have been just as vocal on the footpath, as they were on the road. It didn’t matter where, as long as the people were vocal.

The police then said to the mothers for asylum seekers group that if people did not move onto the footpath, there would be every reason for the police to move people to the end of the street. Since the mothers were there to say goodbye to their long time friends (the asylum seekers), people should have listened to the mothers. The mothers were gentle and caring ladies, who deserved respect. They were near tears, as the connections formed were bonding. They saw the writing on the wall – the buses were going to leave anyway, and this was their last chance to say goodbye.

As it happened, no one was moved to the end of the street. Everyone stayed where they were.

People started speaking about their experiences. One of the mothers told about her experiences. Everyone was quiet and respectful for each person on the microphone. Then, a police officer wanted to talk. He was drowned out by protesters chanting the same chant over and over.

A short time later, a man came up to us and told us that people should have a right to be on the street if they wished. He said the protest was proper and people also had a right to talk. One of the mothers then asked “so why wasn’t the police officer then allowed to talk?”. We both then decided to ignore him.

Shortly after this, and after a few hours of being there, I had to leave for personal reasons. A police officer escorted me to my vehicle. He was kindly and respectful, as I showed respect. He said he was only doing his job, as told by higher authorities. I said I was only there for the asylum seekers.

I was not there at the period of time when the protesters and police clashed. I am grateful that I wasn’t. This was not what I signed up for. I wanted to show the asylum seekers I was there for them. Instead, I had a protester tell me that I was selfish. I was told that I shouldn’t be there for me. It made me wonder – who was I there for, then? Because I certainly wasn’t there for the protesters!

Protesting in order to create ugly clashes with the police does nothing for the cause. It only shows those who vote LNP what they want to hear about asylum seekers – that perhaps they should be feared after all. Showing lack of respect for the police also shows lack of respect for the asylum seekers. They would not want people being injured or arrested in their name. It would make them feel guilty.

So to all the people who showed up to protest, and were in that video kicking, screaming and punching the police, who were you actually protesting for? If the asylum seekers don’t want to see this sort of thing going on, then is it really worth being arrested? Isn’t this the sort of mob mentality that the LNP are notorious for?

Isn’t this the sort of thing that the LNP staunch supporters would want to see?

Perhaps if we all calmed down and became as respectful as the asylum seekers, then all our protests would have the same tinge as one of the most successful protests in Australia in decades – the March In March.

Freedom to speak badly: one rule for protestors, another for Andrew Bolt?

Andrew Bolt’s racial vilification case and the government’s subsequent hasty threat to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act has placed ‘freedom of speech’ at the forefront of political debate. But its importance is always overlooked, or shunned, when it’s those of the Left side of politics who are exercising it. The media’s response to March in March rallies is an obvious case, writes Jennifer Wilson.

Image: heraldsun.com.au

Image: heraldsun.com.au

Peter van Onselen (pictured) devotes almost an entire page in the Australian this morning (paywalled. sorry) to complaining about the “unedifying” display of bad manners by some protestors who took part in the March in March rallies, comparing them with the infamously abusive banners held aloft by the three hundred or so activists who took part Alan Jones’s 2011 Convoy of no Confidence against Julia Gillard and her Labor government.

I would appreciate someone drawing up a comparison of the two situations, given my impression that the number of participants in the Jones rally carrying offensive placards constituted a far greater percentage of the whole than those in the March in March rallies.

As van Onselen concedes, in the Jones protest virulent expressions of rage and hatred were legitimised by the presence of leading politicians photographed under the placards. No such validation took place of the relatively few offensive banners on display during March in March.

“Calling a conservative a fascist and portraying his image to replicate Hitler is deliberately designed to undermine their ideological positioning in the same way that calling a woman a ‘bitch’ or ‘witch’ carries clear sexist intent,” van Onselen states, in his comparison of the two situations.

I would not so readily presume an equivalence between sexist intent, and the desire to critique, albeit with a degree of hyperbole, an ideology. Sexism attacks the woman for nothing other than being a woman. Describing Abbott as “fascist” in no way attacks his gender, and is merely commentary on the manner in which he is perceived to enact his conservatism.

Placards claiming that the Abbott government is “illegitimate” are not abusive, offensive or threatening, rather they are simply wrong, and likely being employed as payback for the years of the LNP opposition equally inaccurately describing the Gillard government as “illegitimate.” What is apparent is that there are hot heads and wrong heads on both the conservative and Labor side of politics. This should not come as a surprise to anyone.

Along with Tim Wilson, Human Rights Commissioner for Freedom, (I’m sorry, I don’t know what that title means) van Onselen is disturbed not at the exercise of freedom of speech demonstrated by both rallies, but at the ill-mannered, impolite, potentially violent and “irresponsible” speech used by a small number of participants in their signage. A similar rabid element is guilty of foully derailing many otherwise useful Twitter discussions, claims van Onselen, quite rightly in some instances, though there are sensitive souls renowned for “rage quitting” Twitter when they confuse disagreement with abuse.

Van Onselen and Wilson’s desire to see public speech free from offensive, insulting and at times threatening expression is shared by many people, but quite how to achieve that remains a mystery. Bad speech must be countered by good speech, Wilson has asserted, however, taking the case of Andrew Bolt as an example, it’s difficult to see how someone with a large public platform such as Bolt, or fellow shock jocks Alan Jones, or Ray Hadley can be challenged by the people they offend and insult, who rarely have an equivalent public platform from which to counter their attacker’s bad speech with good. It is for this reason we have legislation intended to protect people from racial vilification, for example, the very legislation Mr Wilson is now intent on seeing repealed, as he believes it interferes with the absolute freedom of speech he appears to favour.

I can see Wilson’s point, however, as long as there are more powerful enunciators of bad speech with large platforms than there are good, perhaps we need other precautionary measures.

I couldn’t help but wonder, as I read the article, what van Onselen and Wilson would make of public demonstrations in other countries, Mexico perhaps, where I witnessed protests in which politicians were represented by enormous papier-mache figures with grossly exaggerated sexual organs, accompanied by banners that claimed they f*cked both dogs and their mothers and ate children. Nobody saw any cause for offence. Compared to such robust expression, the complaints seem rather prim.

Amusingly, van Onselen concludes his article with the reminder that “Protest is as an important part of democracy as are institutions designed to uphold democracy, but only when practised within the spirit of Australia’s well established political structure.” I am completely unable to see how any of the offensive signage fails to fit in with that spirit. Australian politics have, for the last few years and most certainly during Gillard’s entire term of office, been such that one would think twice before taking school children to witness Question Time, and I really don’t know who van Onselen thinks he is kidding.

The ongoing discourse about how we should conduct our discourse is unlikely to change anything. Van Onselen’s piece appears to make the claim that those who offend middle-class sensitivities undermine the more moderate message and concerns of mainstream protestors, and destroy their credibility. This may well be the case, but only because people such as van Onselen make it so, opportunistically denigrating the whole on the basis of the actions of a very few.

It is not possible to eradicate voices some consider undesirable from public expression. Otherwise we would not have to put up with the Bolts. A sign held aloft at a demonstration cannot do one tiny fraction of the harm done by Bolt, Jones and the like. If we are to conduct serious conversations about how public discourse influences attitudes and behaviours, surely we must start by interrogating the enunciations of those with the furthest reach.

This article was first published on Jennifer’s blog No Place For Sheep and has been reproduced with permission.

To Tory Shepherd

To Tory Shepherd,

I was made aware of your article Grab-bag of rage as the March in March was much ado about nothing when reading Victoria Rollinson’s excellent article The missing ingredients.

I took part in the march and have read your criticism, some of which may be valid. If I may be so bold, I would like to offer some criticism of my own.

You wish to denigrate protestors for not having professional signs?

“At the Canberra protest the UNHCR was the most professional looking outfit there, carrying polished signs (not floppy bits of cardboard).”

If you think that’s important then I am not surprised that you thought it an “incoherent outpouring of rage against the machine.” You go on to say

“The point of March in March was to protest pretty much everything, which meant that the valid points being made were drowned out by noise. Those signs, those higgledy piggledy signs with bad spelling and worse grammar, idiotic slurs and downright nasty smears, tainted the whole project. “

It’s rather ironic that you spend the majority of your article reporting that “noise” rather than the “valid points”. I would suggest that, without those few rather distasteful signs, you wouldn’t have bothered even mentioning the other 100,000 of us.

“They have to be smart. And that is where the Marchers failed and earned the contempt of so many. If your form of protest makes people either snigger in contempt or want to pat you on the head or give you a good bath and a spelling lesson, then you’re doing it wrong.”

Snigger at your peril. Your condescension may well end up causing you to be the one viewed with contempt. You seem to feel that we needed politicians there to lend credibility to the exercise. Once again you fail to see that it is the lack of credibility from our politicians and media that was a driving force behind this people’s protest. We are tired of spin from image consultants and advertising firms. We are tired of biased inaccurate trivial reporting by the media. What you dismiss as a “grab-bag of mixed messages” was in fact an opportunity for every individual to voice their concerns.

Saving the best of your journalistic expertise for last you end with

“But the Marchers in the end threatened to disappear up their own proverbials in a puff of BO and bong smoke.”

Oh really? I am 56 years old and I marched with my nephews who are 6 and 9. We spoke in the lead up days about why we were marching. The boys’ take on the conversation was that we were marching to save the trees and fish, and to make people be kind to each other. I thought that was a wonderful message and I was very proud of the “higgledy piggledy” signs they wrote and drew themselves. It was great to see my elderly neighbours waving their anti-fracking signs to the beat of drums played by pierced dreadlocked musicians. It was uplifting to see atheists applauding Father Rod’s speech about truth, decency, and accountability.

This video is “the horde of wild-eyed street-preacher types” that marched in Gosford.

You can’t pigeonhole the people who marched in March Tory, and you can’t identify any one over-riding reason for their concern, but if you think they are going to “disappear up their own proverbials” I would say that your newspaper is far more likely to do that in the near future than the concerned citizens of this country.

We marched because we love our country. We marched for transparency and accountability. We marched for compassion. We marched for the future of our children. Next time we will send you a press release so you don’t have to bother writing this sort of ill-informed, poorly researched, judgmental fluff in the future.

Why we march!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjaM3Iegw7M

Anybody who saw the above interview with March in March co-organiser Tim Jones would have felt dismayed that the media had so much difficulty in grasping the concept behind the March. How can they have so much trouble in understanding a simple message? In this guest post William Rattley spells it out for them. If the media wants to know why people marched, then they really need to start listening to and engaging with everyday Australians.

Dear Mainstream Media Outlets:

Over the past twelve hours I notice from many television reporters and journalists a reoccurring question in regards to the March in March movement that demonstrated in over thirty locations around Australia in which over one hundred thousand people, young and old, participated in.

That question of course is; “Why are you marching?”

It has come to the attention of a vast number of the Australian population, that our system is failing the people. Whilst it is true that the attention at most demonstrations were focused on the current Abbott-led Governments, and the disastrous decision making by the Liberals, the issues drawing people to march, are much bigger than the political playground.

At the base level people are marching because they are sick of being treated as a number, as a cog in a well-oiled, well-conditioned machine. People are sick of their health, security and happiness being taken from them simply to make a quick buck. People are sick of the environment being disrespected and destroyed.

Yet perhaps most profoundly, is that people are sick of everything being politicised. The people feel disempowered, they feel as though with every election they have to choose between the lesser of two evils, that the system of supposed “choice” really gives very little choice at all.

Issues like the environment, healthcare and education should not, as myself and others feel, be the chew toys of the politicians. Nor should human dignity be defined by how much money our Governments are willing to save for themselves. The people want the truth, not pre-scripted garbage designed to trap everyone in one lane.

People march because they feel that their fellow men and women are being denied basic human rights (marriage equality) or are being treated as less than human (asylum seekers). People are calling for a return to a sense of community . . . a sense of inclusiveness, compassion and respect. Instead of the fear, the divisiveness and the exclusiveness preached by a majority of the political playground and mainstream media.

Image courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/isthatthetruth

Image courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/isthatthetruth

People feel as though Australia has become cold, apathetic and xenophobic, in regards to the way we treat people who come to our shores to seek aid. Yet there is a sense that the apathy also includes the way we relate to the indigenous population… and truly the people are sick of being told who they should like, and who they shouldn’t like. In the end . . . we are all human.

Many demonstrators marched over the weekend (15-17th of March) because they are concerned with Christopher Pyne’s attempts to introduce a heavy Christian influence into our public schooling system. Australia is a land that is home to people of many different faiths, theistic and non-theistic, agnostic and atheist alike . . . they feel it is invasive for Mr Pyne to even consider enforcing his own Christian beliefs upon the majority of public school attendees.

Australians have become outraged by the Liberal Government’s decision to scrap the science portfolio, to abolish the climate commission, to dump on the Great Barrier Reef, and to begin revoking the protections on the Tasmanian forests. I understand personally why Mr Abbott does not believe in climate change, and I can respect his beliefs as a God-fearing Catholic.

However, as a God-fearing Catholic, Mr Abbott should then understand that as the earth is a gift from God, he has a responsibility to treat it with the utmost care and respect. As it looks Mr Abbott perhaps wouldn’t have just eaten one fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would have stolen the lot… and then tried to make God buy them back off him.

Humanity needs to learn moderation . . . and that is what people would ask of Mr Abbott, to think about the future, about his grandchildren, and our grandchildren and make lasting choices for the preservation of our society and our planet. That also means we need to learn to get along with our neighbors and many of the demonstrators are horrified by the image of Australia that Mr Abbott is presenting to the international community.

Humanity cannot afford to continue taking and taking. Our actions shape the world, and whatever we dish out, will have consequences. I personally do not feel that Mr Abbott, or his party, are equipped to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions, and need to be called into account before their indulgence becomes our lack.

Though there are many other issues that people marched for, I wish to touch on one final topic. Australians are sick of getting biased media accounts of what it occurring in politics. Australians are sick of opening their morning paper to see declarations of Mr Abbott as the Messiah, by that self-serving multimillionaire Rupert Murdoch. Australians are sick of the criticisms leveled by the Liberal Government towards the ABC.

We want the truth . . . and if the major media outlets will not give us the truth, we will find it ourselves, and broadcast it ourselves. The Australian people are marching because they are sick of being stuck with second or third best. We want to put the “luck” back into the lucky country. We want to aim for an Australia we can be proud of again, and that others can visit (or seek asylum in) without feeling like second-class citizens.

We want a country of equality, where love, acceptance, empathy and the value of human dignity forms the foundation of our aims and achievements. We want a country where money serves the people, instead of people serving the money (or the corporations with all the money). Finally we want a nation that respects our natural resources and doesn’t destroy them, a nation that is not afraid to research and fund renewable energy resources.

We want our country back, and we’ll keep marching till we get it back. THAT is why we march!

Sincerely,

William Rattley

This article was first posted on Facebook.

Dear Sydney Morning Herald, re March In March

MiM6

As he ran through the pages of yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald, Timothy Pembroke couldn’t help but notice that Sydney’s March in March – clearly one of the major events of the weekend – failed to attract much interest from the state’s second largest newspaper. This guest post from Tim is his response to the Sydney Morning Herald’s glaring failure:

Dear SMH,

Today my friends and I were flicking through your pages with a regular Monday morning happiness. As per Monday during footy season, we are fairly certain we navigated patiently through a double page spread describing an enthralling Dragons Vs Cowboys match in Wollongong with a quoted 8,345 attendees, but we may be confused with any week from the upcoming 26. Normally it’s quite tedious to scroll through the sports wrap, but we were happy to do so this morning as we reveled in the excitement of turning the pages and that beautiful moment when we would finally land in your heart to read about the mighty March In March. We searched and searched, turned and turned. We soon realized that there was NO mention of the march. Maybe we’d missed it? Was there a feature article insert that may have fallen out? It was a nationwide march, surely there was something? A political movement created by the people for the people that attracted more than 100,000 + attendees nationwide over 2 days with another massive day still to come in Canberra. This was not a poor mans competition to the annual St Patrick’s Day carnival parade as Tony Abbott more or less described it (St Pat’s we noted had some coverage on page 5) – this was a big moment for Sydney & Australia. March In March meant a lot of things to a lot of people, so much that #marchinmarch was trending nationally on social for more than 2 days – a movement of national consciousness created by an army of people, mums, dads, students, kids, ratbags and scallywags, socialists, greens, normals, hipsters, awakened corporates, teachers, community elders, Irishmen, tweeters, instagrammers, facebookers, hashtagees and hashtaggers. We figure your news team would search social media TRENDS for new content ideas? You must have noticed the fuss? We dressed up, spoke about truths, communicated compassion and frustrations. We sang with Billy Bragg and shared stories of why we want changes in Abbott government policy. It was more than the talk of the town. It was the talk across the pubs, clubs, dinner tables, beaches, parks, Saturday morning kids cricket carnivals and garage sales Australia wide.

We understand that it is footy season so your pages are already well and truly reserved for the “Tahs” who no doubt appreciated your usual 2 page critique of their backline ball movement and scrummaging, and the mighty swans whose accuracy in front of the goals is always worth a solid 500 words, especially after a shock loss to the Giants! – and in future circumstances, we would never want to be the ones responsible for you having to have “the talk” with Fitzy. Leave that man be. Don’t get us wrong, we understand all of your commitments to space. Likewise we noted your extensive coverage of the Tasmanian and South Australian state elections which pointed out the daunting amount of work Labor has ahead of it if they are to challenge Abbott at the next election – but was there really no room for the March In March? At all? Nothing? Not even a dribble in the socials pages? Actually there was some disguised mention of Billy Brag performing in Central – but you needed a diploma in braille to uncover the code: Billy, a hugely famous political activist with decades of history was performing in Belmore Park, Sydney – on a Sunday afternoon for the March In March. Is it that you guys are hard markers, or is that your paper is going through a crisis due to the decline in readership as the internet and quality online news content platforms look to eat you alive, that you couldn’t afford to send a reporter out on a Sunday pay rate? If that’s the case – our condolences. It’s a sigh of relief to know that the Internet is creating transparency for the people of Sydney and Australia, and you will no doubt come to adjust to the changing world where people want a rounded display of content filled with substance and truth on a Monday morning. Maybe your team were on the bandwagon of cynicism like so many others, adding further to the plight of progress. Billy Bragg spoke of our greatest enemy being not the capitalist world we so often complain about, but the cynical world. A world where hope is cut down at the knees. It’s not hard to see where the cynicism develops when a world class newspaper such as the SMH fails to report on a movement of the people. Your silence astounds us, similar to the way Adam Goodes was astounded in a recent piece in the SMH when describing white Australia’s attitudes towards Indigenous Australian history.

If you could do us one favour, please ask your chief what sort of information you are looking to cover in 2014, because it seems we need pointers. A couple of tips for you, your team and any aspiring writer for that matter looking to cut through in this age of constant content; write articles that people want to read and report on what matters to the people of Sydney. The SMH do this better than most, more often that not. But on March 16 and 17 – we say not. Not only was this day important for the folk who marched, it was the faces and reactions of the observers and the greater community that was a spectacle and the real story of the day. Thousands paused their Sunday shopping, tinder dates, jogs, TAB bets & ‘Sundey Arvo Beers’ to watch the 20,000 plus crowd – these people suddenly realised that they might have been “missing the boat” on Abbott’s’ policies of late. Their eyes were transfixed on EVERY sign. It was beautiful to watch onlookers de-code the signs – and suddenly feel connected to the issues and to consider the power that humans can have on each other. Suddenly a compassionate, considerate and conscious world seemed so much more important to every individual. We the marchers educated them, leaving them to go home with new knowledge, sense of self-empowerment, a new interest in Australian government activity, and most importantly hope.

SMH, we write with the best of intention. We seek truth. Yesterday was a big day and you blatantly ignored it. Even the ABC gave us some airtime despite obvious pressures on them. Without trying to sound like bitterly disappointed children, we wish you all the best in your slow descent to the thin air of online content and the minds and memories of paper loving Sydney journeymen such as ourselves. We have sincerely appreciated our relationship with you over the last 20 years – the unforgettable experience of being able to walk out to the front door step of our Grandma’s house, unwrap you, feel your soft smooth texture and that fresh smell of ink of a morning. You offer so much. You’ve taught us a healthy portion of the things we know about the world, arts, culture, politics, sport, crosswords and life. Your pages will never be forgotten by us, but we’re putting you in the sin bin for a little while. Like Abbott, if you work with us, the people, we will work with you. We are all in this together. We want everyone on the field at all times working together, as after all we are all one. We’re sure that you don’t need Nostradamus to point out the way the new generation are already consuming media with online content certainly being the way forward – and we noted your inclusion of Jacqueline Maley’s little piece – so your URL has been added to our favourites, but if you are going to go to the efforts of printing to the streets, at least pay attention to the real news. We needed you yesterday. More than anything it would have been a great symbol of respect – honouring the hard work done by thousands of people whose hands and feet moved purely with the intention to compassionately care for their treasured country.

In case you wanted to see what you missed – here is a beautiful video from the Melbourne march: http://vimeo.com/89244643

Sincerely

Timothy Pembroke
Annandale

This article was first published on Tim’s own blog at timothypembroke.wordpress.com.

March in March: Enough of the Deception and Manipulation

A guest post by Matthew Mitchell. This article was first published on Matthew’s blog (We) can do better.

Abbott took government by playing on the fears of Australians, supported by the Murdoch press. Fears that have been built up and sustained through systems of secrecy, lies and deception. This is the emerging pattern of westernised governments and corporations across the globe. And these techniques depend upon violence, fear and coercion. All of which were evident in the Manus Island riots and killing, despite attempts to demonise the victims (Howard pulled a similar trick with Tampa).

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaI6YJi7pnQ&w=560&h=315]

The truth is that refugees, particularly those arriving by boat, form a tiny percentage of immigration into Australia, and could not come close to the “legal” immigration figures (see here for Asylum Seeker Myths). Not to mention that we are bound by law to accept them, under our international agreements. The vast majority of immigration is officially encouraged specialist migration, done not out of any grand vision for Australian society, but solely to feed the industrial growth model which is destroying the planet and leading not to higher prosperity for Australians, but significantly lower in terms of: levels of debt; less choices of jobs; less educational opportunities; crowded transport systems; hideous urban living developments and ongoing destruction of the natural environment.

In fact, it is this failing growth model that is mostly causing the refugee problem in the first place. Our dependence on fossil fuels, Australia’s collaboration and support of the U.S in global manipulations to establish regimes that serve the interests of a wealthy elite; the general extraction of the resources of less developed nations; manipulations of markets by multi-nationals which ensure that those nations at the bottom of the global food chain can never climb up, the list goes on. The WTO has never delivered the necessary agreements on agriculture that would eliminate subsidies by the U.S and other wealthy nations so as to allow developing nations to compete fairly. In the WTO’s own words: “developing countries […] say developed countries have failed to implement the agreements in a way that would benefit developing countries’ trade.”

George Monbiot – a respected journalist for The Guardian newspaper – is exactly right when he states:The real threat to the national interest comes from the rich and powerful“.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riAiP1HzlpQ&w=560&h=315]

In fact the failure of the multi-nationals to achieve what they wanted through the WTO has lead to the Trans-pacific Partnership (TPP) , an “agreement” being negotiated in secret and described as a “corporate coup”.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBpXlI4Oxkw&w=560&h=315]

The manipulation of corporations is well captured in the following video parody of the Coal Industry – coal which is now polluting Gippsland as it has been polluting Chinese cities for years – to the sure detriment of their children’s long-term health. Not to mention 8 million acres of Chinese land so polluted that food cannot be grown on it. It is in such nations that the dark underside of our growth based consumerism is hidden from view, and the less said about it in the corporate controlled media, the better:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqXzAUaTUSc&w=560&h=315]

The underlying fact is the whole destructive system is based on force. Even the most passive resistance cannot be tolerated and must be removed by force, as Occupiers around the world found out in 2012 (including in Melbourne). This is confirmed by Oxford Professor Avner Offer who says this model is: “a warrant for inflicting pain.” Offer also says: “Economics tells us that everything anyone says should be motivated by strategic self-interest. And when economists use the word ‘strategic’ they mean cheating” and he concludes: “one of the consequences of this is that economists are not in a strong position to tell society what to do.”

It is this coercive, cheats based system that the Abbott government firmly believes in and supports, and it is because of the faults and failures of this system that we must march in March.

In Melbourne: State Library at midday, Sunday March 16. Click here for other locations, including country towns

march-in-march

Stand up and speak out

In Australian election campaigns, exorbitant amounts of money are spent on advertising. Our political parties rely on wealthy donors, and our political leaders spend enormous amounts of time and energy raising money.

In the past decade, we have seen other groups with deep pockets, including mining companies, the tobacco industry, trade unions, lobby groups, activists and multimillionaires, buying ads and using them to try to influence the political agenda.

Analysis of spending by the major parties in July and August 2013 across television, print, magazine, radio, leaflets and billboard advertising, showed the Coalition spent $6.82 million, the ALP just over $4 million and the Palmer United Party $3 million during the election campaign.

Trade union advertising amounted to $2.3 million. The two biggest spending lobby groups were the Australian Salary Packaging Industry Association and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.

The power of television means the parties are willing to pay exorbitant amounts for precious seconds of airtime. This is especially true in Australia where broadcasters can – and do – charge high rates to political candidates. In other countries that allow paid political ads, such as the US and Germany, broadcasters must offer reduced rates to parties and candidates during elections.

In the UK, paid political advertising has never been allowed on television or radio. This law applies to both political parties and lobby groups, and was designed to avoid the risk that public debate would be distorted in the most powerful available media because those with the deepest pockets would have the loudest voices.

It is felt that, as most campaign groups couldn’t afford it, unregulated broadcasting of paid political advertisements would turn democratic influence into a commodity that would undermine broadcasting impartiality, pushing it in favour of the rich.

As reported in the Age:

“The ban has all-party support. Even the wealthiest parties and MPs have said consistently that they don’t want ”American-style ads”, they don’t want candidates being pushed into close relationships with donors and they don’t want those with higher financial resources hijacking the political agenda.

Instead, the British laws require broadcasters to give free airtime to any political party that can show significant levels of electoral support. These blocks of free airtime used to be up to 20 minutes long but are now usually a more watchable length of 2½ minutes.

This means that all the major parties, not just the richest ones, are given an opportunity to put their case. During the British 2010 election, blocks of airtime were given not just to Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats but also to 17 other parties.

Because free airtime is provided, and because Britain also has campaign spending limits that restrict how much parties and candidates can spend during elections, elections in the UK are cheaper than in many other countries.”

In a case last year, Animal Defenders International (ADI) tried to challenge a ban on an ad they had produced showing a child in a cage, as part of its campaign to protect great apes from exploitation (“my mate’s a primate”).

Interestingly, both sides based their case on article 10 of the human rights convention, the right to freedom of expression.

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

The argument came down to what restrictions are “necessary in a democratic society”. It would be interesting to hear Tim Wilson’s answer to that.

After pointing out that ADI could advertise by Youtube videos and articles on the internet, or could take part in current affairs programmes on radio and television to raise awareness, the court ruled against them, saying the law was too important to risk erosion by individual cases.

This sounds like a wonderful system, one that would save a lot of money and help protect us from an avalanche of misinformation from vested interests….. until you take into account the concentration of media ownership in Australia. With the vast majority of the mainstream media firmly camped in Coalition territory, a law like this would just open the way for free advertising for them and their lobby groups. Rupert doesn’t have to be paid to bash unions and demonise asylum seekers. Gina can rest easy that Andrew Bolt will put in a good word for the mining companies, that Alan Jones will disprove climate science, and that Ray Hadley will positively enjoy kicking the bludging welfare cheats.

Is it really too late for us? Is it like gun ownership in the US – too difficult a problem to tackle? Are we going to sit back and let the rich and powerful distort public opinion and dictate what is in our best interests? I know they have more money than us but, when it comes to voting, WE are the millionaires.

In the last election, a significant percentage of those eligible to vote did not have their vote counted. The informal vote was almost 6 per cent (739,872 voters), and 7.6 per cent of those eligible, a large number of them aged 18-24, did not enrol to vote. Of the approximately one million Australians living overseas, about ten per cent voted.

We need to engage these people, make them aware of the impact of current policies, encourage them to enrol, make sure they understand how to fill in their ballot papers, and impress on them the importance of their vote. It has been estimated that the difference between a Coalition victory and a Labor win was about 30,000 votes in key seats.

It is time for the people to stand up and speak out.