East Timor features at Australian May Day rallies
Rallies and marches were held on the weekend of May 1 and 2 to mark May Day, the international day of workers' solidarity.
Bronwen Beechey reports for Adelaide that around 500 people rallied on May 1 for the annual march. Supporters of East Timorese independence, including members of the Democratic Socialist Party and Resistance, made up the most loud and colourful contingent, attracting support from other participants and onlookers.
The rally was addressed by Andy Alcock of Campaign for an Independent East Timor. Other speakers called for a strong campaign against the state government's proposed changes to industrial relations laws.
Bill Mason reports from Brisbane that loud chants of "Indonesia out! Free East Timor now!" and other calls for independence were features of a lively Free East Timor contingent at the march, held on the Labour Day public holiday, May 3.
Trade union marchers, estimated by the Courier-Mail at 10,000, paraded through city streets from Trades Hall to Albert Park. Carrying banners, placards and red flags, the contingent made a clear call for stepping up solidarity with the people of East Timor.
Unfortunately, solidarity with East Timor was not reflected on the official platform. Following a welcome from Aboriginal elder Bobby Anderson, the featured speaker was Queensland Labor Premier Peter Beattie, who challenged the union movement to target emerging industries to remain relevant.
The Labour Day organising committee had refused a request from Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor to include an East Timorese representative on the platform.
Following the march and a festival, the Democratic Socialist Party and Resistance held a May Day barbecue at the Resistance Centre, which featured a toast to the East Timorese independence struggle.
The May 1 march and rally in Canberra attracted support from blue-collar unionists, reports Paul Oboohov. This was the first time there have been Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) contingents at May Day since it was revived in this city about five years ago.
Students and members of the socialist youth organisation Resistance brandished placards against the federal government's "voluntary student unionism" bill.
Speakers at the rally in Garema Place included John Sutton, assistant national secretary of the CFMEU, and David Gosling of ASIET. Sutton spoke about the impending "second wave" of federal industrial legislation and the targeting of the CFMEU for similar treatment to that meted out to the MUA. He called for solidarity when the fight comes.
Gosling spoke about his recent trip to Indonesia. He outlined the oppression of workers by the government and military, and the dire straits that working people are in following the tripling of food prices. He urged people to participate in the May 22 international day of solidarity with pro-democracy forces in Indonesia and East Timor.
The Canberra Union Voices provided a rousing set of union songs.
In Melbourne, Sarah Lantz reports, the march and rally on May 2 attracted more than 3000 people. Unions, community organisations, migrant groups and student activists marched from Trades Hall through the city to Flagstaff Gardens.
The lively and loud ASIET contingent brought together East Timorese, Indonesian, Tamil and other international solidarity activists, and Resistance and DSP members and supporters. One rally demand was for the release of Indonesian PRD leader, trade union activist and political prisoner Dita Sari.
Speakers included CFMEU branch secretary Martin Kingham, who called for the repeal of Reith's Workplace Relations Act; Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union organiser Michelle O'Neil, who spoke of the victory in the Australian Dyeing Company dispute; and East Timor supporter Shirley Shackleton.
In the Perth march on May 2, writes Darren Jiggins, more than 3000 marchers took to the streets of Fremantle in an action entitled "Workers Biteback". Crowds of supporters lined the march route.
The march included all of the major unions. A strong contingent in support of East Timorese independence included Resistance, DSP, ASIET and Friends of East Timor members.
However, the WA Trades and Labour Council refused to have a Timorese speaker on the platform — in fact, there were no speeches before or after the rally.
Jenny Long reports from Sydney that its May 2 rally got a kick-start with an East Timor solidarity rally half an hour before the official assembly time.
Speakers at the East Timor rally, organised by ASIET, included Green Left Weekly journalist Jon Land, Fretilin NSW coordinator Harold Moucho, the Australia-East Timor Association's, Sister Susan Connolly from the Mary McKillop Institute for East Timor Studies, Resistance's Sarah Peart, National Union of Students environment officer Natasha Verco, and DSP branch secretary Sam Wainwright.
The East Timor activists then led the 2000-strong march, which was joined by a delegation from the South African trade union federation COSATU, to Circular Quay.
Speakers called for solidarity with East Timor and opposed the US/NATO bombing of Serbia, and supported solidarity actions with Korean trade unionists, as well as tackling the problems facing workers in Australia.
CFMEU national president John Maitland linked the struggles of oppressed peoples and workers around the world.
Harold Moucho also joined the official platform, describing his hope that next year East Timor might have its first May Day marches.
Ronny Demirbag, representing the Australian Kurdish Association, who spoke in support of the his people's fight for national liberation and the struggles of the Turkish workers' movement.>41559MS>n255D>