By Ray Fulcher
MELBOURNE — Some 30,000 people took to the streets of Melbourne on October 6 in what is probably the last anti-Kennett mass rally called by Trades Hall. The demonstration was the high point of Trades Hall's "week of action".
The main rally was preceded by smaller meetings and marches around the city, including a nurses' rally in Fitzroy gardens and the teachers who marched in a group of 4000 after a mass meeting at the Tennis Centre.
The main march proceeded from Treasury gardens to Parliament House via Bourke street. There speakers who addressed the rally included an injured worker who explained how his livelihood had been destroyed by WorkCover.
John Brumby, the state opposition leader, fed a continuous roll of paper into the rally inscribed with all the cuts to services, job losses and attacks on working people that Kennett had initiated in the past 12 months. He did not point out, however, that the ALP has refused to commit itself to reversing any of these cuts should it win office in three years.
In previous rallies, unions had actively organised stop-works in order for their members to attend. This time many unions did not organise their members or give them direction to turn out for the day. The fact that so many people turned out without being properly organised indicates the depth of anger against Kennett which still exists — despite what opinion polls say.
Since the rally, secretary John Halfpenny has announced Trades Hall's "change of tactics". According to Halfpenny, the union movement will now target marginal Coalition electorates and specific workplace issues. "I think that, for the time being, those sorts of general rallies have probably run their race. We certainly are unlikely, unless there is some dramatic turn of events, to be contemplating another one in the next 12 months", he said.
This decision by Trades Hall is the natural conclusion of the so called "campaign" initiated on November 11 last year, which from the beginning focused on steering workers towards dependence first on a federal Labor election victory and now a state version of the same.