Change the Rules17 June 2019
On April 10, approximately 100,000 people took to the streets of Melbourne to protest against the Morrison government in a Change the Rules rally. The rally was organised by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).
From 10:30am to about 1.30pm, unionists, workers and students gathered at the Victorian Trades Hall in Carlton before marching through the city towards Parliament in protest of low wages and insecure work.
According to the ACTU’s media release statement: “We have a crisis of insecure work and low wages in this country and Scott Morrison and his Government are to blame.” They also stated that it is the current government’s fault that Australia is reportedly experiencing “the largest decline in living standards in 30 years.”
The union has hence called for a change in government to provide better working conditions for working people.
The Change the Rules campaign also advocates for closing the gender pay gap, supporting TAFE, school and higher education funding. They also support reinstating the ‘fair go’ ideology which involves holding banks accountable and ensuring fair shares of taxes. These are issues which they claim are being ignored or worsened by the current federal government.
The campaign has also stated that they have the support of both the Labor Party and The Greens. They will be holding them to their promise of committing to the cause if either is elected.
The Melbourne march was one of many organised events by the ACTU, who plan to hold similar political protests in 14 centres nationwide.
Unions consulted police prior to the event to manage road closures and peaceful protest. Victoria Police expressed their support of the protest on Twitter but remained sceptical of violence following a surprise Veganism protest held in the CBD two days earlier. 40 people were arrested during the protest, including two teenagers.
“We respect the right to protest respectfully but we will not tolerate violent or antisocial behaviour” Victoria Police tweeted on April 9.
The University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) Education department hosted a crowd of around 50 students to attend the Change the Rules rally and show support to the union.
UMSU president Molly Willmott said that students are often disproportionately affected by unsafe work practices and wage theft. She commented on the experience of the protest:
“It’s empowering being a group of 100,000 people fighting for a better Australia. Working conditions in Australia are exploitative and dangerous, and young people have felt that hard.”
Wilmott said that it was “very heartening” to see that such issues are “at the forefront of people’s thinking” and it is especially positive that students are willing to join the cause and fight for their own rights as workers.
She also advocated the potentially long-standing value of active involvement by students in democratic protests. She added that student movements and unions are vital in contributing to greater “generational change” through being engaged in issues they’re passionate about.
The government has yet to comment directly on the rally.