Big crowd for March in March in Melbourne

Over the last weekend (15-16 March) hundreds of thousands of people across Australia got together and marched against the Tony Abbott-leg government, under the banner of March in March.

There were many questions about who organised March in March and what were its motives and supposed outcomes. There was some quite good discussion about these questions in the lead up to March in March. But across the weekend hundreds of thousands of Australians marched.

They marched for various reasons.

I was fortunate enough to attend Melbourne’s March in March which started out at the State Library before heading off to Treasury Gardens. As it turned out there were tens of thousands of Australians packed into the gardens out the front of the State Library and around Melbourne Central. Some estimates suggest there were between 40,000 and 50,000 people.

It was a fantastic gathering of people from all walks of life and political persuasions.

I soon realised it didn’t really matter what March in March was all about but rather that this collective expression needed to happen.

People that had never met each other were discussing why they were there. And it turns out people had a variety of reasons but the theme was definitely overwhelming; the Abbott government is unsatisfactory and hurting people. It seemed that the people I was surrounded by were mostly there because of our treatment of refugees; our country going backwards on climate change; the expansion of CSG and opening up heritage forests to logging; and the attacks on single parents, students, aged and disability pensions.

There were others that I knew were there for those reasons and the attacks on workers’ rights and unions; and the education.

Personally I was there because:

  • Our country is going backwards in tackling climate change and isn’t moving towards an economy powered by clean energy and driven by innovation;
  • Our government has abandoned science;
  • Our government’s reckless austerity measures in the face of all evidence saying austerity is not necessary;
  • The policies of Labor and LNP towards refugees now sees some of the cruelest policies being implemented;
  • Of the attacks on workers’ rights and unions;
  • Our government doesn’t value the investment that education is in our population;
  • A seeming lack of detail in articulating any kind of plan or vision for Australia without resorting to three word slogans.

There are definitely more but then this post would be very long and probably quite boring to read.

However I’m also confident that you can add your own reasons to this list for going to a March in March event held near you.

In the end it didn’t really matter why people were there; just that they did turn out to make this massive collective expression. I know it made me feel extremely positive and that the issues I work on and campaign for do matter and do make a difference. It was something that everyone there could enjoy – that they weren’t alone in feeling that something was very wrong with our federal and state governments.

The challenge, as noted by others, is for people working on progressive issues to turn this collective expression into further action.

For what it’s worth:

Here’s some video I took from the rally – this was well after the march had started but it was so massive it took some time before we got moving. Fortunately some street performers kept us entertained and revved up.

With the conservative agenda being to unwind environmental protections and regulations, it saddens me to have to create a list of “Places to see before they’re gone”. Instead of protecting Australia’s precious places and species we have governments demolishing environmental protections and regulations.

Soon Australia’s precious places and species will be gone. There are pressures from increased expansion in mining; the frightening growth in fracking for coal seam gas; increased development and expanding urban fringes; continued use of unsustainable agricultural practices; and of course climate change. And this is on top of the fact that Australia has the highest rate of species extinction in the world.

The problem though is that once they’re gone they can’t be replaced. They can’t be rehabilitated to their original glory or restored. They can’t be magically brought back. It looks like it won’t be long before we’re actually visiting museums that hold holographic displays of different flora and fauna, or even landscapes.

It deeply saddens and disturbs me that my country seems to have too little regard and appreciation for our environment.

Here’s my list of places to see before they’re gone and they aren’t arranged in any particular order.

1. Great Barrier Reef

2. The Tarkine

3. Kakadu National Park

4. James Price Point

5. Kangaroo Island

6. Franklin River

7. Cape York

8. Victorian Alpine region

9. The Kimberley

10. Cape Barren

This is not an exhaustive list of “Places to see before they’re gone” and I’d love to know what additional places you’d add to the list.

Strathbogies in VictoriaThere can be little doubt that the Abbott government will go out of its way to undo protections for our environment, including handing approval processes for developments to the states in what will be called a great structural save by ‘streamlining’ processes. Already there is evidence of how conservative governments at state levels are slashing environmental protections and so-called ‘green tape’ for approval processes.

The conservative governments in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Northern Territory and Western Australia are doing what they can to increase development, dismantle opportunities for the expansion of renewable energy and reduce protections for the environment. Each state is actively lobbying to make sure mining, gas and property developments are more quickly approved with fewer environmental regulations. Queensland was first off the mark signing a deal with the Commonwealth on ‘streamlining’ environmental approval processes.

They know that if they wind things back far enough that Labor will end up backing the status quo when next in government.

We can be assured that the Abbott government will make sure that the quarry remains open but with as few regulations as possible getting in the way. There will be, undoubtedly, some questions about when the government will  release its discussion paper on opening up the north of Australia to more development, agri-business and mining; including so-called special economic zones (as advocated by Gina Rinehart and the IPA and already being pushed by Barnaby Joyce as a serious issue to be considered). Abbott is doing whatever it can to make sure he sticks to his promise of cutting the price on carbon pollution.

It is definitely clear the next three years will be a significant test for our environment and our national response to the growing climate change emergency.

But in the next three years there will be plenty of opportunities for the green movement (which includes the climate movement) to renew and rebuild – to become reinvigorated with the capacity to oppose the very worst elements of Abbott’s environmental vandalism.

There will be challenges for existing environment organisations and networks to respond to the Abbott government’s attacks on the environment while working out ways of working more closely with each other. There have been examples like the Say Yes Australia campaign and the Southern Cross Climate Coalition or the Climate Action Network Australia (CANA). They provide strong examples of how different organisations and groups, concerned about climate change and the environment, can work together. In the case of the Say Yes Australia campaign and the Southern Cross Climate Coalition, these groups included organisations outside the environment movement like ACOSS and ACTU.

However there needs to be concerted efforts by environment groups and networks to work more closely together to achieve mutual objectives. There are many overlaps on a range of environment issues where there are the best immediate opportunities to work together. This will provide a stronger movement to lobby against the Abbott government’s attempt to weaken environment protections and roll back the climate change package negotiated by the Greens, Labor and independents in the last parliament. It will also enable the environment movement to have a more effective voice in future elections.

All of this will require environment groups and networks to

This can be seen as an excellent period for the environment movement to rebuild and renew through using grassroots campaigning methods alongside the tried and true methods of lobbying. But there needs to be a strategy to work more closely with the political parties that most represent their views.

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