The Guardian May 8, 2002

Australia's May Day actions

Banners, placards, flags and chanted slogans marked colourful May Day 
demonstrations and marches in the capital cities and regional centres 
around Australia.


A last minute influx of May Day marchers helped make last Saturday's event 
a strong statement of worker's solidarity. Around 1,000 marchers followed 
the traditional pipe band through city streets. Banners protesting the 
brutal treatment of refugees in detention centres, the outrages being 
suffered by the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli military and 
the desperate struggle being waged by the crew aboard the CSL Yarra in Port 
Pirie were all featured.


Some 500 unionists, students, environmentalists, members and supporters of 
political parties and solidarity organisations demonstrated in Perth on May 
1. The plight of refugees and solidarity with the Palestinian people were 
featured. One of the main speakers at the rally was Sheila Suttner from the 
Communist Party of Australia, who was well received. She said:

"I bring a message of solidarity from the Communist Party of Australia on 
May Day. 2002.

"It is a message that has been brought on this special day to the working 
class since 1889 when a meeting of socialist and labour leaders from many 
countries met in Paris to form an International organisation of workers to 
support the legal introduction of the 8-hour working day.

"It further decided that in tribute to the 80,000 who marched and those who 
died in Chicago on May 1, 1886 that May Day become an international day of 
protest, a day to highlight workers' struggles and aspirations for decent 
working hours, decent wages, safe and healthy working conditions.

"Over the ensuing decades since 1886 there have been ongoing struggles 
between workers and bosses, there have been gains and losses.

"Marx and Engels in 1848 expressed it thus: 'Oppressor and oppressed, in 
constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now 
hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in 
revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of 
the contending classes'.

"When one thinks of the victory of the 8-hour day in 1886, we must wonder 
if the working class is winning.

"Today workers are at the work site 10,12, 16 hours a day. That is if they 
are fortunate enough to have a job. Does anyone remember what that is? Many 
have lost job security, they have lost self-esteem, and they have lost 
quality time with their families.

"But the working class has not lost the courage to take on and challenge 
the bosses, big or small. We have seen some heroic struggles on the 
wharves, on the building sites and on the factory floors of this land.

"Workers united against oppressive conditions; workers in solidarity with 
the unemployed, the under-employed, the over-employed and the exploited.

"We have seen inspiring instances of international solidarity where 
Australian workers have stood up for human rights in other countries  in 
Spain against Franco; in Indonesia against colonial oppressors; in Vietnam; 
in East Timor; and against apartheid in South Africa.

"Right now, the MUA and the CFMEU are calling for the withdrawal of Israeli 
troops from occupied Palestine ... or else.

"The struggle experience of workers is vital in support of indigenous 
rights and asylum seekers  the victims of oppressive regimes and wars of 

"Their courage and determination is vital in the struggle for a peaceful, 
non-nuclear, non-polluted green environment for Australian children to grow 
up in; for the right of women to organise; in the fight against 
privatisation of all the important things that belong to us, the people of 
Australia  education, health, housing and welfare which are 
systematically being wrenched away from us. It is creating a society of 
haves and have-nots, elite's and battlers.

"Workers of the world unite", concluded Sheila Suttner.


Around 4000 to 5000 marchers pounded the pavement on Queensland's Labour 
Day last Monday. Many unions took part with banners and union flags taking 
up the many issues confronting trade unions including privatisation and the 
Federal Government's anti-union building industry inquiry.

The CPA had a small contingent and copies of The Guardian were distributed.


Sydney held two demonstrations, one on May 1 and the second on Sunday, May 
5 which was led by workers from the CFMEU with a convoy of trucks 
protesting against the Federal Government's Royal Commission into the 
Building Industry. "Workers united will never be defeated" was a popular 
slogan, together with demands to free Palestine and in support of refugee 

Fourteen protestors were arrested following police provoked violence during 
the May 1 demonstration. The authorities obviously used the M1 
demonstration to put on a show of force as unnecessarily large numbers of 
foot and mounted police and special police were in attendance.


Wollongong's rally of approximately 250 was also led by members of the 
CFMEU. They honoured long time unionist and indigenous rights activist Fred 
Moore. Speakers at the rally included ACTU President Sharon Burrows.

The local CPA branch turned out in force with all members marching under 
the CPA banner and selling "The Guardian" .


An estimated 8,000 took part in Melbourne's May 1 which was organised by a 
coalition of organisations. Many trade unions took part.

Secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council Leigh Hubbard commented that 
"There is some frustration working with this kind of coalition but 
ultimately the unions have the numbers so we should set the agenda."

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