UNDER THE FLAG
Thousands rally in Sydney's March in March protest. Photo: Dean Sewell
Socialists, it seems, are not made of sugar.
Thunderstorms followed by drenching autumnal showers did not deter a loose collection of anti-Abbott government activists from gathering at central Sydney's Belmore Park on Sunday to protest Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s stance on asylum-seekers, the environment, industrial relations, free trade and gay marriage.
The gathering, which was matched by similar events around Australia, was a left-wing echo of the infamous ‘‘Convoy of No Confidence’’ rallies held against Julia Gillard's former Labor government, at which Mr Abbott and other Coalition MPs appeared alongside offensive signs, to much public criticism.
Sydney's March in March protest
Up to 12,000 people gathered at Belmore Park to protest against the federal government. Photo: Dean Sewell
The signs at the rally ranged from those comparing Mr Abbott with Hitler, to placards calling him ‘‘gutless’’ and one simply portaying a pair of Speedos with a giant red line crossed through them.
Another referred to Mr Abbott’s history as a boxer, reading: ‘‘To a pugilist, every problem looks like an un-protected head’’.
Seven speakers addressed the crowd before marching began, a number which seemed a little cruel given the inclement weather.
March in March protest. Photo: Dean Sewell
Emcee Matt Wakefield, a Sydney comedian, warmed up the crowd with a reference to the ‘‘shameful, racist, homophobic...f--king a--hole that is Tony Abbott’’.
British singer Billy Bragg, currently on tour in Australia, was a surprise guest. He sang a song and lamented the recent remarks mining magnate Gina Rinehart made praising former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
All mentions of Ms Rinehart’s name were met with booing.
Cat Rose, the convenor of Community Action Against Homophobia, said that ‘‘it’s pretty clear that Tony Abbott’s homophobia alone disqualifies him from government’’.
March in March national convenor Tim Jones said according to initial reports from ‘‘news sources’’, 112,000 people had attended about 20 marches around the nation, with 12,000 turning up in Sydney.
No official police figures on attendance numbers were available.