Given the arrogance of the Abbot government I doubted that the protests would make any difference but I turned up anyway because there are other reasons to march down the city streets on a reasonably nice Sunday afternoon. The hearteningly good turn out of between 30 to 40 thousand people in Melbourne was one of them. It is nice to feel that many others in this most progressive of Australian cities share the same frustrations and horror at the current government’s policies. It was nice to bump into so many people from my various circles and to see even more familiar faces amongst such a large crowd. I felt proud of my community and took comfort in the fact that however evil the federal government is, it did not act for us.
The marchers came from everywhere and represented pretty much every issue that had put someone out. This even included some Victorian Taxi licence owners who had lost out in recent state government legislation changes to their industry – nothing to do with the Feds at all. It is the nature of protests to be fragmented, to know very much what they don’t want but not so much the solution, to have no leaders and too many voices. For capable governments, non-violent single day protests are an early warning sign of dissatisfaction. To a large degree, it is true that so long as the economy is ticking along in Australia, the kind of mass seemingly permanent protests we have seen overseas are unlikely here. But that doesnt mean the Abbotroids should glibly ignore it.
The numbers that turned out should at least send their pollsters and analysts out to understand amongst all of the clamour and the noise, what they should listen to and most effectively work on. But I doubt that will happen. The Abbot agenda is becoming all too clear and there is no room in it for progressives.