The Anti-Industrial Relations Rally inMelbourne, 2006 (Beazley’s Last Stand)
By James WF Roberts
I am sitting in the grand stand of the MCG. The spiritual home of Aussie Rules football, the place where all Victorians come to worship a strange shaped red ball. A place we come to so we can escape for two hours a week and be primal, be one of the herd cheering on our teams, giving the umpire heaps and most importantly a place where we can be totally at peace and enjoy our selves, a place where we can be human, where we can display love, sorrow, anger and happiness.
I walk up the slim passageway to get up to one of the many kiosks, to go get a drink it is a typicalMelbourneday. Hot, humid, cold and cloudy. I look down and I swear I am at Sydney Vs. Carlton football match. There is a sea of red and white flags and a valley of dark navy blue set against that.
On the screen above us is Corrine Grant, we can just see David Hughes climbing up the North Light Tower as a protest or a stunt I am not really sure…All I know is I soon wont forget this day.
Today is a very important day it is “Fill the G, Fill the G today we’ll make history”. There has to be more than fifty thousand people here, all here in support of one thing and one thing alone. We are all here as Comrades in arms so to speak, united in the fight against the new I.R. Laws.
We are watching the anti—I.R. Law commercials, that we have all been watching for months and I start to notice something…I initially came here today as an observer, as a reporter, I figured it would be a good story opportunity—and boy was I right but there is so much to it than that.
On the podium in the middle of the ground an elderly gentleman, with an oxygen drip in his nose begins to speak. “If these I.R. Laws were in a few months earlier than they were, everyone like me, who got sick because of James hardy would not have gotten any compensation. That’s how serious today is”.
Several ten litre buckets are being passed around, feels like I am almost back at church. A big blue bucket comes to me and I can barely lift the bloody thing, it is is filled with gold coins, fifty cent pieces and the full rainbow of notes that we have. And I remember thinking to interesting things. For god’s sake James don’t drop this…and the second one being, god I hope this is not for the CFMEU’s drinking fund!
Several more people have spoken by now. All talking about their job loss. Their lack of financial security, the stress of not fulfilling your duties as a parent and the worry that you have no idea what will happen tomorrow.
I look around the people sitting near me teachers, builders, miners, maritime workers, hospitality workers and lots of Old Labour and many people that belong to New Labor.
Never before have I seen so many different types of people, from all different walks of life all united and all believing in the greater good of defeating this heinous new Law that has come.
Never before have I seen so many construction workers, teachers, construction workers, maritime workers and people who work in hospitality look so down trodden and so heavy hearted. The pure salt of the earth, who work their @#$%’s off everyday to provide for their families, to have a lifestyle that they can be proud of, but now who have no idea what the future will hold for them and more importantly for their children.
I forget who said this great quote but it is valid. “That we are the first generation in history when our children will be worse off than ourselves”.
Then we see him take the podium. He is tall and robust and round, a large bulk almost as cumbersome and burly as a grizzly bear. His words raise our heads, our ears and our hearts. The ferocity and vigor of his words are things I have seen from him before.
At the end of every sentence the crowd went up, exploded with hope with cheers and with energy. The red and white flags and the dark blue flags all wave in unison, me and my mates are banging our feet on the ground and slapping down unoccupied seats.
I stop carrying on and start listening to the now former Opposition Leader and what he is saying. If he had half this spark and energy and gusto in parliament he would be a different politician.
You could see it clearly in his face, that he finally starting see the facts. When he spoke of the future and what he intended to do if he was Prime Minister—we all, always knew that would never happen—I remember seeing a bleak look on his face, as I gazed at it on the huge screen. His face was dark and morose, although he was animated he looked very much like a man on the edge of a stroke, or maybe it was just the angle I was watching it all from…
Hard to say but at least in his last week as Federal Labor Leader he kinda got to go out on a high in his last major political speech and his last fight against John Howard.
RIP: Kim ‘Bomber’ Beazley.