Noisy SA reception for Howard
Students from Glenunga High School belonging to the Student Activist Alliance organised a noisy “welcome” for John Howard when he arrived at the Adelaide Festival Centre last Saturday. The PM was attending the opening of the Liberal Party’s state conference at which he eventually went on to lavish praise on the record of his government.
Protestors outside were not of the same view. They had gathered to express their outrage at the numerous pieces of anti-people legislation enacted and proposed by the Howard government. Chief among them were the industrial relations changes set to come before the parliament. The protest was supported by SA Unions.
Event MC Sarah Hanson-Young recalled her own unsatisfactory experiences at fast-food outlet Subway before introducing recently sacked student Siobhan George. Siobhan explained that the 17th and last reason for dismissal given on the Subway Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA) was “any other reason”. Natural justice was denied when she was sacked without investigation when $200 from a float went missing.
Retired union official Luke Heffernen told protestors “I’m here because I’m union”. He sympathised with the young workers being affected by the deteriorating industrial relations environment and called on all workers to resist the new IR push.
Student Jake Wishart accepted that we Australians have “an obligation to defend our rights” for ourselves and the generations of workers to come. He paid tribute to the achievements of the labour movement but noted that for young people “the time has come for our own struggle”.
The protest was marred by security arrangements. Immigration Minister Amanda provocatively walked unescorted to the venue’s door obliging police to rush to head off protestors wanting to give her a piece of their minds. Minor scuffles ensued when police enforced demands for demonstrators to move further and further away from the entrance. Edwin Kemp, a Glenunga student who had been taking part in the protest wearing a paper mache mask of Howard, was later taken into custody by police for allegedly getting too close to the actual PM when he entered the Centre complex. He was released without charge.