March in March protests draw thousands in Lismore and Byron

MARCH IN BYRON: Organisers said a crowd of more that 3.400 marched from Apex Park to Railway Park. Photo Christian Morrow / Byron Shire News
MARCH IN BYRON: Organisers said a crowd of more that 3.400 marched from Apex Park to Railway Park. Photo Christian Morrow / Byron Shire News Christian Morrow

THOUSANDS of Northern Rivers residents took to the streets of the Lismore CBD on Saturday and Byron Bay on Sunday in protest of Abbott Government policies.  

They were just two of the 33 March in March demonstrations taking place across the country as a combined 'vote of no confidence' in the current government.  

Photo gallery and protesters' comments

In Lismore, the sea of protestors dressed in red and yellow and bearing their messages on posters and placards met at Spinks Park on midday, Saturday before marching around the CBD and finishing at Riverside Park.  

A broad range of policy concerns were on display including the government's stance on CSG and the environment, the treatment of immigrants and refugees, the rollout of the national broadband network, funding cuts to the public health sector and community groups, gay rights, foreign investment and social welfare cuts.  

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National organiser Tim Jones said between 5500 and 7000 Northern Rivers residents took part in the Lismore protest, while an estimated 3500 people marched at Byron.  

Inspector Greg Jago of Byron Bay police said protesters at Sunday's Byron Bay march were well behaved and there were no incidents.  

Lismore March in March organiser, Punita Boardman, said you only needed to look at the banners and placards to find out what issues people are passionate about.  

"I think the government has managed to tread on just about every toe in the country so there is a breadth of issues," she said.  

"There's going to be a message of no confidence go to parliament on Monday and that motion of no confidence of going to have the weight of all the marches and all the people that are marching across the weekend."  

Protesters' slogans:

  • 'Farmland not Gasland'
  • 'Stop selling Australia'
  • 'Asylum seekers welcome here'
  • 'Clean energy new jobs'
  • 'There's no planet B'
  • 'Ban live export'
  • 'Save our reef, forests, water'
  • 'Ban budgie smugglers'

Although the Abbott Government was voted in just over six months ago, Ms Boardman said many people were experiencing 'buyer's regret'.  

"This is not what they signed up for. I think that what he's campaigned on and what he's delivered are two very different things."  

However, Nationals Page MP Kevin Hogan said the Abbott Government was simply implementing the policies it campaigned on.  

"I get that there are a lot of Labor and Greens voters who are cranky with the result of the last government," he said.

"We're just implementing the politics we said we would and the Australian public overwhelmingly gave us a mandate to do so in September."  

NSW Greens MLC John Kaye said the protest demonstrated the disillusionment of voters.

"The turnout today really shows that the Northern Rivers community is very angry," he said

"This is a government that has embarked on policies that are alienating the entire North Coast of New South Wales."

What the protesters said:

In a few years the copper cables are going to be degraded and it's going to be useless anyway and they're just going to have to spend more money. 

- Seth Baker, Southern Cross University student, regarding the National Broadband Network.

We're here because of Mr Abbott's attitude to timber workers or forestry workers as the ultimate conservationists. As far as we're concerned that's absolutely rubbish. He's not doing enough to protect wildlife habitat.

- Lorraine Vass, Friends of the Koala president.

We're here today as the girls against gas. We're a group of young females that come together to deliver the message that we want to protect our region against coal seam gas mining.

- Genevieve Mortison, Girls against Gas.

It's put a lot of pressure on nurses. We've got really poor staffing levels, we've got very poor ratios of nurses to patients. He said there will be no health cuts, there will be no education cuts and of course that isn't true.

- Christina Sharman, Lismore mental health nurse.

He's axed several animal welfare committees that were in the process of being set up and that had been a big win over the past ten years. (And) this live export has got to stop.

- Barbara Steffensen, Animal Rights and Rescue.

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