A longer account of the union demo in Sydney yesterday.

Alan Bradley abradley1 at SPAMbigpond.com
Wed Jun 20 04:58:32 MDT 2001


A longer account of the union demo in Sydney yesterday.  This appeared in
several of the Murdoch papers.
http://news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,2148767%255E701,00.html

The Battle of Macquarie St
20jun01

PREMIER Bob Carr yesterday found himself in a political war as conflict over
his Government's WorkCover reforms exploded into violence in Macquarie St.

In a day of conflict not seen since the 1998 waterfront dispute, and one
labelled by Mr Carr as an attack on democracy, more than 1000 unionists
blocked every entrance to State Parliament to gag Labor MPs from debating
the WorkCover Bill.

The MPs were pushed, shoved and labelled scabs as they broke a so-called
picket line in Macquarie St about 2pm.

While the contentious WorkCover Bill was introduced in Parliament last
night, unions will widen their campaign with another fare-free day today --
and the threat of a general transport strike as early as tomorrow.

Speaker John Murray was the first MP to brave the picket yesterday.

He spent seven minutes jammed in a violent crush of about 100 protesters and
more than 50 police.

Bottles were thrown and unionists and police were pressed against the fence
and knocked to the ground.

More than 30 protesters were carted away in paddy wagons.

Many MPs and government staff were so terrified that they were shaking
physically.

Tourism Minister Sandra Nori and backbenchers Deirdre Grusovin and Gabrielle
Harrison were sobbing.

They had to be comforted by colleagues. But a defiant Mr Carr -- who entered
Parliament around 11am through a secret entrance near Sydney Hospital --
appeared on the Macquarie St verandah and waved to protesters as he welcomed
his rattled MPs.

The Premier described the unions' tactics as the greatest attack on
democracy since the dismissal of Gough Whitlam's Labor Government in 1975.

"It is a threat to the very existence of Parliament," Mr Carr said.

"It is a group of people saying `we will use physical force and intimidation
to turn people away' -- democratically elected MPs who represent their
electorates.

"Democracy could not have tolerated people standing around the Parliament
denying access to members of Parliament who they thought were going to vote
the wrong way.

"If it had worked today you would see it some time in the future by another
group."

But in a direct threat to his leadership, 17 members of Mr Carr's backbench
refused to cross the union picket line.

Many pledged to risk their preselection by opposing the WorkCover Bill on
the floor of Parliament.

In a dramatic admission, Deputy Premier Andrew Refshauge confirmed that he
and fellow frontbencher Bob Debus had only crossed the picket line for fear
the Government could fall. Had the two senior Left-faction MPs not entered
the chamber, the Coalition and independents would have outnumbered the
Government 38 to 36.

It was only after a hastily convened Caucus meeting at 3.30pm that Mr Carr
managed to restore discipline.

Caucus voted 48 to 20 in favour of Industrial Relations Minister John Della
Bosca's unamended WorkCover package, and 46 to 22 against further delaying
the introduction of the Bill.

Mr Carr said last night that the minority MPs would now be bound by Caucus
rules to support the package in Parliament -- or be disendorsed at the next
election.






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