In its usual style the Sydney Branch of the Maritime Union of Australia was not going to allow the final week of the Jobs Embassy to fizzle out, particularly on Budget Week.
At the same time the Turnbull-led Liberal Government was trying to punish Australian workers with its top-end-of-town friendly Budget, the MUA made its presence known on the lawns of Parliament House on the seventh and final week of the Australian Jobs Embassy.
The Embassy was originally established to promote the plight of sacked Australian seafarers from the MV Portland and CSL Melbourne as part of the union’s shipping campaign but it has transitioned into a broader Federal Election campaign with the key message of ‘Put the Liberals Last’.
On Monday, Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray conducted political meetings with the Labor Party and key crossbenchers.
Meanwhile, the Jobs Embassy was showing the true spirit of the trade union movement.
Notably this Embassy had strong participation from all generations. While MUA youth were at the forefront, a bus load of retired veterans travelled from Sydney to attend the Embassy for the day.
These retired unionists marched onto the Embassy and shared their stories, reminiscing about the days when there were progressive Governments in power.
Sydney Veterans Secretary and former Legal Officer Bill Giddins talked about how cheap his education was when he was at university.
“When I studied law, do you know how much it cost me?,” Giddins asked.
“I just had to pay for my text books and my student union fees only. But now, we have a Liberal Government who is trying to introduce $100k fees which will deter many Australians from accessing higher education.
“This is not equitable for our children and their future. We’ve gone backwards and it’s all due to the Turnbull Government.”
Later, Labor MP Catherine King joined the Embassy to speak to the crowd about Turnbull’s attacks on health services.
On Tuesday morning with the impending budget on everyone’s mind, protestors were invited to wear their tropical best and visit the Cayman Islands Embassy, playfully highlighting that PM Turnbull allegedly invests his money in offshore tax havens.
Tax dodging proved to be a major theme of the rally and is a subject familiar to maritime workers, with three out of four companies involved in the MV Portland dispute not paying a single cent in tax.
Labor Senator, Sam Dastyari - a fierce supporter of tax reform, said that Turnbull was responsible for perpetuating economic and social inequality.
“At the heart of this budget is a complete and utter lie,” Senator Dastyari said.
“You have $10 – $30 billion dollars flying out the window through back door arrangements and tax dodging. Turnbull has created a budget, a tax policy and a political system to protect the rich.”
Australian Council of Trade Unions President Ged Kearney said that the limited economic spending of the Turnbull Government showed its total disrespect for children and their futures.
“After this budget, our kids will not be able to buy a house because he won’t tackle negative gearing. Our kids will not be able to get jobs because there is no money being put into industries. There is no job plan,” Kearney said.
Community and Public Sector Union National Secretary Nadine Flood spoke about Turnbull’s attacks on public service workers.
“The top end of town, our biggest corporations, and the top one per cent are paying nothing. 580 corporations paid not one dollar of tax last year; they paid less tax than our members in Centrelink and Medicare, who are delivering public services, earning $50,000 - $60,000 dollars per year,” Flood said.
“These are people who are helping vulnerable Australians every day, they pay more tax than these big companies.”
Bray wrapped up the rally in firing up the crowd, saying it was time Australians give the Liberal Government the boot at the upcoming election on July 2.
“If you are a worker earning under $80,000 dollars, this budget delivers absolutely nothing. If you want a future for yourself and if you want job security and if you want a future for the next generation this Government is not the Government for you,” he said.
On Wednesday morning in the wake of the budget, the nation’s media gathered outside Parliament House, providing the MUA with the perfect opportunity to photo bomb; capturing the attention of the Australian community.
MUA activists could be spotted in the backdrop of the Charlie Pickering show and the Sunrise doorstop featuring Senator Lambie, Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash and Labor Deputy, Tanya Pilbersek.
Later in the day MUA activists made news headlines by booing Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann and successfully disrupting his TV interviews with the following chants:
“Mathias for the Rich!”
“Malcolm Turnbull, we know what you are all about. Job cuts, job losses, money for the bosses!”
On Thursday, Shadow Employment Minister Brendan O’Connor made a speech at the Embassy addressing the crowd’s anger over the Government’s inaction to protect Australian jobs.
O’Connor said the Turnbull Government was the most anti-worker Government the country had ever seen.
“The Budget allows people who are making one million dollars a year to get a $17,000 dollar tax cut, yet nobody under $80,000 will get a tax cut at all,” he said.
“This is a Government for the rich, for the big end of town led by a former merchant banker, who is more interested in looking after his mates, than working people. We have more un-employed Australians than we’ve ever had before.”
Meanwhile Senator Ricky Muir also joined the Embassy and spoke about the Government's attack on our economic conditions.
Senator Muir is a strong supporter of the Embassy having visited every week had been held.
“I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to earn penalty rates; I’ve been very vocal about that,” he said.
“The reality is that the Liberal Government thinks about small business, but I would never have money to spend in shops, if I didn’t get those penalty rates.”
The Australian Services Union also joined the Embassy on Thursday to protest the cuts to women’s services, homelessness programs, community legal services and mental health.
Others events included: Apheda – Asbestos Not here Not Anywhere, joined by Indonesian comrades Subono and Darisman who told their stories about the prevalence of asbestos in their home country.
The Teachers’ Federation also cam down to support Gonski and protest the Liberal’s half-baked education funding plan.
The Australian Job Embassy was also visited by MP’s Gai Brodtman and Kate Ellis.
Sydney Branch Secretary Paul McAleer said the most important thing to take away from the week's events was that the Liberal Party was bad for Australian workers.
“The distinction between the MUA jobs embassy and the Cayman Islands tax dodgers embassy here on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra is the difference between the working class and the ruling class," McAleer said.
"On the one hand you have the trade union movement, fighting for justice in our workplaces and communities and on the other the neoliberal economic model which seeks to strip the wealth created by workers and offshored in tax dodgers banks for the wealthy. This election will secure an outcome for one or the other.
"We must do everything we can to remove this corrupt rotten Coalition Government from power and commence the fight for a just society free from exploitation.”
Throughout the week the Sydney Branch was supported by the Western Australian, Port Kembla and Newcastle Branches. Many other unions flocked to show their support and express their frustration at the Abbott – Turnbull regime including the ETU, TWU, CFMEU, CPSU, ASU.
For all of the photos from the event, click here.