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March in March: the old ways of doing politics are under challenge

Political participation in Australia will soon be about hope – and the transformation of citizenship engagement in this country. Here is why. Traditionally, Australian political participation was centred…

The array of handmade signs at the Sydney rally reveals the disparate nature of March in March participants' concerns. AAP/NEWZULU/Peter Boyle

Political participation in Australia will soon be about hope – and the transformation of citizenship engagement in this country.

Here is why.

Traditionally, Australian political participation was centred on, and supported by, the electoral system, political parties and major political organisations.

Most media commentators tend to focus on the electoral system as the main way of consolidating political support and bringing about change. They assume citizens make political choices to participate and/or express themselves based on rational, self-interested, often economic, calculations.

When citizens have been mobilised it has usually been done by unions, political parties and environmental organisations. These have the resources, skills and experience to undertake mass protests.

The Your Rights at Work campaign undertaken by Australian unions in 2006-07 is an example. Yet this was an expensive campaign, centred on television advertising that cost about A$20 million.

Over the past decade, new kinds of political organisation have emerged. Enabled by the internet, movements such as GetUp! and new forms of citizen mobilisation don’t require formal organisations.

Many causes come together

March in March was different. It revealed itself to be organised by grassroots campaigners with few or no organisational affiliations. More importantly, it used social media, mainly Facebook, to organise people to attend protests.

The March in March campaigners claimed in very general terms that it was:

…to protest against government decisions that are against the common good of our nation.

At the event in Sydney last weekend, I observed a range of issues – from shark culling to refugees to public service job cuts – on mostly handmade signs. While several flags were flown representing unions and small political parties, I was struck by the lack of co-ordinated political messaging in the signs or even among the rally speakers, compared to past rallies with higher profiles.

The largest rallies in Australia have tended to be on single issues; they focused on distinct political outcomes. For example, the goal was to “stop the war” and bring Australian soldiers home, in either Vietnam or Iraq, or to defeat government legislation, such as WorkChoices.

Other interest organisations have also used large rallies and protest marches to seek specific political outcomes. The Iraq war rallies in February 2003, however, were the biggest ever: protesters numbered 500,000 nationwide.

Mainstream media reported accurately on the high numbers of Iraq war protesters. Many also highlighted the diversity of participants. But it was easy for media and government to discount citizen protest as an expression of political will, especially when the protest failed to achieve its desired outcome.

Defying conventional understanding

Now it has become more difficult for mainstream media to understand a protest that does not focus on a distinct political outcome and a single issue. Many have found it difficult to sum up what March in March was about. What was the issue? What (political outcome) did protesters want? Who was even there?

The answer is that March in March has much in common with protests such as Occupy, which emerged in the United States, the Indignados in Spain and the Gezi protests in Istanbul. All these popular protests were harder to pin down using traditional lenses for understanding interest group and political mobilisations.

We need to turn to new theoretical ideas that try to explain contemporary forms of mobilisation. Political scientists Lance Bennett and Alexandra Segerberg suggest that “connective action” is steadily replacing traditional, organisation-led collective action. The two forms of connective action are:

  • “Digitally enabled connective action” involves loosely tied networks that support actions and causes around a general set of issues. Participants use social media to personalise their engagement on their own terms and connect with like-minded others. In Australia, online campaigning organisations like GetUp and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition are examples of this.

  • “Crowd-enabled connective action” is where social media platforms become the most visible and integrative means of organisation. The actions of campaigners gain scale and publicity through these social media networks, which are organisational hubs, along with the role of individuals in activating their own social networks. Bennett and Segerberg describe the Occupy protests and Indignados here, but March in March shares much of these characteristics.

March in March’s focus on social-media-based organising, often among existing offline friend networks, is what is least understood in media commentary.

Storytelling moves the masses

Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign told a story of hope, but it isn’t just mainstream politics that can harness shared emotions to a cause. Juli Hansen / Shutterstock.com

I can add another theoretical dimension helpful for understanding new forms of political participation and protest mobilisation: the role of emotions and storytelling. Sometimes a protest does not have an intended political outcome. It is more about the public expression of a shared set of emotions – anger, joy, hope, empathy and even humour.

Campaigners increasingly use storytelling as a strategy to develop citizen empathy with a cause. The idea is to make it easier for people to personalise and relate to a cause, as a prior condition for acting collectively.

Think about the initial Barack Obama’s initial presidential election campaign and its focus on “hope”. Maybe March in March was important alone for providing a space for people to express their emotions, their indignation about a whole lot of things. This is much harder to understand for pundits focused on the existing party/electoral system, rational actors and distinct outcomes.

It is hard to know what will happen next with March in March, or how commentators and existing political organisations will respond. Maybe not much will happen at all. There are several factors, though, that we should start to understand more as a result.

Political mobilisation can increasingly happen without formal political organisations. Crowd-based, personalised networks on social media provide citizens with the resources, skills and political experience needed to organise protests.

Existing organisations can and ought to be part of these organising processes. But to do that they will need to understand emotions and new expressions about politics that do not fit the rational-voter model. They must also learn that top-down directives focused only on single-issue, political outcomes may not be the best way to engage everyday citizens.

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151 Comments sorted by

  1. Michael Shand

    Software Tester

    Great Article, Thank you for covering it.

    no doubt the MSM and lazy thinkers will cry about how it doesn't fit into a little easily understood box and try to tear the whole thing down with the same strawmans they always do

    "It won't change politics therefor it's pointless"

    "I can't understand it therefor they didn't know what they were protestng against"

    "Lazy whingers that need to get a job or spend time with their family rather than taking part in a feel good exercise, because feeling good is bad somehow"

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    1. Jack Ruffin
      Jack Ruffin is a Friend of The Conversation.

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael I disagree, firstly many people gave up their time to go to the March WITH THEIR FAMILIES to protest against all the things this government gets wrong. They do understand that such protests bring people of like minds together and can generate change. Maybe the fear of such change may drive those who try to misrepresent their aims and the nature of the March. I was there and the people were all caring, courteous and clear as to their purpose. If you would like to use other equally benign means to put your point of view I would support your right to do so without name calling.
      It was a wonderful day for families to come together and put their viewpoints together in an environment that included people with babies and little kids right through to the elderly. For all those who did not attend the movement will be sure to grow and you will have other opportunities. It was wonderful to see 1000s and 1000s of people walking together so peacefully.

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    2. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Jack Ruffin

      Jack, I agree that "It was wonderful to see 1000s and 1000s of people walking together so peacefully."
      Also I wouldn't be surprised if for every person marching, there were at least one - maybe more - who would have come except that they could not for some reason e.g. work, sickness etc.
      In the small town I live in there were hundreds of people, lots of prams, young kids, also elderly, and all peacefully chatting with each other. I hope this is just the start of a better kind of democracy.

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    3. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Jack Ruffin

      The huge embarrassment for Labor beyond the Whitlam years was that once out of Vietnam they had to struggle to contain the monster people like Jim Cairns had created. Bob Hawke and Gareth Evans were especially careful to point out in 1983 that we live in a representative democracy, not a direct participatory democracy, as has every Labor leader since.

      We know for fact, historically, that when in power Labor park the protest buses then bring them out again once they are out again; doing whatever…

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    4. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Jane Middlemist

      Why didn't you do it under Labor then, when they were borrowing so much money and spending so much, when it came time to "save the motor industry" as a good recent example, the vault was empty?

      That's the real question needing to be addressed here, surely.

      If we need to bring change in this country then it needs to be change in this country, regardless of who happens to be ensconced in Canberra from time to time.

      What on earth is stopping you people from bringing out your prams, young kiddies and old people for a wonderful stroll and a peaceful chat, on anything you wish, any time you want?

      The mind truly boggles.

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    5. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Rick Sullivan

      No idea which Australia you grew up in, Rick, except perhaps that backward, retard part of Australia with its boring monocultural head up its White Australia welfare dependency arse.

      That's not the Australia I grew up in, or seek to perpetuate. This multicultural, diverse, lively and dynamic Australia we enjoyed for over a century to Federation, not interrupted and turned around again until the 1970s and early 1980s, bringing us back on track to where we might have been without Labor, without…

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    6. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Going about your business Mr Fisher. Maybe but,sorry, ' hardly without comment' judging by your lengthy diatribes.

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    7. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Peaceful protest marches seem to bring out a lot of resentment and long boring outpourings from editors and proofreaders.

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    1. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Heidi Evans

      We don't want a "common good". We are already a Commonwealth, by no accident speaking well over 300 languages already, including over 100 Aboriginal languages of which 83 are in daily use.

      What we want is diversity, dynamism, multiculturalism, multilingual and intelligent, well-educated, critical and well-informed disparity.

      On media, by starting to feel repressed perhaps you are only now starting to feel how we have felt all along, but long ago acted to do something about it beyond joining yet another silly march to be repressed even further.

      Solution, free yourself from your abductors, restore your own mind, take control of your own life, get yourself a higher education, break ranks and join the real world finally.

      It is absolutely great where we are right now with Labor gone, bloody terrific, like a fresh breeze still blowing across the country finally and the whole place breathing a huge sigh of relief.

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    2. Heidi Evans

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Firstly I wouldn't make the assumption that I need a higher education; I was being coy, and wouldn't protesting against the current (and previous) governments show that I am free from my current abductors as you say?
      After the weekend I never felt prouder to be an Australian.
      I got a tip for you and others: Next time you liberal supporters want to abuse people on the internet and throw condescending insults my way, why don't you start standing up for transparent and sustainable policies too? It doesn't matter who is in government, it's about long term positive developments for Australia (that isn't about corporate interests).
      I am in the real world, the same might be asked about you Tom.
      I think you better go back to giving Alan Jones a call, it suits you better.

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  2. Geoff Henley

    Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

    Why is it that the March-in-Marchers continue to live under the delusion that their opinions are more important than other people’s opinions? You don’t have to be a placard-carrying lefty to have a right to an opinion.

    The Abbott Government is a democratically elected merely implementing policies that it went to the election with. If the March-in-March brigaders don’t like some of their policies, then tough they will just have to deal with it just like many of us had to deal with some of the dud…

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    1. Ross Barrell

      Aikido Student

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Hi Geoff

      I would be amazed if any of those who marched felt their views were "more important than other people's opinions." They were simply taking an opportunity to express them.

      I think I would also be gobsmacked if a majority of marchers thought of themselves as "placard-carrying lefties".

      And, yes. The LNP government is a democratically elected organisation and yes, they are attempting to implement policies that they went to the election with, however in doing so they have alienated…

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    2. Brad Farrant

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      What a load of angry hate-filled waffle Geoff.

      On the one hand you say "The hard left hate democracy because it allows people with different opinions than theirs to have a say and to have a vote" and on the other hand you say "If the March-in-March brigaders don’t like some of their policies, then tough they will just have to deal with it..."

      Nothing like being consistent in your approach.

      Do you support free speech or not? Do you support the right to peacefully protest or not?

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    3. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Someone on twitter was requesting photos of the posters - she said she only wanted "offensive ones".
      Offensive posters were a small minority.
      I know. I was there.

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    4. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Chris Weir

      Thanks Chris. I thought it a very unpleasant request and was convinced she wanted to publish those posters - and only those -to try and smear the peaceful and civil protest about many of this government's actions.

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    5. Geoff Henley

      Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

      In reply to Jane Middlemist

      If a few highly offensive posters at a left-wing protest rally is no big deal, then a couple of lesser offensive posters at a Liberal party rally must surely be no big deal.

      Anyone who keeps carrying on about the 'ditch the witch' poster must surely be guilty of hyprocrisy.

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    6. Geoff Henley

      Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      "most people in the country did NOT put the coalition first on their ballot."

      That is irrevelant. The fact is that more voters preferred the Coalition than the Labor party.

      The Labor party had absolutely NO right to introduce the carbon tax. They only scraped into power because 2 independents betrayed their electorates.

      People can protest all they like but at the end of the day, they have to realise that Governments are chosen through a democratic election process. So a lot of people don't like the Abbott Government. So what, a lot of people didn't like the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Government. That's just the way it is.

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    7. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Henley has a very short memory. Actually his memory is more likely extremely selective

      The objection to the "ditch the witch" and the other offensive anti-Gillard banners is that Abbott and a gaggle of LNP politicians chose to stand in front of them while they addressed the rally.
      http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/gillards-rivals-should-ditch-the-witch-attack/story-e6frfifo-1226028789433

      The March In March organisers specifically requested that the protest signs should be kept respectful.
      https://www.facebook.com/marchinmarch/photos/a.1434556213444031.1073741828.1434188193480833/1455501701349482/?type=1

      What is of more interest is that Henley reads Andrew Bolt's column. It certainly explains where he gets his "climate science" from.

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    8. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      "People can protest all they like .."

      Gee thanks Geoff. So democracy is not suspended after all.

      "The Labor party had absolutely NO right to introduce the carbon tax. They only scraped into power because 2 independents betrayed their electorates."

      LOL. But what a perverse view of democracy. You need to keep a firm grip on those totalitarian tendencies there Geoff. Your inner dictator is definitely showing.

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    9. Steve Phillips

      Nurse Practitioner

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Geoff believes in democracy, this democratic country elected Tony Abbott and Co using the same system that lumped us with Rudd and Co. Now you say it isn't representative?
      Where were your protests of misrepresentation during the Rudd and Gillard years?
      "Oh but thats different" you say.
      Bulldust! They have the same right to implement thier policies as the previous Govt. If you dont like it "tough".
      Dont vote for them.

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    10. Ken Dyer

      Knowledge Seeker

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Geoff, the MIM's are entitled to their opinions just as much as you are entitled to yours, no matter how misinformed and histrionic it might be. That is the beauty of our democracy.

      As John F. Kennedy in 1964 said,

      "The true democracy, living and growing and inspiring, puts its faith in the people - faith that the people will not simply elect men who will represent their views ably and faithfully, but will also elect men who will exercise their conscientious judgment - faith that the people…

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    11. Mitch Dillon

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Someone who describes the Geological Society of London as '...a bunch of alarmists...' and judges ABC presenters' politics on how they come across on tv, undoubtedly has the qualifications to categorise 100,000 people across the nation as being solely of left-leaning political persuasion.
      Geoff, define the left wing in Australian politics?

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    12. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      "....The Labor party had absolutely NO right to introduce the carbon tax. They only scraped into power because 2 independents betrayed their electorates....."

      In the very same post where you tell us that the current government can do what they like because they were democratically elected, you complain that the previous government had no right to act the same.

      Either you are completely lacking in self awareness, you are a hypocrite, or you are a troll.

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    13. Geoff Henley

      Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      "The March In March organisers specifically requested that the protest signs should be kept respectful. "

      So why didn't they ask for the offensive signs to be removed?

      "It certainly explains where he gets his "climate science" from."

      As I have repeatedly said, my views on climate science are not based on anything Bolt has said. He just happens to share a similar view.

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    14. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Geoff, are you really a research associate? If so, you show a woeful inability to understand science.

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    15. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Democratically elected? With the MSM placating the then government constantly? WHAT other reason could there possibly be that the people were fooled into electing the WORST government this country has ever had the misfortune to be saddled with.......

      The problem I have with elections is that they basically no longer work. The world is run BY corporations, FOR corporations. They even run the way elections are held via the murdock and fairfax press. And you wonder why people are unhappy?

      At this stage, AFAIC, Anarchy sounds good. Because frankly, we are on our own. Governments everywhere are sleepwalking towards collapse.

      BTW.... I haven't voted for a major party in over thirty years. I think they call it free thinking.

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    16. Rick Sullivan

      Vast and Various

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      "Some of the posters at the March-in-March were vicious and vile. Many of these protestors have some growing up to do." What, Geoff, like "Ditch the Bitch"?

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    17. Geoff Henley

      Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      "WHAT other reason could there possibly be that the people were fooled into electing the WORST government this country "

      This is just your opinion. Hard to imagine a more incompetent Government than the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Government.

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    18. Brad Farrant

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Geoff what you don't seem to understand is that many people at MiM were protesting about the policies of both the current and previous governments. You seem to be a very one-eyed Coalition supporter rather than someone who (as a scientist) looks for the best evidenced based and ethical policies.

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    19. Graham Houghton

      Archaeologist, Writer

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Geoff. Oh dear. I would have been at the Adelaide march if I hadn't had work to do. I'm not remotely left wing, nor am I right wing, centre, green, or anything else. I was disgusted with the last government for its immaturity and incompetence. Broken promises? That's politics and politicians for you. But just because the Liberal National Party coalition beat the Labour Green coalition does not mean they have a mandate to destroy everything that's decent and good in this nation. I think you'll find there are many people, not just in this country, but around the world who don't give a hoot about politics, but care deeply about the future of society and the planet. That's what the MIM was about and I think you'd do well to try and understand that.

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    20. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Steve Phillips

      @Steve Phillips

      "Now you say it isn't representative?"

      Where did I say that? You are misrepresenting my position.

      It was elected by a majority of Australians. But that does not mean that we cannot protest against its policies and attempt to persuade others that its policies are wrong.

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    21. Jack Ruffin
      Jack Ruffin is a Friend of The Conversation.

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Jane Middlemist

      Jane, I agree with your point about a poliy being photographed in front of a poster. We cannot stop the odd poster. But we do not have to stand in front of it. This hubris is just some affronted right wingers trying to claim some high ground. Understandable when you consider how far underwater this government is.

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    22. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Hard to imagine a more incompetent Government than the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Government.

      Yes it is. But here we are..........................

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    23. Kirsty Douglas

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      The thing is Geoff, Mr Abbott, Sophie Mirabella et al, associated themselves with that Ditch the Witch poster , by standing in front of it and being photographed.

      Now this may have been accidental on Mr Abbott's and other liberal politicians behalf but they appeared to be enthusiastically participating in this protest and endorsing the sentiments. If it was all accidental, they could have said something to express regrets at being in that photograph. Anyone of them could have expressed horror.

      If they did, I never heard it, but I have seen that photograph several times and it has become a lasting and defining image.

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    24. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Ross Barrell

      What is so important about having a "Science Minister"? What on earth does that mean?

      Don't we already have large numbers of universities with world-ranking science faculties carrying out ground-breaking research?

      Far better it seems to me that science ministers and journos and media hacks and propagandists and the rest of them get out of the bloody way finally, and allow the public access to science and scientists directly, I suggest through university open days instead of having to trot all…

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    25. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      I do not support these huge crowds blocking the streets and obstructing people's access to the processes of democracy, Brad, or zealots telling me what to do and say and think especially against something they imagine to be "the common good" conspicuously failing to take me or my views and opinions into account, or for that matter broader facts and substance.

      If one, whether me or anyone at all, how many more? That is the very real concern many of us have through all this, and believe me we've…

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    26. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Re "zealots telling me what to do and say and think"? Mr Fisher. Yes, they certainly are a pain in the neck, especially those ranting away tediously, with no insight into their own zealotry…

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    27. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Abbott has no unimpeded mandate? Neither did Gough. The whole lot of you are being hypocritical, with Geoff Henley for my part far less so than most. He might be acknowledged rather for his moderation and restraint.

      No worries, we audit this place and follow the leads. Pity so many in this country are so thoroughly emotional, abusive, vindictive, so ready to label others as vile, despicable, racist sexist whatever, when the simple reality is that none of them are as able to sit and engage issues…

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    28. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Nigel Stanley

      They don't see you, Nigel, they only see a milling crowd outside.

      If you want to be seen and heard, stick your head up out of it finally.

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    29. Brad Farrant

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Tom,

      You say that "Give me one intelligent, well-educated and thoughtful person willing to sit and engage informed discussion, to negotiate and accept another's point of view as likewise reasonable and intelligent, and as willing to change his own mind as he expects the other to change his" yet it is very clear from what you have said on this page that you are a one-eyed Coalition supporter who is not really interested in having a reasoned discussion.

      To give just a couple of examples - you…

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    30. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Nigel Stanley

      Um, Nigel, again, the lie is in your targeting Abbott in particular when if you are properly concerned about this place being much better than it is, and assuming that's the right way to go about it, these rallies and marches would have been taking place routinely and consistently over the past 6-7 years.

      It is a reasonable question to ask of you. Where were you then?

      Supposing you to be retired in fact, the same question might have been put to you every year since the close of the War in the…

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    31. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Garry Baker

      If all folks can do when they don't like something than march in the streets, no wonder none of those representing them are any good.

      Hello, ah, how about getting a life finally, and an education and with it a mind of your own happy to dissent with, deviate from, challenge and critique the common wad, to stick their head up at risk of it being knocked off time and time again, and still coming back with even more homework completed, even more substantial argument.

      Give me just 10 such people in this country over 100,000 dingbats buried in the crowd.

      It would be a blessed miracle.

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    32. Brad Farrant

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Tom,

      It would be great if you would follow your own advice - "about getting a life finally, and an education and with it a mind of your own happy to dissent with, deviate from, challenge and critique the common wad, to stick their head up at risk of it being knocked off time and time again"

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    33. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      Hate-filled? Obsessed with the idea of hate, Brad.

      Pointing out the obvious is hateful? Seeking to bring discussion back on track, dealing with facts and substance, reminding people that we have a process of democratic election in this country, that milling around in huge crowds waving placards is not only mindless it is pointless, alienating and divisive, and that's hate-filled?

      Being a supporter of the Abbott government and happy they are in power, more than happy to see the last of Rudd…

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    34. Brad Farrant

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Tom,

      If you were prepared to put your political allegiance to one side, stop the personal adhom attacks and start reasonably discussing the issues then you might have a chance of experiencing what you say you want.

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    35. Nigel Stanley

      retired

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Mr. Fisher, I am sticking my head up. That is why I marched and that is why I reply to you.

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    36. Nigel Stanley

      retired

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Mr. Fisher, I think I would understand you better if you took one or two ideas and examined them in depth, citing evidence for your opinion at each stage and then drawing a conclusion from them. As it is, your ideas seem to tumble over one another and I am not clear what it is you are trying to tell me except that Mr. Abbott is right and anybody who disagrees must be wrong.

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    37. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      "...Abbott has no unimpeded mandate?..."

      Already answered that one. No he doesn't.

      "....Neither did Gough....."

      Is there anyone here who suggested that he did? Why is that relevant, other than you are comparing the worst PM this country has ever had with the second worst (try to work it out for yourself).

      "....the whole lot of you are being hypocritical,...."

      Yes, people like Geoffrey are being hypocritical, because they criticise things that one side of politics does while forgiving when their own side does exactly the same thing. I - on the other hand - and perfectly happy to condemn the lot of them equally for doing the wrong thing.

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    38. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      "....Hard to imagine a more incompetent Government than the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Government...."

      You're right there Geoff - it is hard to imagine. Unfortunately it's true, which is why people are taking to the streets.

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    39. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      "Pity so many in this country are so thoroughly emotional, abusive, vindictive, so ready to label others as vile, despicable, racist sexist whatever,..." << you mean, apart from you? The old: 'do as i say, not as i do' philosophy?

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  3. John Crest

    logged in via email @live.com.au

    What is the author an Associate Professor in exactly? Surely that's germaine to the credibility of the article (from an academic perspective).

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    1. Brad Farrant

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to John Crest

      From the top of the article John - "Ariadne Vromen receives funding for an ARC Discovery Project on new forms of citizen engagement with colleagues at the University of Canberra..."

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    2. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John Crest

      Gee John - see that little 'linky' thing that is next to her photo? You know, her name written in blue? Try clicking on it.

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    3. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      Ah, new forms of citizen engagement with colleagues, is it?

      Too late. You cannot expect people to be bothered in their semi-retirement with these "new forms of citizen engagement" who all their lives have been cast aside anyway.

      OUR "new forms of citizen engagement" are with Asia, not with the same whitefella who has been oppressing and abusing us all this time.

      They can get stuffed.

      One thing I did have to do was talk to my eldest son seriously about not hating them for the terrible…

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  4. Andy Cameron

    Care giver

    I had no idea it was even on. The government was only six months ago, and has done nothing it didn't tell us it intended to do for several years before that election. How many people attended in Sydney?

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    1. John Vacey

      Sciolist

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      I thought that would more correctly be "hasn't done so many of the things it promised it would do before the election".

      At the very least the MIM appeared to be better organised and attracted more attendees than the Convoy of Incompetence / Incontinence (whatever it was called). Probably benefited from Alan Jones's non-involvement.

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    2. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to John Vacey

      John, I didn't vote for them, and can't stand most of them, but they have done absolutely nothing that even raises an eyebrow. The idea of people "taking to the streets" (all 42 of them it seems), six months into a pretty innocuous new government, who won the election so convincingly, strikes me as a tad immature.

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    3. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      "....but they have done absolutely nothing that even raises an eyebrow...."

      I think you need to get out a little more Andy. And while you are there, you might take some lessons in counting past 42.

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    4. Brad Farrant

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      "March in March national convenor Tim Jones said according to initial reports from ‘‘news sources’’, 112,000 people had attended about 20 marches around the nation, with 12,000 turning up in Sydney. No official police figures on attendance numbers were available."

      http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/march-in-march-tony-abbott-gina-rinehart-cop-blasts-in-sydney-protest-20140316-34v63.html#ixzz2wTsZxNnz

      "Abbott's boulevard of broken promises"

      http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/abbotts-boulevard-of-broken-promises-20131127-2yac4.html

      http://www.independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/abbotts-new-world-record-25-broken-promises-in-150-days,6145

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    5. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      Claiming that only 42 attended MiM would be more than a "tad immature". But sadly rather predictable.

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    6. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      "100,000. That's less than 1% of eligible voters"

      Then why are you whining? Why are you so terrified at the sight of people exercising their democratic rights?

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    7. Geoff Henley

      Research Associate in Health Statistics at Flinders University

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Who said anything about being terrified.

      All you have is a group of people, denouncing the policies of a Government that the overwhelming majority of them presumably didn't vote for anyway.

      Governments aren't chosen by 100,000 or so people at rallies, but by about 15 million voters on election day. Those at the rallies will just have to accept that.

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    8. Brad Farrant

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      There you go again with your attempts to shut down free speech and the right to highlight issues through peaceful protest.

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    9. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Geoff,

      If we were talking about who won the grand final football match that sounds fine. Let go and move on.

      The people voted in the government but that won't stop people articulating their deeply felt concerns. Isn't that what democracy allows for? Accepts? Encourages? Thrives on?

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    10. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Geoff Henley

      Mr Henley: your comment is not accurate i.e. "Governments aren't chosen by 100,000 or so people at rallies, but by about 15 million voters on election day."
      In Sept 13:
      Five million, six hundred thousand voted for the current government.
      Five million, two hundred thousand voted for Labor, Green etc.
      That is ten million, eight hundred thousand individual votes, not fifteen million.
      No party won a majority of seats i.e. 76 seats in the HR:
      Seats won: = Libs 68, Nats 22, Labor 55. Greens 1 Bob Katter 1, Clive Palmer 1 & 2 other Independents.
      Not quite the enormous "mandate" some believe.
      Moreover seats lost by Labor were lost because of very small swings often less than 2%. Could easily 'swing back'again : )

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    11. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Jane Middlemist

      PS, in 2007 Labor won with 80 seats and no minor party to help it reach the majority of 76.
      Did it 7 years ago and will probably do it again one day.

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    12. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      Brad, from your own links.
      "Socialists, it seems, are not made of sugar."
      "The gathering, which was matched by similar events around Australia, was a left-wing echo of the infamous ‘‘Convoy of No Confidence’’ rallies held against Julia Gillard's former Labor government."
      "The signs at the rally ranged from those comparing Mr Abbott with Hitler, to placards calling him ‘‘gutless’’ and one simply portaying a pair of Speedos with a giant red line crossed through them."
      "Emcee Matt Wakefield, a Sydney comedian, warmed up the crowd with a reference to the ‘‘shameful, racist, homophobic...f--king a--hole that is Tony Abbott’’.
      British singer Billy Bragg, currently on tour in Australia, was a surprise guest. He sang a song and lamented the recent remarks mining magnate Gina Rinehart made praising former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher."
      Too funny.

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    13. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      'I had no idea it was even on' you say, Mr Cameron. So presumably you were not there. But that didn't stop you on a conversation after this one, rambling on with your detailed opinion of the march and everything about it. I wonder where you gleaned your 'facts'.

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    14. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Chris Harries

      No, it does not, Chris.

      It crushes democracy, and reduces informed and intelligent thought to slogans and name-calling.

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    15. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jane Middlemist

      Actually Jane, all I have done is quote from Brad's own source on the 'event'.

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  5. Anthony Nolan

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Thanks for this considered view.

    I've been fascinated by this development.

    The MiM may constitute the beginnings of a pro-democracy movement. Like any such movement it is specific to the conditions in which it arises. In Australia it is a response to a perceived capture of all of politics by oligarchs and corporations. This movement is, in part, the renaissance of participatory democracy in so far as it is a united front of citizens against the anti-democratic trajectory of power and money. Representative democracy has failed us so far in which event it is the duty of citizens to wrest control of politics back from the masses constituted as idiots (in the Athenian sense).

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    1. Jo Mcbain
      Jo Mcbain is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Manager

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      I too participated in the melb MiM. What I saw was citizens speaking out, participating in democracy and to dismiss this would be foolish. For 100,000 to come together from a grassroots movement is astonishing. This is 100,000 voices, 100,000 people motivated enough to get out on a Sunday afternoon in order to show the politicians of all persuasions that where they are leading us, is. Or where we want to follow. That corruption, a sense of entitlement and ivory towers are eroding the principles on which our community was founded. .. And we have finally had enough. This is how democracy was formed and how we will take it back.

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  6. Troy Barry

    Mechanical Engineer

    Strange that the US Tea Party isn't mentioned as an antecedent - March in March so far looks far more like the early Tea Party than like Occupy/Giza/Indignado protests.

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Troy Barry

      Tea Party are astro turf organisation setup by the Koch brothers

      completely different to what we saw just happen

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  7. ariadne vromen

    logged in via Twitter

    Hi - thanks for the comments. I teach and research on Australian politics at USYD (for 14 years). Btw i agree the Tea Party is also fascinating as a mass movement. But they also largely operated inside a political party, not outside of electoral politics

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to ariadne vromen

      Tea Party are an arm of the Koch brothers, look it up or I can provide evidence if your interested

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    2. Chris Weir

      Analyst

      In reply to ariadne vromen

      Add my thanks for this article as well.
      Whilst a lot of energy is being expended in these comments about the MIM the point for me is contained in the headline; the old ways of doing politics are under challenge.
      Not a bad thing.
      Social media is playing a significant part in getting information out.

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  8. Penelope Susan Bowyer-Pont

    Doctoral Candidate

    Thanks, Ariadne, for writing this well-considered piece.

    I agree that MIM was successful and significance in part BECAUSE the organisers didn't have specific political demands or planned outcomes. As you say, it was very much a public expression of grievance and shared frustration which, I feel, needed to be 'aired' and MIM was a great way of doing this. As a tool for communication, the Internet and social media allow for the mobilisation of massive offline events - contrary to the 'clicktivism' criticism. Formal organisations are, indeed, becoming somewhat redundant in this new climate.

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  9. Jeff Richards

    logged in via Facebook

    Very good article that will form part of the discussion about the significance of this novel form of protest. Attending the Adelaide protest and having been on many protests since the 1970s I found the plethora of issues a little puzzling at first but soon realised this is probably the way street protests will go over the next few decades, multi issue but without a popular political party to gather all those threads into an electorally progressive movement for power. These protests reveal a frustration with the way power is being used and a complete cynicism with the parliamentary party system.

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  10. Frank Moore

    Consultant

    No mention of the placards denouncing democracy and those promoting the assassinations of conservative political leaders. Nor any mention of the ABC's role in the promotion of the various Lefty Placards whilst not reporting or showing those urging violence.
    Probably goes against the PR for Left Wing Causes at all cost political cadre posing as independent academic manual I suppose...
    And no 'guilt by association' type plays that tied Abbott to ditch the witch. None of that when famous leftist faces are within eye shot of placards urging assignations and the death of democracy.

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    1. Brad Farrant

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Frank Moore

      I am sure that had a "famous leftist" been silly enough to choose to get up on a stage in front of sexist placards then it would have been all over the media - from the Murdoch press to the ABC.

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    2. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Frank Moore

      "....No mention of the placards denouncing democracy and those promoting the assassinations of conservative political leaders. Nor any mention of the ABC's role in the promotion of the various Lefty Placards whilst not reporting or showing those urging violence..."

      So here's your opportunity to set the record straight Frank. Show us the evidence and we will condemn the people responsible.

      "....And no 'guilt by association' type plays that tied Abbott to ditch the witch...."

      Pretty sure there is film and pics of Abbott standing in front of that sign and speaking at that rally.

      "....None of that when famous leftist faces are within eye shot of placards urging assignations and the death of democracy...."

      Who are these 'famous leftist faces' you are referring to? Was it the Opposition leader? Leader of the Greens? And once again, show us the pics so we can condemn the perpetrators.

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    3. John Bond

      Dsability worker

      In reply to Frank Moore

      Hi Frank. Be afraid, be very afraid...the left are coming for you! Look, they're coming up the drive! They're at your door!
      (Knock, knock). "Frank mate, we know you're in there...just about that choleric, spluttering post. Must have gummed up the keys , 'cos you've put 'urging assignations'. Got a dictionary? You have, but you don't know how to use it? Yes, we get a lot of that from the Right. So we'll just change it to 'urging assassinations', ok? Have a nice day."

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  11. takver takvera

    Journalist and Editor at Indymedia

    500,000 at the February 2004 Iraq anti-war rallies is a quite conservative estimate. The media were all over the place with the numbers attending the Melbourne rally on Friday 14 February with initial reports in the Age, Sydney Morning Herald saying about 200,000 attended and Channel 9 saying at 11pm 250,000. By Saturday morning the Age dropped their estimate to over 100,000. I tried to keep a count of media reports of numbers attending rallies across Australia at the time: http://www.takver.com/history/melb/peace2003/peace140203.htm

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  12. takver takvera

    Journalist and Editor at Indymedia

    This style of protest organising has been growing for some time. One needs to also consider the change happening in the main political parties over a number of decades. Phillip Sutton articulated this change in people of compassion gradually leaving the main political parties, making it so much easier for right wing ideologues to gain ascendence in both the Liberal Party and Labor party.
    Watch his speech made back in August 2013. It struck a chord with the audience at the time:
    http://youtu.be/tsm_pkSIT24?t=3m9s

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  13. Jack Ruffin
    Jack Ruffin is a Friend of The Conversation.

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Thanks Ariadne, your article seems to have stirred up a few people who did not attend the march and who seem to want to make assumptions about the people who did. The point of the march was for people from all political persuasions and from all parts of our society to protest peacefully against the actions of our federal government. The people who were there were just average individuals and families united by their opposition to the governments actions and policies.

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  14. Garry Baker

    researcher

    Candidly I think the time is well overdue to wipe our political slate clean and start again. The misfits we have running the show these days pretty much consign us to a life of servitude, so there's not much to lose by starting anew

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  15. Paul Gillen

    logged in via Facebook

    Symbolic protest is all very well, but in the end government is not about symbolic and ethical expressions, but about getting people to do some things and refrain from other things. I find it difficult to see how these heart-felt expressions of discontent and hope can have specific policy outcomes. Policy formation in contemporary states has become extremely technical, beyond the grasp of most politicians let alone the rest of us. This kind of protest does not suggest an effective way of democratising it.

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    1. Brad Farrant

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Paul Gillen

      If only "Policy formation in contemporary states has become extremely technical"! Unfortunately, much policy formation at the moment in basically totally based in ideology rather than evidence and expertise.

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    1. Heidi Evans

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Alvin Stone

      I for one religiously bought a subscription to the SMH for a number of years, but next time they give me a call guess what I will be telling them? I found it hard to watch television in the last year so I have found a way around getting Netflix too. I find it humorous now that reading the comments on certain pages is where I get my reliable source of news from, and that is a shame.

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    2. Brad Farrant

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Heidi Evans

      Thanks Alvin. I absolutely agree with the point you make here - "I expect to see a continuing decline in print readership with this type of reporting and maybe even a heavy drop after this event considering the level of disillusionment by those who marched and expected to see it reported properly."

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    3. David Cameron

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Alvin Stone

      Alvin,

      I agree. This is the first march I have attended and at 78 years of age, I enjoyed it as well as meeting and talking with other marchers. I found the lack of main stream media coverage very poor. One would have thought that good investigative journalists would have picked up a lot of useful comments if they had bothered to be there. Their failure is not a good look. Good coverage came from our local free paper in Lismore. The main message I detected from our 5-7,000 was discontent with the direction of the Government on many issues. There was concern that the Australia we loved and cherished has failed under this and previous governments. MIM was a chance to pass on this message.

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  16. Chris Harries

    logged in via Facebook

    I helped to organise the Hobart march. It was a sort of cathartic outpouring from many thousands of Australians who care passionately about the world around them... social justice, democratic values and the state of the planet.

    The underlying tenor at present is one of disbelief at where Australia is going. Disbelief and outrage, because so many hard fought issues seem to be regressing.

    At present this outrage is translating mostly into a personalised ridiculing of Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison…

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Chris Harries

      Well put Chris. MiM needs a sharper political focus with clear demands otherwise it runs the same risk as the Occupy movement which was unable to transition from a general rage against the 1% into something more long term.

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    2. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      I agree with you Mike and with Chris. My hope is that these events will increase in frequency and with less resentment and more coherent positive vision for change.
      I think the weekend's events may be only the start of something more useful. It helps that social media were involved where people can vent and discuss constructive ideas for the future.
      So I think the march was a modest success but only the start of something more meaningful and effective. (Fingers crossed)

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    3. Nigel Stanley

      retired

      In reply to Jane Middlemist

      I agree, Jane. I was disappointed at the initial turnout but now I see it as a good beginning. It needs to be done again and again until the government listens. We do not seek to overthrow any government, we seek to get them to LISTEN and then once they've listened, to ACT. I don't want people tortured in my name. I don't want to have important and ancient freedoms taken away from me. I do not want a tyranny of business types telling me what I can and cannot do. There are plenty more things that need addressing and a lot of them cross primitive party lines.

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    4. Nigel Stanley

      retired

      In reply to Chris Harries

      Very well said Chris Harris. Many of the things that are bothering people cross traditional party lines. If only those who call themselves our leaders would LISTEN many of these concerns could be assuaged very easily. I begin to understand how Turkish protesters must feel these days.

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    5. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Nigel Stanley

      Indeed, Nigel.
      Plenty to do and, if the government doesn't run the country properly, prudently,& fairly, others will have to try and convince them - or elect another government. Takes time and effort though. Sigh h h

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    6. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Chris Harries

      They "care" when it comes to marching and protesting about some government somewhere they don't happen to like, but try getting them to care when and where people they don't recognise and don't acknowledge as even existing need policies put through that will do something concrete and positive about changing their lives around finally.

      Smoldering discontent? Bring it on.

      Be thankful it's not Tiananmen Square.

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    7. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      I believe that a "sharper political focus" and a set of "clear demands" would work against developing a new democratic understanding. At the moment it consists of a diverse group of people with no single ideological position. So far it is inclusive of political foci and a diversity of demands. To impose the old paradigm view that you propose would kill this movement in its infancy, IMO.
      I would prefer to see an exploration of new consensus decisionmaking processes which, at their root, embrace the…

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    8. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Re your comment, Suzy,
      "I have high hopes for these actions and mobilisations to give an insight into a new possible paradigm within democracy."
      So do I. The overarching theme in the march I attended was dwindling confidence in our present system of government (regardless of political allegiances) There were placards about global warming, lost industries and jobs, treatment of asylum seekers, concerns about corruption, education reforms - and many others. Also a sprinkling of silly offensive personal…

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    9. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Jane Middlemist

      Hi Jane, I think the success in these actions lie in their decentralised nature because this was in the end the downfall of the original OWS event because it provided a specific target location that was attacked and legislated against, whereas multiple events in multiple cities are harder to block - as long as a semblance of democracy remains.
      But this is why I don't think a focussed, centralised and clearly defined group will be as successful - it will be too much like current political organisations…

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    10. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      I agree with you Suzy. A strong point about decentralisation for the reasons you've stated. I see this new kind of popular expression evolving - hopefully as you envision and express so clearly.
      There are definite signs of engagement and assumption of individual responsibility within the overall 'movement'.
      A fairly long haul though, I think, but worth striving for.

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  17. Danah Xue

    employed

    My observation on March in March:

    - foul, threatening languages were prevalent in the protest, which really has discounted and discredited its purposes. There was an impression that the protesters were just anarchists.

    - the other characters of the protesters were either academics and public servants - who are on the life long public gravy train - or the life long welfare recipients. It is indeed frightening of so many of them if the figures reported were correct.

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    1. Rick Sullivan

      Vast and Various

      In reply to Danah Xue

      Yeah, all those 'foul, threatening anarchists' wheeling their violent little babies along in prams. Now THAT was scary. And the fact they organised themselves and protested in such a way as to show the current government in a poor light. Phew! Um, did I miss the violence and foul stuff somewhere?

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    2. Heidi Evans

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Danah Xue

      Yeah I agree, my two year old son can be pretty frightening.

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    3. Nigel Stanley

      retired

      In reply to Danah Xue

      Which March in March did you attend, Danah? The one I went to had none of these types that I could see.

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  18. Peter Sommerville

    Scientist & Technologist

    "I was struck by the lack of co-ordinated political messaging in the signs or even among the rally speakers, compared to past rallies with higher profiles."

    Says it all. MiM probably meant a lot to those who chose to participate, but the lack of focus meant that in the main it was met with a giant yawn by the rest of the population and was forgotten just as quickly.

    The only thing that drew attention was the inanity of some of the placards. Nevertheless the participants had fun. Can't begrudge them that.

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    1. Nigel Stanley

      retired

      In reply to Peter Sommerville

      Mr. Sommerville, you sound very smug and self-satisfied. Your patronising air is not appreciated. There are issues aired through MiM that a lot of people are concerned about. That is the point: the politicians are not listening and they need to.

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    2. Peter Sommerville

      Scientist & Technologist

      In reply to Nigel Stanley

      Nigel,
      Enjoy. But I think my smugness actually accurately represents the impact of MiM. Your view may be different, but that is your right.

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    3. Brad Farrant

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Peter Sommerville

      It captured so little of your attention that you read this article and took the time days later to make comments...

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  19. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. Nigel Stanley

      retired

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      This was the first time I have marched. I have never felt so much disgust for a government that indulges in the torture of people already under duress. Will you drive round me to drive over them?

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    2. Brad Farrant

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Tom,

      It is quite telling that you talk about "silly ideas" but then completely fail to name any or to seriously engage at all with any of the issues raised by those at MiM. These issues include having ethical polices on preventing dangerous climate change (doing our fair share), asylum seekers (stopping the current cruel policies), and marriage equality.

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    3. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Nigel Stanley

      Government indulging in torture of people already under duress?

      I'm sure you must be thinking about G. W. Bush, and Tony Blair.

      Why would we drive over them? It's your lot been driving over us all our lives, and now we're free of you you resent the fact.

      Sorry, too late.

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    4. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Graham Houghton

      I've been wondering about that too, Graham. And - if he is and editor and proofreader - of which publications, books, articles?

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    5. Nigel Stanley

      retired

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      I find little differentiation between the ideas of G W Bush and Mr. Abbott. Tony Blair is possibly a little more complex but he lost me when he backed GW going into Iraq.

      The point is that this current government is obsessed with secrecy and the more secret they are, the greater the chance for gross injustices to occur, especially to those who are least able to protect themselves. This offends against my sense of justice and my humanity.

      I don't recall having driven over anybody, recently or in the past; nor have I ever expressed a desire to do so.

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