BY MATTHEW WATTS
Its Facebook page now has more than 44,000 likes. Gratuitous insults, including “God he’s a f***ing pig!! Makes my blood boil!” smear the wall. Yet Craig Batty, one of the organisers of ‘March in March’, remains relentlessly positive. “[It’s about] applying constant pressure on our elected representatives to do their jobs decently … [a general] drive for better government,” Batty says.
‘March in March’ is a series of anti-government protests set to take place in nearly 30 locations across Australia over the weekend of March 15-17, with a final march on Parliament House set for Monday the 18th. The organisation’s website states the aim of the march is “to provide the people of Australia with the opportunity to come together to protest a unity vote of no confidence in the Abbott Government”. But what this means is a little unclear. A host of issues have been cited on both the organisation’s Facebook page and main website, but what is still missing is a suggestion of any specific desired outcomes.
The group’s Facebook page has been the primary means of spreading the word. Batty, a teacher and e-learning developer, along with a team of seven other national admins, has taken up the task of coordinating events and the group’s online presence. The idea for a march on Parliament House sprang up on Twitter and soon mushroomed out to a series of events when people voiced interest in marches in their local areas. There are now almost 30 events planned Australia-wide.
In the view of March in March, this isn’t just about the current Abbott government. Batty says he is worried about the direction Australia has been taking since the last election. The idea that Australia deserves better from its government, irrespective of who’s in office, is one he is pushing hard. “It’s not about the party, it’s about the actions,” he says.
Batty describes the phrase ‘vote of no confidence’ as more of a symbolic statement, rather than a request for the current government to step down. He goes on to explain that others in the organisation prefer the tagline ‘Australians united for a better government’, perhaps wishing to steer clear of any memories of 2011’s ‘Convoy of No Confidence’.
The website asks for donations from the public via a Paypal account and claims that accounting will be completely transparent. Batty says money will be used to cover the costs of public liability and paid permits that will be required for some of the events. As yet there is no link to any accounting information on either the website or Facebook page. Batty says all administration is run by volunteers, and services such as printing have been donated by supporters, meaning no expenses to account for.
There has been some misinformation posted by the March in March admin team to their Facebook page. One example relates to claims made in an article by Neil Chenoweth for AFR about the recent News Corp tax payout. Batty described the dialogue prompted by the posts as positive, and pointed out that any factual inaccuracy had been corrected in the comments below. He said of the situation: “I think the essence of what was being said people agreed with in spirit very much, and there’s definitely a sense that there is something rotten going on between the current government and News Corp.”