BY RON POULSEN
CANBERRA, Australia - More than 20,000 working people converged on Parliament House here, in Australia's capital, August 19. The action was initiated by the Australian Council of Trade Unions to protest attacks on union rights, worsening working conditions, and drastic cutbacks in social services by the Liberal/National Party coalition government of Prime Minister John Howard. The assault on the social wage includes higher university fees and reduced state spending for education, cuts in Aboriginal services, tougher requirements for unemployment insurance, and reduction of childcare allowances.
In many factories, mines, and other worksites unions voted to strike for 24 hours in solidarity and in some cases sent busloads of workers to Canberra. During the rally a few protesters broke through the front doors of parliament and occupied the lobby. Dozens of police and demonstrators were injured in the ensuing scuffle. The Howard government seized on the minor damage, claiming it was "Australia's worst riot."
The next day, 1,000 Aboriginal activists marched on
Parliament House again. Police later arrested demonstrators
outside the Old Parliament House in another violent
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