Your Rights At Work: Worth Fighting For – Melbourne National Day of Action

Australian Workers Film Guide


An extended campaign video featuring a national day of action event at Federation Square in Melbourne, which combines on stage speeches with segments featuring workers and interviews to camera. Part of a multi-platform campaign against the Howard Government’s Work Choices legislation introduced in 2005, the event was broadcast on Sky Television to a large audience through pay TV and to numerous public and community venues. A similar event was also held in Sydney on the same day. As a consequence of this successful campaign and the election of the Rudd Labor Government, Work Choices was repealed in 2007.

The video commences with an extended montage of historical archive of mining workers, accompanied by Rita MacNeil’s song Working Man. This is followed by a stills montage of workers and their families accompanied by a rendition of Waltzing Matilda, before comedian and filmmaker Tim Ferguson addresses a large crowd on stage in Federation Square. Australian singer Deborah Conway sings the national anthem on stage, there is a short video link to the sister event in Sydney at Martin Place, the audience is asked to fill out campaign postcards, and an ACTU campaign ad is played in which a mother is threatened with the sack due to her childcare responsibilities. 

ACTU President Sharan Burrow speaks on stage about the campaign against the Howard Government’s attack on workers and their families, which is followed by to camera interviews by a collection prominent religious leaders condemning the legislation, including Anglican Bishop Philip Huggins, Catholic Archbishop Francis Carroll, Catholic Cardinal George Pell, John Dalziel from the Salvation Army, Reverend Dr Ann Wansborough of the Uniting Church and Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence.  On stage, Burrow condemns the government’s draconian fines and $55 million spent on advertising the legislation. In an interview, Professor Andrew Stewart of Flinders University criticises individual contracts, followed by workers talking about the daunting task of negotiating with their bosses on their own, struggling workers on low pay, draconian anti union legislation and the threat to safety and conditions. There is a moving interview in which a widow talks about losing her husband at work and the importance of safety, which is followed by an onstage appearance by her and her kids, along with other workers.

A comedic skit by Brian Dawe and John Clark sees Clark play a sinister and callous Prime Minister John Howard defending his Work Choices legislation. Former prime minister Bob Hawke speaks to camera about the tradition of unions fighting for workers, the unfairness of legislation, the fight for a fair go and a fight that must be won. Actor William McInnes describes the legislation as an attack on Australian culture, Bernie Banton of the Asbestos Disease Foundation criticizes employers for not caring about workers, Tim Brunero from the TV show Big Brother questions the ability of 15 year olds to negotiate individual contracts, other speakers include the Commissioner for Children Gillian Calvert, Greens Senator Bob Brown, Democrats Senator Lyn Allison and Labor Party Leader Kim Beazley.

On stage, actor Chris Haywood talks about playing union legend Watty Doig in the movie Strikebound, the importance of unions, winning the 8 hour day, before inviting on stage Brian Boyd from the Trades Hall Council, Tony Maher from CFMEU Mining & Energy Division, asbestos campaigner Bernie Banton and Big Brother participant Tim Brunero. In a series of interviews, a collection of working class legends talk about the historical battle against employers, low pay and poor conditions, mateship, unity and fears about the Howard Government’s legislation. These interviews include Edward ‘Coogan’ Frame, Fred Moore, June de Lorenzo, Frank Cherry and Halina Robinson. On stage, Labor politician Greg Combet makes a rousing and eloquent speech on the campaign to defeat Work Choices, the threat to workers rights, conditions and safety, the undemocratic application of draconian fines and a plea for all to involve themselves in the campaign to defeat the legislation, preserve Australian values and help create an inclusive and caring society.

Special Notes/Achievements

Broadcast on Sky pay TV and to public and community venues across the country on November 15, 2005.

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 60 mins

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