Trades Hall warned not to protest in Begonia Parade

BALLARAT Trades Hall had been warned not to protest in The Courier Begonia Parade if they had a political message, even though the parade is on the Labour Day holiday. 

Ballarat Trades and Labour Council president Brett Edgington said after applying to participate in the parade, they received an email from event organisers asking them to give an assurance that they would not protest, as it was not a political event. 

Mr Edgington said the TLC didn’t protest last year, as organisers claimed, but they had carried ‘Save Tafe’ signs.

This year, they held a banner saying ‘Code Red: Save our Ambos’. 

“It wasn’t a protest,” Mr Edgington said. “We’re a community group like the others, with volunteers.” 

Ambulance Employees Australia Association state secretary Steve McGhie said it was important to show the face of the trade unions on events held on Labour Day. 

“I think people understand what we stand for and no one is bothered,” Mr McGhie said.  “The paramedics have been in a long dispute with government and everyone respects the work they do.

“It’s not too political – but we do wave our flags.”

More than 10 groups were at the march under the Ballarat Trades Hall banner, including the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union; the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union; the Health Workers Union; the  United Firefighters Union and the Community and Public Sector Union. 

Mayor Joshua Morris said the day was a community event rather than about pushing a political message. 

Cr Morris said he saw the parade as part of the Ballarat Begonia Festival rather than a march that celebrated Labour Day. 

Mr Edgington said many people at the parade may not have known why Labour Day began. 

“The movement for an eight-hour working day started right here in Ballarat and in Melbourne and spread around the world,” Mr Edgington said. 

“There was an annual march down Sturt Street since 1887 that attracted tens of thousands. 

“That was before the public holiday, so the march shifted to Labour Day when the holiday was created, which later became part of the Begonia Festival.”

In the entry form for the event, it gives a ‘friendly reminder’ that The Courier Begonia Parade is a community event and should not be used as a personal or political forum.

nicole.cairns@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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