FOR some time now I have been following the Occupy movement with interest and was looking forward to seeing how it would be carried out if and when it reached Australia.
The challenge for the Occupy movement is to bring about change with a base unified by a target rather than doctrine.
Even in the first general assembly of the Melbourne occupation, consensus could not be reached on whether the movement was against capitalism.
In the various interviews with protesters published in the media it has become clear nearly every protester has their own view on the kind and extent of change that should be sought by the movement.
As Kyle Pollard mentioned (GA 26/10), Australia is hardly in a comparable situation to the countries of the Arab Spring, who have risen against brutality, nor to those of Europe and the US, who are fighting startling examples of corporate and government indifference, criminality and corruption.
But one could hardly say Australia is perfect, either. Have we not been noticing huge increases in the cost of living? Gouging by the big four banks? As the old saying goes: If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.
Those who say we do not have a cause have failed to understand our movement and cannot see the forest for the trees. The keystone of our protest is fighting corporate greed and exploitation, and this is very achievable with a united front of reformists and radicals. We are committed to action and direct democracy.
In the quiet week between Occupy Melbourne’s forced eviction from City Square and the march to Treasury Gardens, several articles and columns appeared to mock the movement and to criticise an apparent lack of cause.
It seemed that some in the media, and Melbourne mayor Robert Doyle, could not see why we were protesting and put it down to youthful mischief-making.
Yet several stories came to light that week that should have reinforced our position. The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling at the University of Canberra released a report mid-week showing that 850,000 (more than 10 per cent) households were paying so much in rent and mortgage that they had little left for other bills. As much as a quarter of all renting households were considered to be in housing stress due to their financial position.
The report showed the median house price in Geelong had jumped 164 per cent since 2001 but with only a 44 per cent increase in disposable income in the same period.
The next day, National Australia Bank announced it was challenging the laws requiring fair notice to be given to tenants of mortgage defaulters before evicting them.
And who could ignore the Qantas lockout? Less than 24 hours after being granted a pay increase of $2 million, not including bonuses and shares, Alan Joyce threw the travel industry into chaos by grounding all Qantas planes in advance of a lockout.
The decision made by Deakin University to pass a greater proportion of the cost of parking to students and staff despite the university running at an $83 million profit is another example of the greed we are fighting.
So to those who could not see the point in the Occupy movement and called us rebels without a cause, this is our cause. This is why we protest.