Organisers of the Convoy of No-Confidence have claimed success despite a smaller than expected turnout, saying the convoy has still driven home the message that regional Australia has lost confidence in the minority Gillard Government.
An estimated 200 trucks and smaller vehicles drawn from 11 convoys rolled into Canberra yesterday morning, some having crossed the continent over several days from as far as Port Hedland and Darwin.
The numbers were far less than the thousands of vehicles that had been previously predicted, prompting some members of the Government and the Greens to label the event a flop and the “convoy of no consequence”.
Convoy members brought a range of grievances to Canberra, but most were focused on two in particular – the Gillard Government’s decision to introduce a carbon tax despite a pre-election pledge not to, and its handling of the live export crisis.
Organisers said the aim of the rally was to call for an end to the Gillard Government and its alliance with the greens and to push for a new election to allow Australians to elect a new Government with a mandate to govern in its own right.
Trucks were not allowed onto the parliamentary driveway by the ACT police for safety reasons, something rally organisers had been advised of in the days leading up to the event, meaning protestors had to park elsewhere and walk up to Parliament House for the rally.
The convoy maintained a visual presence, however, as several trucks ran continuous laps and honked horns on the road circling Parliament House.
In front of the building a crowd which grew to an estimated peak of 900 according to media reports was addressed by several speakers including Sydney radio commentator Alan Jones and coalition MPs including opposition leader Tony Abbott, deputy leader Warren Truss, and leader of the nationals in the senate Barnaby Joyce.
No one from the Government appeared before the group.
Inside Parliament federal transport minister Anthony Albanese criticised the event.
“The convoy of no Consequence, Mr Speaker, the convoy of no consequence where a couple of hundred people gathered with no support from the mainstream organisations, the people who believe in one world government.”
Greens leader Bob Brown dubbed it a “flop”.
“It has got the moaner’s brigade in town to moan about everything in general and nothing in particular,” he said.
The comments have infuriated convoy supporters and have sparked a new campaign calling for more signatures to be added to a petition calling for vote of no confidence in the Federal Government, which will be handed to the Opposition Leader Tony Abbot today.
In response to the criticism by Mr Albanese and Greens leader Bob Brown, NT cattle producer Rashida Khan said: “The Government thinks the plight of the average Aussie of all walks of life who politely asks for better treatment and respect is a stupid joke.”
One member of the crowd, North Queensland beef producer Alister McLymont, told ABC’s 7:30 Report last night that he had made the 2000km trip in protest over the Government’s handling of live exports.
“It knocked us for a six,” he told the program. ”Immediately, the local market or the fat cattle market for Australia, it dropped by 20pc virtually immediately.”
Organisers also spoke about the support convoys received as they travelled through regional towns and cities. Along the way people had donated money for fuel, provided accommodation and entertainment, handed signed petitions to the rally and travelled for short distances in support of the long-haul participants.
Stuart Austin, who travelled with the convoy from Charters Towns to Canberra, described an “outpouring of support” along the way.
“Over 200 vehicles joined the Convoy into Charters Towers and we were escorted into town by 10 helicopters,” Mr Austin said.
“The town was decorated pink and an estimated 3000 supporters turned out to cheer us on.
“We understand it was not possible for everyone to travel to Canberra so we truly appreciate the outstanding support from communities along the way.”
Elisha Seekamp, Beef Australia 2009 Rabobank Young Ambassador, assisted with an event in Clermont when the Convoy arrived on August 19.
“In only 24 hours, we gathered 300 signatures for the petition, local beef producers had organised fuel donations of over $13,000 and the CWA had organised food and drinks for everyone on the convoy.
“This support from a town of only 2000 was amazing and a testament to a united effort”
There was some confusion and controversy at yesterday’s rally when speakers including Mr Jones announced that a 2km long convoy had been blocked by police at the Australian Capital Territory border.
The ACT police issued a public statement to say that the reports were not correct.
Organisers later said it was believed the reports were the result of a mis-understanding after one convoy was stopped for three to four minutes at the border.
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