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Hundreds of protestors rally against Australian Labor gov't

(Xinhua)

15:34, August 22, 2011

CANBERRA, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- More than 500 protesters rallied outside Australia's Parliament House here on Monday, in the first phase of the Convoy of No Confidence campaign against the Labor- led federal government.

A convoy of about 150 trucks and other heavy vehicles were also circling and making loud noise around Canberra as part of the protest.

The protest came as parliament sits for four days after the winter break, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard, whose stocks are sagging in opinion polls, faces community anger over her broken promise on the carbon tax and changes to the diesel fuel rebate.

One of the convoy organizers, Mick Pattel, said the convoy was a wake-up call for the government.

"Every decision that they make seems to be an absolute blunder, " Pattel told ABC Radio. "I think the government has been compromised by the fact that it's not governing in its own right."

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott appeared before the crowd shortly in the afternoon, and said Gillard was fundamentally out of touch with the Australian people.

"There are hundreds of you here, there are thousands of you who would like to be here and there are millions of you who are sick of being ripped off by a bad government," he told the crowd, adding that Australia did not need a carbon tax.

A petition will be presented calling for a double-dissolution election, although expert Antony Green said such an election is not possible without a legislative trigger.

Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said government ministers would not be meeting with the convoy organizers.

The protest will last for two days, with more vehicles arriving in Canberra.

Meanwhile, about 50 counter-protesters also gathered at Old Parliament House in Canberra.

The rally focus solely on the issue of climate change, voicing against a vigorous misinformation campaign over carbon tax, waged by certain industry lobby groups and some sections of the mainstream media.

Geoff Lazarus, of Climate Active Australia, said misinformation was a key component of the Convoy of No Confidence campaign.

Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan said he had no problem with the protest. "It is a free country, they're free to express their opinions in any way they like as long as they do it lawfully and that's one of the great things about Australia."

However, Swan said he did not accept the proposition that the trucking industry had lost confidence in Labor government.

He noted that the National Road Freighters Association has organized the rally, but the major body representing truck drivers, the Australian Trucking Association, has distanced itself from the protest.

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