Tens of thousands of people have attended rallies in Australia to protest against the government's proposed changes to industrial laws. Trade unionists have called it the biggest demonstration in the country's history. Australia's conservative government has said that new labour laws will boost the economy.
Critics have insisted the reforms will reduce job security and worsen work conditions. The new laws aim to cut the power of trade unions in favour of individual contracts. They will also make it easier for employers to sack workers.
The government has said that more flexibility in the workplace is one of the keys to prosperity. More jobs would be created and the country's economy would continue to do well. Many business leaders believe this is the right way forward.
Many thousands of other Australians disagree. They have turned out in large numbers at rallies around the country - from tropical Darwin to the southern state of Tasmania. Union leader Sharon Burrow said the nationwide turnout had been amazing.
"We're overwhelmed. We predicted that people would turn out to join a movement for change but it's better than that. People are saying that a decent Australia is their legacy and they're going to fight for that legacy for their kids.
"Workplace rights, our values, our collective capacity to care for each other - no-one is going to take that away," she said. Union leaders have insisted that the proposed changes are the biggest attack on workers' rights for generations. There are concerns that wages and job security will suffer.
The main opposition Labor party has predicted that these controversial reforms will bring down Australia's conservative government at the next election.
Senior ministers believe that protesters have been misguided about the impact the new laws will have. They are hoping the legislation will be passed by the end of the year. Photo: AFP I.L.
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