Truckers protest outside Australia's parliament

Mon Aug 22, 2011 10:01am GMT

By Rob Taylor

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Hundreds of truckers circled Australia's parliament on Monday in a campaign aimed at forcing the government to withdraw a proposed carbon tax law, and call new elections, the second anti-government protest in the nation's capital this month.

The truckers sought to draw on public dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Julia Gillard's minority government and perceptions of economic incompetence, despite a robust economy.

"Everyone is on the edge because the country is basically in a state of disarray. We've all been surprised at just how tough everyone is doing it," said transport company owner Peter Whytcross as the "Convoy of No Confidence" trucks blasted horns from roads around parliament and Gillard's home nearby.

Outside the booming mining sector, many Australians are fighting to keep pace with inflation and high house prices combining to make the nation's biggest city, Sydney, one of the world's most expensive places to live.

Despite the country avoiding recession after the 2008 global downturn, a high Australian dollar and weak domestic demand are hurting areas other than the resources sector which is booming on the back of strong demand from China and elsewhere in Asia.

On Monday, the country's biggest steelmaker, BlueScope Steel, announced 1,000 job cuts and closure of half of its steel-making capacity, while Qantas Airways last week said it would cut costs and slash up to 1,000 jobs, shifting much of its international operations into Asia.

Political opponents dismissed the truck protesters as a "convoy of no consequence," saying only a few hundred vehicles circled the hill-top parliament instead of the thousands that the organisers had promised.

"But it has got the moaners' brigade in town to moan about everything in general and nothing in particular," said Greens leader Bob Brown, whose party holds the balance of power in the upper house and is accused by truckers of holding Gillard's Labor to ransom.   Continued...

A convoy of trucks protesting against the Australian government's proposed carbon tax drive past Parliament House in Canberra August 22, 2011. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne
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