Australia hit by protests demanding end to new labour laws

But he successfully pushed the legislation through last year when his ruling Liberal-National coalition took control of both houses of parliament — making him the most powerful Australian leader in a generation.

During a trade trip to China Wednesday, Howard warned against repealing the laws.

"Labor and the unions’ industrial relations changes are a dagger at the throat of the successful resource sector in this country," he told reporters.

Critics of the laws, however, say they reduce rights to holidays, rest breaks, bonuses and allowances as well as eroding job security and wages.

Since the laws came into force, the Australian media has been awash with stories about workers sacked and re-hired on individual contracts on lower pay.

Addressing the rally in Sydney, union leader John Robertson said the legislation stripped away 100 years of workers’ rights.

"These laws are direct attacks on hard-working Australians who are trying to pay off a home, provide for their kids’ futures and have a bit of economic security," said Robertson, who is secretary of Unions New South Wales.