Honi Soit: Hi! What’s your name, your degree, and your faction?
Harrison Brennan: My name’s Harrison, I’m a member of Grassroots, and I’m currently doing a Bachelor of Arts Advanced Studies, majoring in Political Economy, as of recent, and Philosophy.
Honi Soit: Why did you nominate for President?
Harrison Brennan: I think I understand the need for a really militant left-wing student union, since coming to the SRC and to campus back in 2021 now seeing the SRC on campus fight for really progressive left wing movements that fight for the rights of students, that fight for the rights of climate action and for Indigenous peoples I think that’s what really motivated me to want to get involved in the SRC. And I think understanding the power the SRC has had in the past in opposition to the Vietnam War, in the freedom rides, in a myriad of other campaigns, I think I really resonated with that, so I think the role as president is a real way to contribute to that history, but also to make sure the SRC stays left wing, activist, and, a fighting force, really.
Honi Soit: What are your three most important policy commitments?
Harrison Brennan: In terms of my three most important policy areas, I would say my first one is pay the rent. USyd is the first university on stolen land in this country. They are a university which has profited by, billions of dollars at a time this year, 259 million in profit and surplus, and last year, 1 billion. I think that, it’s, the university is committed to a process of truth telling given that the voice referendum is upcoming. And I feel like the university, given their financial abilities, and given also their history of supporting colonial racist policies and ideology like the white Australia policy, I think the university is more than able to put their words into action and actually do something to fight for First Nations people, support First Nations people. And part of that is paying the rent. It’s an organisation started down in Victoria which basically asked which got institutions to pay money that, which would be divided by the organisation. But I think, the University of Sydney can do much the same up here in New South Wales and particularly supporting local organisations. And my, my second policy would be around International House. It’s been closed for a while now, and it basically offers 200 rooms of accommodation. Currently it’s sitting closed, unrenovated, unrefurbished, like they’ve planned.The university keeps delaying it, and it would create, 200 new homes amid a cost of living crisis. I think there’s, during this cost of living crisis, during this housing crisis, which has pushed so many students and people out, out of housing and the rental market. Would be a great way to open, and campaigning for this to be reopened, would be a great way to provide affordable and accessible housing for students, and for international students, who would completely, who find the, rental market completely inaccessible most of the time. So that’s my second policy. As for my third hiring an SRC research officer is probably one of the key ones. The SRC research officer would take up a lot of the administration duties that Casework is currently dealing with, so the Casework team can better respond and help students with Casework. And also, particularly the SRC Research Officer would also be able to help activist office bearers, which would be a really fun and supportive way for activists to get extra help and extra resources where possible. Things like helping activists with freedom of information requests and also research generally for campaigns but I think it would be a really good way to support the SRC.
Honi Soit: Cool. So we’ll start off with the most important question, which is, did you steal the SRC’s PA system?
Harrison Brennan: No, I did not steal the SRC’s PA system. I actually needed it when it was stolen. I, yeah, no, unfortunately not. I wish we, I hope we find it, we get it back.
Honi Soit: Who’s the top suspect on your books?
Harrison Brennan: I’m hesitant to say. But I don’t think — most of the left in the SLC relies on trust— I think the most likely perpetrators would probably be the Liberals, given they just walk in the office and intimidate people. So I probably assume the same.
Honi Soit: Cool. Are you a member of a political party at the moment?
Harrison Brennan: I am an inactive member of the Australian Greens. I’ve gone to one meeting all year, but yeah.
Honi Soit: Have you campaigned for any Greens candidates in elections?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah, I’ve campaigned for Jenny Leong, who’s a big supporter of the SRC and the activism we do in the state election early this year, just on the final campaigning day.
Honi Soit: Alright briefly, how would you describe your own political beliefs?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah, so I’m left wing, anti-capitalist, anti-colonial and I think my political beliefs are very aligned with Grassroots and the fact that I believe in working with those affected by oppression to help them to helm the campaigns against said oppression and to fight from the ground up with community with people and to fight for structural change seeing class division in the world, seeing the horrors of racism that have been whipped up, for example, by the referendum that’s upcoming. And seeing sexism, misogyny, etc. These are issues that need to be eliminated. And I think, fighting towards social justice is a big part of my political beliefs.
Honi Soit: Just as a follow up, how do you hope to address these issues? Some people think it’s by joining a political party or fighting for revolution, what do you see as the solution?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah I think… For example, I am a member of the Australian Greens, just because I see them as a quite effective left wing force currently at the moment but I haven’t really been involved with them. I think one of the key ways we fight for change, as we have done historically, all across the world is about people coming together to build a movement that is going to fight for particular changes, that demands changes from government and from society, and has, I think that sort of revolutionary fervour is really effective, and that’s what Grassroots and Switch really advocate and believe in and that’s what we’ve done time and time again.
Honi Soit: Okay if you had to pick one, what’s the most important issue facing young people in Australia right now?
Harrison Brennan: Really hard question, because there’s a plethora. I think the top one would be the cost of living crisis. At the moment, wage growth is stagnant. Inflation is at 7%. Rents have risen by 24 percent over the past 12 months. And everything is just unaffordable. A weekly grocery shop is beyond, what most students and young people can afford. I think that cost of living crisis broadly, we have to understand is, not some matter of now or a problem that’s just cropped up. I think we have to understand that it’s a product of policies that have been set in motion by preceding Labor and Liberal governments that have time and time again worked against the interests of working people and young people. Things like, allowing landlords to have tax concessions and negative gearing policies that allow them to acquire more and more land for cheaper. And, this is, these are the policies that have, like the stage three tax cuts, for example, introduced by the Liberals and ratified by Labor that are the problem, that have led to the situation as well. And young people are continuously silenced, and I think that’s really bad. I think, if I had to mention one more just to tack on, I would say sexual assault and sexual violence is probably one of the worst situations young people are facing, both in and outside of university. The stats are terrible, 121 reports of sexual violence sexual violence and harassment on campus.All related to campus and the university. And outside it’s much, much more. So these are the ongoing things. And when there’s a cost living crisis that looms as large as this one, it’s really hard for survivors or people who have experienced such to really find or afford the counselling and resources necessary to help.
Honi Soit: Okay should the academic board and the university senate take political stances on current issues and what precedent do you believe these decisions set?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah, I absolutely believe the academic board should take stances on political issues in society. I think recently they did actually on Tuesday the 5th they supported a Yes position on the voice, despite abstentions from Mark Scott, the chancellor — VC, sorry — and I think the academic board definitely should take positions. These don’t compromise the academic integrity of lecturers that are, that doesn’t force lecturers or academics to write in a particular way, doesn’t influence freedom of speech, as was the argument posed at Academic Board. But I think it’s a bit unfortunate that now, it’s only until now that we’ve seen this. I think it’s great they’ve done this for the Voice in the referendum. It’s really important. But they didn’t take a political stance on the marriage public side. They haven’t taken stances on BDS and the issue of Palestine and freeing Palestine. And, same with issues of apartheid in South Africa. I think it’s good that this is been taken now. This decision has been made by the academic board. Hasn’t been made by the senate, which I definitely think the senate should take. And I hope that changes over time.
Honi Soit: Okay, so SRC presidents generally under load or completely defer during their term. So what will your study and work commitments be in your year as president?
Harrison Brennan: Yep, so if elected as president, the SRC will be my entire priority. So I will be quitting my part time job and doing one unit of study a semester.
Honi Soit: Perfect, so currently you’re the SRC’s Welfare Officer. What have you learned in this role and how will it inform your approach to President?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah, I think, being the Welfare Officer has been a massive honour this year. I’ve been running campaigns and supporting campaigns around a myriad of issues, focusing on demands for rent caps, demolitions, which Glebe was unfortunately in the process of being demolished very soon. But I worked beside public housing tenants, and I worked with students and young people fighting for rent caps and renters rights. Also against the 368 billion investment in nuclear powered submarines, which is likely to be double, or, far more over time. I think what these programs and these campaigns have really informed me, and how that will help me be a good president, is the importance of activism, of a fighting student union and also the wins that we can make. Whilst I have been welfare officer, I have been on the university… The USyd SRC General Executive, so I’m familiar with the bureaucracy of the SRC. I’ve been on the Scam Safety Committee fighting for students and also on the Academic Board, where I was one of a group of students in coordination with the SRC the current president to basically protect Friday Simple Extensions from being extinguished into three days. So that was a really monumental occasion. But I think these campaigns overall have taught me the need to be left wing, to be militant, and to be consistent in my approach. And to support and platform activism. The SRC has made activism at the forefront of its mind. And I think it’s important that we maintain this this, procedure, this approach.
Honi Soit: Could you just expand on your work as, in the Scam Safety Committee?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah, so in the Scam Safety Committee, I’ve basically I went to a few meetings this year discussing the scams affecting particularly international students, who have been most adversely affected. Scams that have gotten people some pretty bad, dire situations, which I won’t disclose. But have stolen hundreds, like thousands of dollars from students from their families. And hearing the stories is disgusting and sad and so it’s really important that we’re also fighting for students safety in that regard too. And yeah.
Honi Soit: Yeah. So how do you plan to work with the NTEU next year?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah. With the historic strike campaign now over, what is the SRC’s role in continuing to stand in solidarity with staff? Yeah. The NTEU is… Really important. The strike campaign that the SRC and so many students across the university supported was amazing, the turnout was amazing, it was three years of bargaining, and we did manage to achieve many things. We also had many losses whilst we, created more 40:40:20 roles, whilst we fought and protected we got gender affirmation leave and a pay increase. A pay increase was below inflation. The indigenous parity targets that were set are unenforced in any way so there’s no accountability for them to be enforced. Again, the EFR roles are still quite high despite the small wins we made against an increasing amount of EFR roles. But I think working with the NTEU is really important next year and we have those connections by being really supportive of the union on the pickets on the strike in the strike campaign. That was actually a big formative part for me and my student experience in 2022 when I joined the education action group after the cuts, no cuts campaign in 2021. I think how I would work with them next year, there’s a big issue at the moment I think, with the NTEU and that staff are facing generally, which is casualisation. Casualisation is the university’s passion at the moment, their, goal to casualise all the staff they can to save as much money and degrade the work the working conditions and rights of staff. And so working with the NTEU to fight for casuals rights, to decrease casualisation of academic staff and professional staff to ensure that that casuals are paid for every hour worked. There is a wage that’s claimed still ongoing and still being discussed also. That the Casuals Network at USyd has been really keen on, and really has done really great work on pushing. And so supporting them in those campaigns is really important.
Honi Soit: So one role that SRC presidents typically perform is engaging in lobbying of uni management by committees. Do you believe this kind of lobbying is effective and how would you approach it?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah, I think yes, the President sits on a myriad of committees there’s a whole list but I think what makes a good, effective President sitting on these committees is having a healthy level of really critical scepticism about what the University will do for students. Going to these meetings and thinking that asking for something you’re going to get it, would be a heavy mistake, most of the time you’ll go to the meeting, you’ll be denied. You’re sitting on a panel with 40 other university management members, and they are all voting against, or speaking against your points. So it’s really important to be really oppositional on committees and fighting for students rights, as we did in Academic Board in fighting for five day simple extensions to be protected. But it’s also important to make sure that, we’re putting an activist focus as well, making sure the information that’s relevant for students to know that can be disclosed, is disclosed to students and to activists to fight against if the university ever threatens. The working conditions or the learning conditions, working conditions of staff, or learning conditions of students. And this skepticism is really important. The university does not care about its students. We see this by the, by how much they profit. And so it’s really important to approach it in a really critical way, and that’s how I would do that going into the next year if I was elected president.
Honi Soit: If you are elected president, you would be the fifth consecutive grassroots president. Do you think your faction’s time in power has been a success? Do you think there’s anything still left to be done?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah. I think it has been very successful in many ways. And I think that’s telling by the election results we’ve seen time again. And I think it’s a product of we talk with students, we understand the needs and interests of students, and we fight solely for those interests. Revive, or Revive, are Labor Party members, they have a party line they have to stick with. A party line they’re bound to vote on and counsel and bound to do. And, that means that they can’t fight for students interests the same way that Grassroots and Switch can, as we have time and time again. And I think, there are many things still to be won and fought for, and we’ll do that because we don’t have, we’re not tied to a particular area. Things like making sure International House is open, things like making sure that all student accommodation is affordable a 6.3 percent increase across all university owned accommodation, and a 14-15 percent increase for some at Sydney University Village. Because of market research. Now, university management actually signed off on this decision. So it’s things like this, like making student housing and the cost of living more affordable, because of profits that, have to be fought against. And we don’t think that labour students, I don’t think that Labor students under Revive, can really bring that militant opposition to management as we have, and that’s how we’ve won things for students. By being oppositional, by fighting for students interests, and by not holding a party line where we’re unable to advocate for things. Like free education, like paid student placements, among a myriad of other demands. And so I think that’s what makes us most suited. And there are many fields to fight on, and that’s just one of them. Fighting for affordable student housing, fighting to end sexual violence on campus and fighting for things like paid student placements, and environmental action, when the university has over 300,000 shares in fossil fuel companies. Stuff like that.
Honi Soit: Yeah so just a follow up outside of the presidency, Groots has held a pretty dominant lead on executive roles and the SRC as a whole, do you think that’s a good thing for campus democracy?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah, I think we have to understand and respect the decisions of students and voters ultimately how the elections work. We have council, then we we have the council elections and then we have the RepsElect. And really it’s a product of students understanding and seeing the work we do in fighting for their rights and successfully achieving wins. That makes students vote for us, and I trust the democratic will and power of students in very democratically held elections. And I think that’s what that’s why that is the case. But yeah, I trust students, and I think they see the achievements and how we fight for them, and how much we sacrifice to fight for them.
Honi Soit: So your policies highlight that you want to expand activist budgets and enshrine stipends for OBs. How will the SRC absorb the financial burden?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah, so I think, yeah, and training stipends and expanding activist budgets is really important. It’s important the SRC remains an activist union. The USU is designed to handle service provision stuff and their big initiatives and their sort of mandate. Our mandate as the SRC is to really push for structural change and to fight for wins and in any way to ensure students are protected and their learning conditions are, are good. And so part of that means expanding activists budgets. And how we would do this, really, is a testament also to the success of previous Grassroots presidents, where every year we’ve applied with a very well detailed and rigorous SSAF based uplift, which increases our students and services amenity fee that we receive from the university. And every year that figure has gone up. Every year our justifications, our reasoning, our reports that we give and our application is successful, and the money we receive increases substantially. I know a few years ago, I think back in 2020, or maybe 2019, it was like about 1. 8 million dollars in SSAF around that sort of number. Now it’s 2.372, with the 60k contestable we’ve got this year. This is a massive achievement and testament that Grassroots has done to increase and expand the budget we have. That’s why we wouldn’t really have to take anything away from the current services we offer in the SRC because we’re able to facilitate significant increases in our our base uplift budgets to be able to spend on activism.
Honi Soit: You signpost the SRC as the only institution on campus positioned to respond to the erosion of students rights. Will you collaborate with other bodies such as the USU?
Harrison Brennan: Yep. So it’s true, I think the SRC is the only institution on campus that is able to fight for students rights. And for their well being in like a militant organisational way, and making sure that, Friday simple extensions are preserved in 12 week semesters, which are the stepping stones and trimesters, are defeated ensuring that students are, not attacked by the university. We offer casework services that are almost things like, articulate this point exactly. Caseworkers, protect students from based academic integrity claims, or a myriad of other things that the SRC does shows that commitment. But that is, that said, collaboration with the USU is vital and, seeing the expansion of Food Hub, which I think Grassroots has really played an instrumental role in creating and expanding as well. Seeing the success of Food Hub and also the demand for Food Hub and the cost of living crisis. Cooperating with the USU is a necessity in these regards. USU is our service provision union on campus. They do a myriad of great schemes that help students. They also produce a profit and also have more funding. They have about 6.1-2 million dollars in SSAF. And that sort of funding is what allows them to provide services on the scale they do, whereas the SRC can’t. So that collaboration, where we organise things, the SRC and the USU provides or funds things, is a really effective initiative. And I think it’s really important to continue and preserve that. And that’s why that relation is really important and something we’re very keen to continue if I was elected.
Honi Soit: Yeah, do you see collaboration with the USU expanding next year onto new areas or just maintaining?
Harrison Brennan: Definitely, I think I could definitely see expansions in I know previous president Cole Scott-Curwood was very keen on expanding what Food Hub could be and look like and also to different areas like free breakfast or whatever but definitely giving you know, we have members, a member of Switch is in the USU and we also just generally have good regard with the USU from our historic cooperation together. Both, for example, from the strike campaign, we’ve shut down on campus outlets to, support the staff. And that’ll continue. I think we can work on ways to expand that. But yeah, I think USU plays a very vital role on campus and we also want to support initiatives that will help students.
Honi Soit: So you also commit to supporting the Voice to Parliament in your policy statement. Considering the referendum will be well and truly over by the time your term begins. What role will an SRC under your presidency fulfill in the fight for First Nations justice?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah, so yes, we support a yes vote to the referendum to voice treaty and truth in full. And I think how that will affect my presidency if I am elected is it won’t in a substantial way. I think the importance of fighting for First Nations justice has to continue. And whether there’s a yes vote or a no vote, which we would very much despise a no vote. I think. The importance of fighting for First Nations justice is, unquestionable. I would be hoping to support and grow campaigns for First Nations justice. We have, Grassroots has a history of working with First Nations organisers on, Black Lives Still Matter campaigns, on environmental campaigns that, seek to get Labor, and Labor the Liberal Party and, these big oil and gas companies like Santos accountable for destroying land First Nations land that, that people have a cultural connection with. And that, the militant action and, movement building for First Nations justice in this country won’t change. That same commitment, I don’t think, can be said for Revive, but we will fight no matter what time and time again as we have for First Nations justice in this country.
Honi Soit: Much of your policy statement leaves out some details on implementation. Let’s take ending and reversing course cuts as an example. How do you plan to approach this and also achieve this as president?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah I think most of these sort of methods and policies I’ve talked about, the methods to them, achieving them, are a dual focused approach. It’s being able to be oppositional on those committees that the president has to sit on with management. And saying these things have to end and coordinating these with students. But it’s also about a really big and, move mass mobilising movement at USyd by students and also beyond USyd, that course ran into things like, for example, course cuts and, part of that can be done, within the bureaucratic aspects of the SRC that the SRC deals with in terms of sitting on these committees and saying, no, these subjects shouldn’t be cut. Some of that can be done from the academic board, for example. But a lot of it will take building and supporting movements, I’ve been involved in the Education Action Group for a long time. We hold a really successful SGM that managed to save a whole department from basically being merged or obliterated entirely. And stuff like that is a testament to how we do it. We build student support, we mobilise, and we act. And that’s how we make these changes and reach our demands.
Honi Soit: Cool. Darlington Terrace, which was one of the cheapest housing options on campus is still shut down. What would you do to ensure better accountability from the uni and ensure that prices still remain accessible when it’s renovated?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah, so the biggest issue that this university has is sell offs. They love to sell off land and property to private third parties like UniLodge, Iglu, and Scape and basically say, here’s the land, here’s the building that we already have, You can market it at whatever price you want. Whether the plan for Darlington Terraces is a bit in the question a bit unknown as of yet. But I think what’s really important is, again, that dual focus approach of fighting with students. Fighting with students affected as well by the housing crisis, and demanding better, both on committees and in the streets. Particularly with regards to student housing, at, as I mentioned earlier, at Sydney University Village, there’s going to be, for some students, a 9 percent increase, for others, as high as a 15 percent increase in their weekly rent. I’m currently actually working on a campaign with students, and organising a public meeting. to bring people to the fold to talk about their rental horror stories, to talk about how we can organise against the attacks also from university management who thinks that this increase is okay during the cost of living crisis. So it means also building that movement as I have done through welfare and through getting the NUS Get a Room campaign, but also by being oppositional and fighting on those committees and on those boards and making sure that students voices are heard where they often are not. But yeah.
Honi Soit: One of your policy points is about making residents of student accommodation legally recognised tenants. How do you envision this happening?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah, I think this would be a campaign that would have to involve, or a movement that would have to involve coordination with the tenants union. I’ve also been in talks with some independent activists about establishing a militant renters union that would go along beside the tenants union. So currently student housing residents aren’t actually legally recognised tenants. Meaning they have none of the same protections as normal regular tenants. And so a big fight for them and for anyone who’s in student housing and accommodation is to be able to say, and to go to government and be like, this is the problem. We need to fight for the renter’s rights. And a general improvement of protections for renters, like rent caps like that are minimum standards conditions across the board. Aircons in every home, for example. Or, things not to be faulty when you move in. But we also need that student housing residents are also recognised with those same very protections. At the moment, if you go into most student housing options that you can find the quality of the rooms or the location of the amenities is terrible. UniLodge on Broadway has shoebox rooms that feel almost mould ridden with faulty appliances, faulty doors, faulty heating or, where, or, for example, if we look to SUVs in the University Village, 93 students are sharing 3 stoves at the moment. It’s about coordinating with those affected. And also doing a really mobilising campaign, but working really cleanly with the tenants union and working with this new body, which is being established, this renters union would be really important for fighting and making that change. And also working with those who, those legal experts, for example, our legal service and their connections to make that possible.
Honi Soit: Yeah you spoke about paying the rent and you mentioned the Victorian organisation. But how do you envision USyd working to pay the rent and finance local indigenous organisations on campus?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah this would be something that would have to be done in good consultation with the relevant student body, the staff as well. Particularly with the First Nations officer of the SRC as of next year. There is many ways to do it. There is obviously we have the pay the rent organisation in Victoria, which handles the money and decides where it goes. But it could also be about centering where the money goes in terms of on First Nations Gadigal land and the organisations around it, and I think that is a sort of really radical idea that I want to talk about more with students who would be really interested in getting involved. But I think it’s definitely a subject to consultation and discussions after if elected. And it’s a campaign that will have to be very thoroughly thought out. But I think it’s about time that the university start to take action on things. And this is one way the university can do that. So we’re going to demand that from the university. That they pay the rent.
Honi Soit: One of your policies is to implement an independent and expert led task force into sexual violence on campus and its student accommodation, providing free and immediate and accessible counselling for all victims of sexual violence on campus. Could you please provide some details on how you’re able to achieve this for example, who’ll be consulted where the money would come from and how it will be organised?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah. So the demand, these demands, these vertical demands for an end to sexual violence on campus have been a big part of the Women’s Collective. of campaigns for years. Things like, end the colleges, turn them into affordable student housing is intertwined with this campaign. I’ve heard whispers of this sort of movement from people who used to be at the university who want to continue this campaign. I think first we have to acknowledge with regards to sexual violence and harassment on campus, that it’s been a product of a Labor government that we’re having to push this now and a Liberal government too that’s been completely inactive on this decision. Literally just two weeks ago in an ABC Insiders interview Amanda Rishworth basically walked back their claim about implementing the SASH task force with Jason Clare and making it like keeping it as an election promise. They broke an election promise but it’s especially relevant when USyd published their annual report on sexual harassment and violence and there were 121 reports of SASH and they were involved within our campus or related to our campus. And if we consider the Australian Human Rights Commission report that says anywhere between 84 percent to 97 percent of students or young people who experience sexual violence or harassment at university do not report, the numbers probably are loads more, shamefully are loads more. One case is too many. As for how we fight for this change, it’s about supporting the women’s collective and part of that is about boosting their funding and stipends, getting them and helping funding and supporting their connections with community and with those affected as well. And it’s about demanding Labor do better. Labor’s done a terrible thing by backtracking this election promise, which is an issue at all universities across Australia. And we need to end sexual violence at all costs. So mobilising campaign, but it’s also about demanding the university is accountable on the various committees we have, such as safer communities, et cetera, to ensure that, that accountability is being taken, that measures are being taken to, to make sure that these counselling services, for example, are accessible and affordable for students but also to make sure that action is being taken to prevent these situations occurring in the first place which the university has a very bad track record of doing. In a lot of ways universities all talk and no act.
Honi Soit: Yeah. If you’re elected, how will you ensure that Honi’s autonomy is respected? And what specific measures will you take to support student journalism as president?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah Honi’s autonomy is really important to me. I think when I came to university campus, I always thought, I’m gonna write for Honi. Because I loved reading the little council reviews, or the interesting articles and opinion particularly. But I think… And, over time I ended up in a different realm of student life. But I think what’s really important about Honi is the fact that they’re able to say things without being censured, without having they’re able to be critical without having, being at risk of having their thing DSP’d because they offend someone in some way that, by criticising their politics. And I think it’s about reiterating the importance of what a DSP and what a president is meant to do in that DSP role as well, which is to check if there is any defamation. The Director of Student Publications sole role is to prevent defamation being written in Honi Soit. There is no other reason to DSP something from Honi Soit. And maintain that, that’s a hard line that I’d maintain as President, making sure that Honi Soit’s autonomy is a priority, first and foremost. But it’s also, I think it’s important to voice that if people have concerns with Honi Soit, objections to Honi Soit, they use Honi Soit to platform those objections, through letters to the editor, or by an article in response to an article written. That’s how we that’s how Honi Soit is such an amazing paper. It’s able to platform different views that are well strung, evidence, and relevant and be critical of things in the world. So that’s how I would approach it as president.
Honi Soit: Cool. Just to follow up, so that autonomy there have been cases particularly by a former president from Grassroots where that autonomy hasn’t been respected. How do you plan to preserve that autonomy and avoid bias in your role as DSP?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah, I think it’s, I want to say first of all that we disagree entirely with that those actions. Autonomy to me is very important and something that I would never go back on. I think we’ve also seen this with particular Labor individuals under Revive who have been, not so happy with coverage in the past. I think it’s about having a close tight relationship with the Honi team and setting very clear expectations in the start of the year of what the standard is to prevent this from happening so that everyone is accountable. It may even be about a regulation change, I’m not sure as to what extent that is, or the sort of tools involved to make that possible, but Honi’s autonomy is an utmost priority for me going into if I am elected as president.
Honi Soit: So your platform mentions preserving autonomous organising. How do you want to maintain these spaces, especially as someone who does not fit into many autonomous sort of activism categories?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah. I think, whilst I don’t have, I obviously don’t fit into many autonomous categories I’ve been to a lot of autonomous rallies and events and they’ve been honestly some of the most effective and exciting. I think movements. I think the importance of autonomous organizing can be stressed by, they are fighting, I believe, again, Grassroots as a core idea and value, and I think it’s my basically my value too, is that those facing oppression should be the ones to helm the fight against their own oppression. That doesn’t mean they can’t express solidarity or support from other groups in the ways that are possible. But these autonomous collectives, for example, have been fighting this fight for years And have been continuously on the offensive. And it’s important to continue those campaigns and make sure that those long term ones, such as End the Colleges campaign, are successful. And that’s why it’s important to, support and provide both funding, expanding activist funding, but also to provide stipends particularly for collectives which are no longer very active to revive interests but also to support office bearers in those roles. And just make sure they are financially able to do so and to run campaigns and to organise. That’s a, just, I think funding and trying those stipends is a great way of facilitating that action and leading to a, an SRC that covers all points that need to be fought on.
Honi Soit: Okay. Unlike the other candidate, you are not a paid OB in the SRC in the past year. Do you believe you have the required experience to be president?
Harrison Brennan: Yeah, I think we should assess experience based on not how long, but how much. Or level of level of involvement too. So whilst I am a Welfare Officer this year, I’m also a counsellor, I’m a member of the General Executive, I’ve sat on the Scam Safety Committee, and I’ve also I’m also the SRC representative at the Academic Board. Whilst I’m not in a paid office bearer role, I have sacrificed an extensive amount of time in working collectively with students to fight for a better world. And where I have experience where my other candidate does not is in… Activists and activism organising in, holding rallies, building movements flyering in that persistence that’s required, that rigor that’s required to really run an effective movement. And again, the SRC is an activist student union. It should remain an activist student union. But I’m also familiar with the bureaucratic components as well. Being on the SRC general executive, I am familiar with approving staff leave budgets for office barriers. A myriad of sort of the bureaucratic work components. And I’ve also sat on, again, committees to be able to be oppositional to management and to fight for students to bring evidence forth and show what needs to be done and then fight for those actions on campus and on the streets. So I think that’s where I come from and the experience that I have. And it’s important to know that too, that I work with. I’m manufacturing. I work collaboratively with many office barriers, including the President Lia Perkins who I’ve collaborated with and understand things from. We have an institutional knowledge that I think is very valuable to ensuring we can make further wins for students.
Honi Soit: Yep. Okay briefly, why should students vote for you?
Students should vote for us because we are proposing a left wing, effective activist union a vision for the student union that will actually make wins for students. We, if you, if we want action on the environment, on First Nations justice, on Saving our education from neoliberal hands. And ensuring that, the cost of living crisis. Is there by the companies making the profits and not students and young people. We need an SRC that can actually fight for that. Grassroots and Switch, and myself, Harrison, are the people most equipped to do unlike Revive, which are Labor Party students. We are unaligned. We fight solely for students interests, entirely for students interests. We’re accountable to students. And I think that’s what makes us most effective in being able to fight. We’re not held back by any party line, any policy. And we truly want what’s best for students. And we will fight for it.
Honi Soit: Okay, also confirming that you’ll be at the presidential debate on Wednesday 13th September, 2. 30 to 4.30pm.
I shall be at the presidential debate.
Honi Soit: Excellent. Cool.