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Michael Spence’s response to the SRC Executive’s open letter on police violence

Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence responds to the SRC Executive’s request to keep police off campus.


Dear members of the SRC,

I deeply regret that anyone was injured during the industrial action on Tuesday.

You should note, however, that police were not invited as claimed onto the campus: they have the right to be there. The University has never, in fact, had authority to bar them from the campus, should they determine that their presence is appropriate in the interests of public safety.  It is important to remember we are not an isolated organisation separate from the local community. We are part of the community and as such come under the umbrella of all in force laws and regulations as they apply to any organisation. The police regularly patrol the campus and do not have to wait to be invited to do so. If the police believe there is a risk of disturbance or possible threat to safety they have the power to come onto the University and have the authority to act as appropriate to deal with issues of public safety without any invitation.

In the case of recent industrial action there has been no formal invitation for the police to come, but we welcome their assistance where deliberate disruption is being caused or in the case of safety concerns.

During recent industrial action it is our understanding that the unions have had ongoing negotiations with the NSW Police about their proposed activity including the location of the picket lines and picket line protocol. According to reports from our Campus Security, it is when the agreed picket line protocol has been breached by the people on the picket line, that police and demonstrators have had physical interactions.

Tuesday’s ‘scuffle’, as the ABC reported it, broke out because some demonstrators breached the NTEU’s and CPSU’s own protocol for pickets by physically preventing people and vehicles from entering the campus. Specifically, at around 9am a vehicle attempting to enter the City Rd main gates was refused entry and a number of police attempted to clear a path.

Campus Security have reported that they observed a man in the scuffle who appeared to fall over and was later seen to be limping. He remained on site for a period of time moving around and talking to others before leaving. Further they have been advised that police visited a man who presented himself to hospital in the mid-afternoon with a foot injury who has refused to be interviewed. Campus Security is not aware of any other serious injuries that required first aid during the day.

I cannot stress enough how important it is that agreed protocol from the NTEU be observed to ensure the safety of both those demonstrating as well as those attempting to move through picket lines to attend their place of work or study. It is also important that demonstrators respect their fellow colleagues and students. During these recent demonstrations our security team have received and investigated a number of staff and student complaints including threats, intimidation and harassment by a minority of demonstrators at the picket sites.

I would hope that anyone suffering injuries would bring their experience to the attention of police and seek medical attention. The University understands that at this stage there have been no formal complaints received by the police. We would urge anyone with any information or concerns to contact Newtown Police station.


Yours sincerely

Michael Spence

(May 16 2013)