President’s Report: Jen Light
I know I have been writing a lot lately about the SRC elections but as these elections loom my Presidential term begins to wind down. I think about the SRC and the amazing work it does for so many students and how lucky we are at Sydney University to have the ability to have an independent student organisation. Last week it was stated that the Liberal Government is planning to introduce a bill to the senate for the abolishment of the SSAF (Student Service and Amenities Fee) which could potentially destroy our organisation. Our independence is something that we always have and always will fight for.
Our SRC has a proud history of independence from the University since day one. I love our editorial independence so Honi Soit can say what students want to say rather than what the Administration thinks we want to hear.
I love the independence of our case- work service because it is a no-brainer. A student isn’t going to go for help to a service they think is part and parcel with the people they are having problems with. As a 21 year old whose been screwed over in one of her classes, I get that lecturers are more likely to side with an unscrupulous tutor they have to work with than a student they’re never going to see again.
I love the fact we have a free and independent legal service so that students have the option to get help if they get in trouble with the law. The beauty is, its confidential and intended for you so your parents don’t need to know, your boss doesn’t need to know, and neither does the uni if you get into trouble.
However, obviously there is another side to it as independence comes with responsibility. I can tell you being involved in running a one and a half million dollar organization is a big ask. Independence means we ask under- graduates to make the big calls on whether we stay in the black or go into the red, whether we put freedom of speech above potential legal action, or whether we stretch our legal service defending our activists out fighting for your education. Students aren’t always going to make the right decisions. However, the truth is, it is your money and at least you’ll know the decisions are being made by people who actually live in your world.
General Secretary’s Report: Mariana Podesta-Diverio
You should vote in the upcoming SRC election – not in order to elect the best candidates for the job (Councillors, Honi Editors, President), but rather to ensure the worst candidate does not get elected. This simple recipe can prevent catastrophe.
I campaigned for Tom Raue approximately 600 years ago, when I was in second or third-year (it’s all a blur because I discovered subsidised alcohol that semester) and have been involved in every USU and SRC election since then. This is not because I’m a total hack, it’s because as soon as I hear about the sorts of characters who are running for positions, their policies, and preference deals, it makes my blood boil so much that my nasal capillaries expand and my sensitivity to the bullshit espoused is so great, I find myself once again wearing a coloured shirt and campaigning for the person I sincerely believe will do a good job.
What I’m saying is: I’m not going to add to the chorus of voices telling you that you should care about voting because your vote counts and it’s important to have a say and not enough people vote and its really important and please vote. Instead, think of it this way: shit people will get elected unless enough undergraduates inform themselves and use their vote to stop this from happening. Say no to shit people!!! Say no. Scratch under the surface of ridiculously unachievable campaign promises and say NO.
These two approaches are the same thing, but my advice here is the funky 3D glasses perspective, the Cool Version, the Fonzie of voting. Maybe it’s a bewildering and worrying load of crap, but hopefully its so strange that it sticks with you as you contemplate whether to take five minutes out of your day to fill out a couple of sheets of paper about a month from now. Plenty of time to plan for that five minutes!
Either way, it doesn’t matter. It’s not like you have a stake in what happens come election day. It’s not like part of your SSAF money funds the SRC. It’s not like it makes sense for you to participate in the only opportunity you have all year to determine who runs your representative association.
If every undergraduate votes in this election, it’s likely that Godot will turn up.
Let’s do it for Godot.
Education Officers’ Report: Ridah Hassan and Eleanor Morley
After another successful national day of action for education, here’s message from National Union of Students Education Officer Sarah Garnham who has been overseeing the campaign so far: Well done to all the students who came out to protest on the August 20 National day of action against the deregulation of fees, escalation of interest rates, and massive government funding cuts to education.
The day was an enormous success. We showed that despite the budget being released many months ago and the concerted efforts of the government to distract attention away from it, students are still angry and motivated to protest.
Further it shows that while it’s great that the ALP, the Greens, and PUP have come out to say they will votedown all of the government’s “reforms” to higher ed, students are healthily distrustful of their word and we will continue to protest until we actually see Pyne’s education package defeated in its entirety in Parliament.
The protests received a lot of media attention, particularly over the burning of effigies of the loathsome Christopher Pyne. Pyne himself, in his usual smug and idiotic way, yet again promoted our campaign when he said on the afternoon of the national day of action: “Does asking students to pay only 50% of their total fees really warrant burning effigies?”
Well yes it does Chris. Because not only do we stand for free education but also, your reforms will see students paying double if not triple what they currently do. Your reforms will also see poor people and women paying considerably higher fees due to enormous interest rate hikes. Your reforms are about setting up an education system which only benefits the rich and where vice chancellors can make super profits off the backs of already struggling students. Your reforms are about setting up a US style education system. There is over 1 trillion dollars worth of student debt in the US and are cent study showed that 94% of college graduates find their debt repayments “unmanageable”.
We will continue our campaign against Pyne and the Abbott government and we will be organising another National day of action in the near future.
Vice Presidents’ Report: Max Hall and Laura Webster
I made a huge mistake this morning.
A horrible, horrible mistake.
I read an article published by the Murdoch press.
Yes, nothing good can ever come of this, but while I was reading about the recent symposium held by the Australian Human Rights Commission on Free Speech, it popped up on screen and I couldn’t help myself. Needless to say, it was a bad decision and I spent the next 20 minutes hiding in the supply cupboard at work screaming next to boxes filled with Papermate pens. When I finally returned to my desk, I was greeted by Christopher Pyne’s sneering face on The Bolt Report ranting that students are leeching off tax payer’s dollars while a clip of Tony Abbott was rolling in the corner. Keeping in line with this spectacular morning, I am now waiting for Joe Hockey to strut through the doors demanding my first born child.
Now, this “Free Speech” forum was called in response to Abbott and the Attorney General George Brandis’ now thankfully dropped amendment to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act which reads that it unlawful to: “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people because of their race or ethnicity”.
The draft bill would have removed the protections for offending, insulting or humiliating someone based on the assertion by Abbott and Brandis that this law stifles free speech, with newly installed Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson also voicing his support for the amendment. These changes have come up against very vocal opposition from Labor and the Greens, human rights lawyers and over 80% of the Australian public – even Liberal MPs threatened to cross the floor. If this isn’t a testament to the ridiculousness that would have been changing 18C, then nothing is. Conservative journalist Michael Sexton has written numerous articles for the Murdoch Press in support of repealing these protections with an ever present theme of “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”.
Why would these repeals have been so dangerous? Claiming that free speech should allow individuals to be able to say whatever they please, regardless of the harm and trauma it may cause, is opposed to international human rights law and the slightest amount of common sense, decency and courtesy. It completely ignores individuals’ rights to not be vilified or discriminated against because of their race, gender, class, sexuality or religion. Wilson claims that equality can only be reached through the repeal of Section 18C and he is disappointed the repeal is not being pursued, but in what world does repealing laws against discrimination and hate speech produce equality?
Despite the fact that we think repealing these protections against racial vilification under the guise of ‘free speech’ is absurd, it is easy to see how these upper class, heterosexual, white cis-males think it is a logical decision.
Ethnic Affairs (ARC) Officer’s Report: Gabrielle Pei Tiatia
A lot has been happening around refugees in the past couple of months, but nothing’s changed with Morrison and Abbott, who continue to bolster their anti-refugee narrative
Recently, Scott Morrison has come out announcing the release of children from onshore immigration detention centres. But his announcement is incredibly deceptive as it only refers to children and their families who are already living in the community – all the Liberal Party is doing is transferring the ‘status’ of these refugees from being held in community detention, to being put on bridging visas. This announcement came at interesting timing as Morrison just last week, faced a Human Rights Commission inquiry regarding the eroding mental health of children locked up in detention. The timing of his announcement is without a doubt an attempt to dampen the increasing backlash towards Operation Sovereign borders and and all that it entails.
Also significant, 2 G4S guards have been charged with the murder of Reza Barati after an investigation by the PNG Police. But true justice for Reza and his family, doesn’t end with two employees of the Australian Government being charged with murder; that is just the beginning. Justice will be served by destroying the brutal detention regime that enabled his murder in the first place and by exposing to everyone that no matter who he points the finger to, Scott Morrison is the one ultimately responsible for his death.
The Abbott Government have used refugees as a scapegoat and a spearhead to try and pass through their viscous budget that attacks the most vulnerable in our society. With the Liberal Party’s attacks on students, pensioners, universal healthcare, welfare recipients, the disabled, the unemployed and almost everyone else, it’s clear that the enemy isn’t refugees, but the politicians sitting in parliament.
The Anti-Racism Collective (ARC) is hosting its first forum of the semester next week on WEDNESDAY 3RD SEPTEMBER 1PM in NEW LAW LECTURE THEATRE 026 with special guests MARK ISAACS, a former Salvation Army worker on Nauru and author of ‘The Undesirables’ and DR LOUISE BOON-KUO, a law professor at Sydney University with a specialty in refugee law. We will also have a dedicated refugee activist from ARC talking about what students can do to fight back against Operation Sovereign Borders. Come along for a great discussion!
ARC meets every Monday 12pm on New Law Lawns. All welcome! It’s never been a more important time to get involved in the campaign. For more info, check out our Facebook page, ‘Anti-Racism Collective Sydney Uni’ or contact Gabby on 0416 488 258. Stand up fight back!