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Students protest deregulation despite internal tension

Nabila Chemaissem and Justine Landis-Hanley report

Students united in protest last Wednesday as part of an Australia-wide “National Day of Action” (NDA) against fee deregulation, despite reports of internal dissatisfaction over poor organisation.

SRC President Chloe Smith said leaders had planned to march to UTS as part of the NDA, but redirected the protest to Michael Spence’s office due to the small crowd upon recommendations from members of Socialist Alternative.

SRC Education Officer Liam Carrigan also said the traditional rally was changed to a ‘speak out’ due to “concerns there had been inadequate building work” around the protest.

Smith said low attendance had been blamed on the National Union of Students’ (NUS) poor organisation.

“There were some disagreements as to what direction [the protest] took,” she said.

“The government made some announcements over the break and some people wanted the demands of the rally to be updated for that.”

“A general feel was that not as much organisation has been put into this NDA as with other ones, but that over the break, I think organisation has stepped up at USyd, UTS and UNSW”.

Honi understands a factional rift emerged after Socialist Alternative members in Sydney accused NUS Education Officer and NLS member, Max Murphy, of poor organisation, such as failing to provide promotional materials more than three weeks before the rally.

Other activists defended Murphy, saying he successfully built strong NDAs in Queensland and Victoria.

Loretta Picone, a visual arts graduate clad in chains and carrying signs saying “$100,000+ degrees are Anti-Australian”, was also disappointed in the University’s lack of transparency regarding the closure of the Sydney College of the Arts.

Carrigan conceded that whilst the speak-out had been poorly organised, its ultimate purpose was to build towards a major budget rally scheduled for May 11.