The Sydney Branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) held a speak out today in Victoria Park to voice their anger at the government and university management following the confirmation that the Coalition’s university funding change bill will pass the Senate.
Protest organisers won their right to the public assembly through the Supreme Court yesterday, and police presence was light, with around ten officers milling around the edges of the action.
Students gathered on the outskirts of Victoria Park to show their support but respected the NTEU’s request to remain far enough away from the main action that they would not be approached or interrupted by police. Students chants of “no cuts, no fees, no corporate universities” rang through the park as background noise to the protest, alongside speeches made which praised the efforts of the student education movement.
Senator for New South Wales, Mehreen Faruqi, spoke to the crowd and shared her perspective on the importance of today’s action.
“I thank you from the bottom of my heart for defending the right to assembly, for defending the right to protest. It has been my privilege to stand with students and to stand with university staff to stop these cruel fee hikes and funding cuts.”
She criticised the contents of the bill, saying that “it disadvantages First Nations students, it disadvantages young people, it disadvantages women, it disadvantages first in family [students]… it really puts us on the back foot as far as our recovery from this pandemic and this recession is concerned.”
“We have to challenge the very neoliberal conceptions of universities. These are places for learning and teaching, for knowledge creation, for people to learn and to start to think critically.”
Kurt Iveson, President of the NTEU Sydney Branch spoke passionately about the situation that the tertiary education sector is currently facing.
“We’ve seen shameful fines and arrests of students who have been digging in and fighting against fees and fighting for jobs and I am very proud to be standing here as a member of a Union who has taken that to the Supreme Court and dug in for our right to protest.”
Iveson noted that austerity measures have already cost hundreds of jobs and will continue to cost more as voluntary redundancies are forced on academics.
“They’re doing all that at a time when, because of all the austerity measures imposed, and things turning out a little better than they expected in 2020, they’re actually on track to make a $60 million surplus this year. Where is the rationale for job cuts in that? It doesn’t exist.”
The university has predicted that it could make a $100 million surplus every year for the next five years.
The NTEU will be holding their second “Teach-In” Against Uni Cuts on the Law Lawns tomorrow, to articulate their vision for what a different university sector could look like.