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Student activists crash lecture hall attended by Joe Hockey in fifth day of staff strikes this year

Staff and students appeared at several USyd Open Day lectures to protest and discuss the importance of improving staff working conditions.

SRC Education Officer Deaglan Godwin and NUS Education Officer Luc Velez confront former treasurer Joe Hockey.

Student activists stormed a lecture hall that former Liberal Treasurer Joe Hockey attended at the University of Sydney’s annual Open Day. The impromptu protest was part of a larger education campaign against fee hikes and in pursuit of better staff working conditions.

USyd SRC Education Officer Deaglan Godwin and National Union of Students (NUS) Education Officer Luc Velez led the protest against Hockey, calling for Hockey to “get out”.

“This man right here is responsible for trying to deregulate university fees!” Godwin told those in the lecture theatre. The event was an Open Day information session on the University’s Bachelor of Commerce degree. 

In 2014, then-Treasurer Joe Hockey delivered a budget that promised sector-wide deregulation, which would have allowed higher education providers to determine the costs of the degrees on offer. Such reforms would have likely led to significant fee hikes.

Hockey’s “horror budget” would have also resulted in a 20 per cent reduction in government contributions to students’ fees. This would have seen students in Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP) students paying 61 per cent of their fees.

“Fees were not deregulated because students fought back!” Velez said.

Protesters chanted: “JOE HOCKEY, GET OUT! WE KNOW WHAT YOU’RE ALL ABOUT! CUTS! JOB LOSSES! MONEY FOR THE BOSSES!”

The impromptu protest occurred on the same day that the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) took industrial action as part of its ongoing negotiations for a new enterprise bargaining agreement with USyd management.

Despite the rain, staff and students spoke at various information sessions about the state of staff’s working conditions at the University, and encouraged prospective students to join the NTEU’s campaign for better wages and conditions.

“We’re disrupting [Open Day] today to say that students deserve a fair education, and staff deserve quality treatment,” said NTEU Branch Committee casuals representative Dani Cotton.

First-year primary education student and education activist Paul Kaletsis described his teachers’ working conditions as “terrible” and “not fair”.

“My teachers are only paid 15 minutes to mark every assignment. The University of Sydney is leeching off of them, which is totally unfair,” Kaletsis said. 

Gender and Cultural Studies casual Finola Laughren echoed this sentiment in a rally at the Quadrangle: “As a casual tutor, I do not get paid sufficiently to give detailed feedback on student’s assessments. I don’t get paid sufficiently to prepare for lectures and tutorials. I don’t get paid to reply to student emails”

Lucy Nicolls, a casual staff member in Philosophy, also urged prospective students to support the NTEU’s campaign.

“We’re fighting to have the resources we need to give you the education you deserve. And so we can build a better university for staff and students,” Nicolls said.

This is the fifth day that staff and students have taken action this year, with previous campaigns involving both 24-hour and 48-hour strikes, as well as picket lines across the University’s major entrances.