“My comrades ate all my pizza!”: March Council Meeting Recap
Strikes, the Voice and the right to protest. The 95th Council convenes for a second time, this time back in the New Law dungeons.
The ever-embattled Honi Soit editors found themselves back in the unventilated bowels of New Law on a Wednesday night. While we (regrettably) sat way too close to the smartly-dressed campus Liberals, we persevered through another night of debauchery.
Building up the strikes
Strikes were a key feature of this month’s meeting, garnering majority support from Councillors. A motion from Tiger Perkins (Grassroots) called on students to support the March 3rd Climate Strike. Perkins condemned Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek’s record on climate action, citing the recent green-lighting of 116 new coal seam gas projects in Queensland’s Surat Basin — the latest in a disturbing trend from Labor.
Councillors also made pleas to the student body to support the NTEU’s strike action on March 9. Yasmine Johnson spoke in support of the motion, claiming that “[University] management have reversed anything they’ve said about Indigenous employment targets.”
Gerard Buttigieg (National Labor Students) supported the strikes vehemently, focusing on the importance of fighting for staff rights.
“I fully support this strike action from the NTEU […] I think it’s shameful that some people here are anti-union,” Buttigieg said.
What exactly is a “progressive” ‘No’ campaign?
In a bizarre move, notably non-Indigenous Councillors James Sherriff and Alev Saracoglu (SLA) brought a motion to oppose the Indigenous Voice to Parliament in favour of a “progressive” ‘No’ campaign, branding the Voice “blackwashing” and “not supported by Indigenous students”.
Sherriff declared that he “oppose[s] the inclusion of First Nations people in a […] colonial constitution.”
Honi is glad to report that there was in fact an Indigenous Councillor in the room to voice dissent to this motion.
First Nations Officer Ben McGrory said that “[community] consultation is not quoting people at rallies,” and actually requires involvement in real decision-making meetings.
“The Voice […] belongs to Aboriginal people.”
Ishbel Dunsmore reminded Councillors that “it is our duty not only as settlers on Gadigal land but also as activists to honour the wishes of Indigenous people.”
The motion faced largely negative reactions, and failed to pass.
Get a Room
Ella Haid (SAlt) and Harrison Brennan (Grassroots) moved a motion to support the NUS Education Office’s “Get a Room” campaign, aimed at easing cost of living pressures and fixing the rental crisis facing young people across Australia.
“This government is not aiding the working class, they’re clearly [aiding the] landlord class,” Brennan said.
In another shining moment, Satvik Sharma (Liberals) spoke on the motion, boldly proclaiming that “there is only one solution to our public housing crisis […] privatise all our social housing”. Needless to say, the incoherent babbles of the Liberal bloc were the only positive reactions to his contribution.
Academic suspensions and attacks on the right to protest
Solidarity with student activists was also a common feature of this month’s meeting, with Councillors hearing two motions concerned with recent attacks on students’ right to protest.
Last month, UNSW Education Officer Cherish Kuehlmann was arrested and charged with aggravated trespass following a cost-of-living rally which saw dozens of protestors occupy the Reserve Bank of Australia building in Martin Place.
Councillors had the chance to hear directly from Kuehlmann, who attended Council as a guest of SAlt, informing the room “[if] my charge is upheld […] it sets a serious precedent”.
Kuehlmann noted the importance of sharing her struggle on social media, claiming that some Councillors had failed to spread the word.
“There has been a massive amount of public support for me,” Kuehlmann claimed.
Councillors enjoyed a brief media opportunity, posing for a photo with signs reading “Free Cherish! Drop the charges!”
Satvik Sharma rose again (sigh), asserting “I’m speaking against this motion, because I do not support the right of someone to intrude on private property.”
Asking “why are we supporting someone who has been stupid?”, Sharma seemed to get his answer in the form of fart noises from the Unity and NLS blocs.
In a similar situation, USyd student activists Deaglan Godwin and Maddie Clarke (both SAlt) recently received notice of academic suspension for protesting ex-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in September of last year. Deaglan and Maddie have been precluded from attending classes for one semester and one year, respectively.
“The fact that someone can receive an academic suspension for protesting is shameful,” Jack Scanlan (NLS) said.
They’re pulling quorum!
Following the bulk of Wednesday’s motions, Labor and Grassroots Councillors shut down the meeting prematurely by pulling quorum — leaving the meeting to ensure a majority of Councillors are not present.
Going forward, Council meetings for April and May will occur on the first Tuesday of the month, rather than the first Wednesday. Honi mourns our 4.30pm Tuesday pitch meetings, as we reshuffle our schedules yet again.
Honi will be attending a sure-to-be-eventful Council meeting in April. Stay tuned for our next write-up, and visit our Twitter and Instagram to catch up on our live coverage.