Left and right battle in student elections

After a year fighting Liberal attacks on left wing campaigning, the left gained the majority vote in Sydney University’s SRC elections in September. Labor Left won president and the council is now dominated by Labor, Greens and the left.

The Labor Left also retook the Melbourne University student union from the right. But there is a bleaker picture in Queensland, where the Liberals won again at the University of Queensland and for the first time at the Queensland University of Technology.

There were fears of a similar takeover at Sydney University by an “independent” ticket, “Voice”, claiming to be beyond “partisan bickering”—though it was stacked with Liberals!

But the concerted effort of the activist left helped defeat the right. When, at the start of the year, Liberal students denied funding for the Anti-Racism Collective (ARC), we organised a speak out on the university’s front lawns. When Liberal student Chad Sidler kicked out both ARC and the Climate Action Collective from the SRC and wrote that these collectives were “extremists… who for years had leeched off student organisations”, alongside comments that refugees are “illegal”, we responded with a petition and campus forum. By the time of the elections, Liberal had become a dirty word and Chad Sidler was “unrunnable”.

Unfortunately, while condemning the Liberals behind close doors, Labor did not take up the attacks, both during the year and the election period. The Greens ticket acted upon their disappointment with Labor by giving their preferences to the right, nearly helping them over the line.

It was students from the “Left Action” ticket who took on the Liberals in the elections, exposing them in lecture bashes, on stalls and in the scrum at the election day polls. Left Action won a respectable vote for our stance against the Liberals, against cuts on campus and campaigning for refugee rights and investment in renewables.

A united left ticket could have made the election even more successful. But regardless, the whole left can take sustenance from the results.

It puts us in good stead for rebuilding the left and political activity on campus in the year to come.

CORRECTION: The article says that the “the Labor Left also retook the Melbourne University student union from the right.” Labor Left has taken over the Presidency, but a coalition of Labor Left and some of Labor right took many of the representative seats on the Student Union. Overall the Student Union will have a similar make-up to last year.


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