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.


Solidarity meetings

Latest articles

Read more

Sydney Uni shut down again in fourth strike day

Staff at the University of Sydney have taken their fourth day of strike action since May this year against an aggressive and hostile university management.

Right-Wing victory in Sydney Uni student elections—build the fightback

Liberal-backed right-wing factions dominated this year’s student elections at the University of Sydney. The left-wing fightback has to start now.

Sydney Uni: five strikes in, staff show they can win

Staff at Sydney University from the NTEU and CPSU held their fifth successful day of strike action this year on 5 June as they...


  1. Hi.

    It was actually a coalition between the Labor Left and the SDA-alligned hard-right faction of the Labor Right that won the Melbourne Uni Student Union elections. Hardly a shift to the left.


  2. Hey Jimmy and Rafi, just FYI, we don’t generally accept anonymous comments, so please leave your first name in future! We don’t want discussion to go through to the spam filter.

    Jimmy – I thought all socialists would prefer a Labor-run student guild to a Liberal one? Or do you subscribe to the idea that rank-and-file members of the Labor and Liberal party are exactly the same? Their parliamentary representatives can be just as bad as the Liberals, but their base isn’t – a cursory look at where their votes come from ought to show you that. Considering there is a huge disquiet in the Labor party rank-and-file over offshore processing, it seems pretty straightforward that these people are much more the allies of the left than the Libs/independent right on campus. The national Young Labor motion against offshore processing and mandatory detention was supported by half the right, while the Liberals on campus try to shut down any campaigning about refugees. But think it’s obvious that nobody in Solidarity supports the social conservatism or the pale imitation of unionism that is the SDA-led right, and are for pushing, wherever we have some influence, for the Labor left to run with the rest of the left, not with the right.

    Rafi – will leave it to a USyd student to respond in more detail if necessary, but space prevented this from being a full analysis of every dodgy deal in the USyd elections (of which there were far too many)! But think it’s clear Solidarity opposes Labor rights deal with the Mack ticket and was always for a maximum alliance/bloc of the left, and argued with Labor Left to run with the left, not Labor right. I think this would also be the position of others on the Left Action ticket. But overall the point is the vote was largely to the left, and that puts the whole left in a good position to build campaigns on campus in the year to come.


  3. Get macked has nothing to do with me.. I did not contest these elections nor support anyone.

    As a paid office bearer of the Src I did not think it was appropriate to partake in elections while being paid..

  4. Hi Amy,

    Don’t know how you got the bizarre idea that I was arguing for a Liberal vote in my last post. I was just responding to the incorrect claim that “The Labor Left …retook the Melbourne University student union from the right.”

    The Labor Left were in office this year, so no such shift to the left took place. The campus Labor Left chose to run with the SDA-alligned right, whose members would have been part of the half of the Labor Right that did not support the national motion to end offshore processing and mandatory detention, following the split in the Victorian Right. Which means that while the Labor Left will still be in office next year, they will be running the student union as part of an objectively more right-wing ticket than this year’s.

    Obviously it’s positive that the Liberals have been kept out, but the Labor Left were able to get away with forming a ticket with the SDA precisely because they made no effort whatsoever to differentiate themselves from the Liberal-aligned ‘Unite’ ticket on any political basis.


  5. Hi Jimmy

    I was not saying you were “arguing for a Liberal vote” – just that in your original posts, you did not seem to agree that socialists would prefer a Labor-run SRC to a Liberal one. I’m glad that’s not your position.

    As you say, there is a small error in the article – the Labor retained the Melbourne Uni Student Union rather than taking it from the right, as the article says. That was a mistake made by the editor and I will put a correction on the article.

    The 2011 President at Melbourne Uni was a Labor right president, whereas in 2012 it will be a Labor Left president. That is a welcome development. 

    In 2010, all of Labor Left ran with all of Labor right, whereas in 2011, all of Labor left ran with some of Labor right. 

    In terms of allegiances, this is not a shift to the right. It is more the status quo. 

    But the best judgement of that will be the facts on the ground – what the Student Union does in 2012.

    That is the overall point of the article – the best strategy to keep the right out is building up the left on campus and challenging them politically.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here