As the academic year begins, the Sydney University Student Representative Council (SRC) is under attack from the Liberals. The SRC is the student union on campus at Sydney University.
While a Labor Left student is the 2011 SRC’s president, Liberals and sympathisers, led by the General Secretary Chad Sidler, control the Executive, Council and many of the officer positions.
In the past Liberals have consistently sought to destroy student unionism and activism. They campaigned actively for Howard’s Voluntary Student Unionism. This year will be no exception.
In an attempt to solidify their control, late last year the Liberals created ten new bureaucratic positions in the SRC, filling all of them with handpicked representatives from the right.
The Liberals’ most recent attack is against the Anti-Racism Collective. After initially denying the Anti-Racism Collective a campaign stall at orientation week, the Liberals have given the collective a shamefully tokenistic $15 funding. Other groups in the SRC have received over $250. Only one person is allowed to work on the stall at any given time.
Instead of funding campaigns against racism, the Liberals have decided to fund a celebration of “Harmony Day” in March, an initiative of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Needless to say, the Department presides over the very unharmonious detention of 7000 refugees across Australia. The day is a whitewash designed to obscure the existence of racism.
The Women’s Collective has come under attack too. Its annual handbook Growing Strong is usually available for orientation week but it won’t appear any time in first semester.
We need not look far for an explanation. The Anti-Racism Collective is a key group campaigning against the racist Northern Territory Intervention and for refugee rights.
The Women’s Collective defends women’s rights to equal pay and access to abortion. The Liberals are committed to ripping funding away from these and other progressive causes.
This is only a taste of what’s to come. Both the Macquarie and Melbourne Uni student unions were driven into bankruptcy under Liberal control.
So far Labor Left students have preferred a strategy of trying to tinker policy the Liberals attempt to push through.
Their strategy is to reach modest compromises until student elections later this year. But this strategy saw the Labor students themselves move to cut the Women’s Collective handbook.
We can’t wait another six months to take the fight to the Liberals. These initial attacks are part of their strategy to chip away at the resources of student activists and take left-wing politics out of the SRC.
In the last federal election, Labor leader Julia Gillard attempted to match the Liberals’ refugee bashing by sliding to the right herself. By doing so, she only gave Abbott a boost.
We need to build up a network of students on campus who are ready to respond to each attack by the Liberals. Only a political fight can crush their influence and ensure the SRC’s future.