Outrage as USYD SRC Pledges Money to UTS Student
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Outrage as USYD SRC Pledges Money to UTS Student

Outrage as USYD SRC Pledges Money to UTS Student

The UTS student accused of illegally accessing the student records of PM Tony Abbott’s daughter is to be offered financial and legal support by the Sydney University Student Representative Council (SRC) after a controversial motion was passed at a general meeting on Wednesday evening.

Freya Newman, a 21-year-old student at UTS and former part time librarian at Whitehouse Design, was charged earlier this week after allegedly accessing and then leaking information about a scholarship for Mr Abbott’s daughter. If found guilty, the crime carries a maximum sentence of two years.

“One of the most basic principles of unionism is solidarity”, said Education Officer Ridah Hassan, who moved the motion at the contentious meeting.

Hassan told Mon Droit that “offering financial and other kinds of help to progressive activists, regardless what institution they study at, when they’re facing legal problems, is an important way  that our SRC can express that.”

Despite the fact that Ms Newman is not a student at the University of Sydney, the SRC pledged not just moral support, but financial support.

According to its own Budget, the SRC received over $1.5 million this financial year from the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF).

It is for this reason, amongst others, that the move  has been slammed by SRC Councillor Matt Woolaston.

Mr Woolaston noted that “students would resent their contributions being wasted”. Especially given that most students would find the alleged acts “repugnant, distasteful and unethical”.

Many students have expressed discomfort at the prospect of support (moral, financial or otherwise) being provided on their behalf.

“It’s disgraceful” said BPESS student Tim Mantiri. “It’s as though they don’t even care whether this person is alleged to have committed a crime. It implies that anyone’s confidential information is up for grabs if it suits their political purpose.”

It is alleged that Ms Newman used her position as a librarian at the White House Design Institute to access the confidential files on Frances Abbott.

Sydney University Liberal Club President William Dawes condemned the motion.

“There seems to be a culture developing among extreme left wing students where anything, from violence, pillaging student money, to allegedly breaching privacy and confidence, is justifiable if expedient to their radical agenda.”

Mr Dawes said he was concerned by the move given that the SRC office keeps records of hundreds of academic and mental health cases which students of all political backgrounds have brought to SRC staff in confidence seeking help and guidance.

Mon Droit does not suggest that any confidential student information has been misused at Sydney University and makes no such allegation.

This is not the first time the SRC has come under fire for its liberal use of student money. Earlier this year, Mon Droit exposed significant SRC contributions towards partisan fronts like the Education Action Group ($43,000) and National Union of Students ($90,000).

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