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Vast Majority Ignore ‘National Day of Action’
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Vast Majority Ignore ‘National Day of Action’

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Vast Majority Ignore ‘National Day of Action’

Rallies protesting fee deregulation and other changes to the tertiary education sector proposed by the federal government were held on Wednesday, as part of the ‘National Day of Action’ hosted by the National Union of Students (NUS). In Sydney, a protest rally was mounted outside Fisher Library at Sydney University, followed by a march toward the University of Technology, Sydney; where a sit-in took place on Broadway.

Representatives from Socialist Alternative, Labor (some adorned in ACTU shirts), TAFE NSW, Solidarity, the NTEU as well as SRC president Kyol Blakeney and several Union Board Directors were present at the rally. Notable absentees however, were the overwhelming majority of students at the University. A generous count of attendees suggested that 150 individuals were present at the rally at Sydney University, Australia’s third largest university by enrolment. At this estimate, 0.3% of students at the University attended the much-publicised protest.

The protest was strategically placed outside Fisher Library to maximise exposure and disturbance to studying students. SRC president, Kyol Blakeney began the proceedings by speaking of how the right to a free education was something he had “always believed in.” He did not however, acknowledge the presence of a Labor contingent after his damning assessment of their party’s “relaxed stance towards the HECS system” in his weekly report, released only one day before the protest.

Following Mr Blakeney were a number speakers from different organisations who noted that, fee deregulation was ‘serving the ruling class’, ‘only in the interest of making money’ and labelled it as the ‘most heinous measure’ imposed on students. Notably, a representative from TAFE NSW encouraged attendees to ‘put the Liberals last’ at Saturday’s state election while also tying this to her concerns about weekend penalty rates being reduced or removed. She neglected to note that this was the result of an accord struck between the South Australian Labor Government and the unions.

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At the event, various flyers, newspapers, petitions, and magazines were spruiked amongst the small crowd, however more poignantly, members of differing extreme-Left collectives were exploiting the occurrence of the protest to actively recruit new members. Mon Droit has obtained a sign-up form of the Socialist Alternative from the protest, despite them not hosting the prtoest rally. A member of Solidarity who was promoting their activities at the rally (whilst openly criticising the unscrupulous methods of Socialist Alternative, when asked) unknowingly approached Mon Droit at the event.

The attitude of the surrounding Sydney students was one of great indifference. Other students sitting out the front of Fisher Library were busy meeting friends or studying and showed little interest in rally. In short, the protest failed to generate the widespread publicity in Sydney that it was aiming to achieve.

Although the turnout was well below what the organisers were expecting, the protesters insisted on disrupting inner-city traffic for their cause even though it would have been possible for them to fit on the footpath. A seemingly endless line of stopped public and private transport stretched all the way up King Street, Newtown as the march continued toward UTS before the protestors eventually sat on the road out the front of that University.

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The protest was peaceful and the police presence seemed largely to placate furious commuters. It is likely that future protests of this nature are expected to be replicated in light of Education Minister, Christopher Pyne’s determination to persist with tertiary education reform; but what remains to be seen is whether a NUS that is running budget deficits can continue to promote protests that are unable to capture the interest of already time-poor students nor mass media.

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