Austudy 5 speaking tour
MELBOURNE — Tim Anderson and members of the Austudy Five conducted a speaking tour of various universities and other venues between September 7 and 10.
The Austudy Five are members of the International Socialist Organisation who were arrested for their part in last year's Austudy demonstration in Melbourne. Although their actions on that day were no different to those of 3000 other protesters, they are the only ones to have been charged.
The charges relate to the arrest during the demonstration of several students who were placed in the rear of a police van. When other protesters demanded that their comrades be released, the police reluctantly complied.
Two weeks after the demonstration, simultaneous dawn raids involving more than 90 police resulted in the arrest of the five. The charges laid are unlawful assembly, rescue prisoner and obstruction of police. Two of these charges carry terms of imprisonment.
Jill Sparrow, one of the Austudy Five, stated that the arrests were politically motivated; the timing was to intimidate students not to attend the next student demonstration the following day. "We must defend the right to demonstrate, because if police get convictions on this occasion then that sets a precedent for further demonstrations to be shut down by the police."
Sam Biondo from the Fitzroy Legal Service spoke about legislation currently before the Victorian parliament to increase the powers of police. "The extension of police powers represents an intolerable shift in the balance between individuals rights and the power of the state", he said.
Tim Anderson called the case "the most serious political threat this decade". He cited recent victories brought about by ordinary people banding together, namely Mabo, the charging of 10 police in Victoria with the murder of two men in 1988, and the stalling of loans scheme which was due to replace Austudy.
"These five wear the charges for the Victorian Police's embarrassment on that day. The police believe they can scare off people from supporting demonstrations through this type of action. But things like this can be won by broad political action", said Tim.
The trial is likely to be set for late this year or early next year. For more information, contact Defend the Austudy 5 Committee GPO Box 1473N, Melbourne 3001; phone (03) 629 3148.