By Emma Stallard
and Arun Pradhan
PERTH — Students on Curtin University were recently treated to two very different meetings on educational issues. The first, on April 12, was organised by the Curtin Guild and featured minister for finance Kim Beazley. The second, the following day, was a "No Fees Campaign Meeting" organised by Curtin students.
The Beazley meeting was marked by paranoia. Organisers changed the meeting to an inside venue at the last minute. On the demand of Beazley's office and the guild, campus security searched bags of the 150 students attending and stopped people from bringing in placards which demanded increased education funding and no fees for degrees.
In a lengthy talk, Beazley said that the ALP "was passionate about equality" and had no policy to introduce up-front fees for undergraduate courses. In the same breath, he claimed that Australia had overemphasised tertiary education and that current expenditure was higher than in most OECD countries.
During question time, it was clear that most students were unconvinced. A woman with three children asked how she could possibly afford up-front fees for postgraduate studies. Another pointed out that there will be fewer women lecturers because postgraduate studies are needed for these positions. A student also asked how we can trust the ALP after it lied about the implementation of HECS and the level of Austudy. Beazley was unable to answer these questions satisfactorily, and the meeting ended with the guild president (from the same ALP faction as Beazley) presenting him with cufflinks.
Fifty people attended the second meeting, which addressed many of Beazley's claims. Anne O'Callaghan from the Curtin Resistance Club chaired the meeting and described the cynical way in which fees were being introduced. "By increasing university places and cutting funding, the ALP is effectively bringing in up-front fees", she told the meeting.
John McGuire, associate professor in social sciences, described this new attack as another step in the progression to full up-front fees which began with the implementation of a $250 higher education administration charge in 1986. He urged students to become active, saying that academics are fully in support.
The second speaker, Arun Pradhan from Resistance, proposed the formation of a No-Fees Committee to involve a broad range of students in building the campaign. This received overwhelming support from students present and formalised the fact that a wide variety of people were already involved.
In discussion students questioned the role of the guild, after some of its members had suppressed publicity building the campaign meeting and had declined offers to speak. The one guild member present promised that the guild would begin to help with publicity and pay for buses to the May 3 National Day of Action.
The No-Fees Committee has organised a series of stalls and banner painting sessions before May 3. Students wanting to get involved can contact Arun on (09) 227 7367 or Sally on (09) 448 0209.