Students answer education ministers



HOBART — Tasmanian education minister Paula Wriedt and federal education minister Brendan Nelson have publicly chastised secondary students planning to join the March 5 national student strike against the war on Iraq. Student organisers have defended their right to protest directly to the ministers.

Nelson said that it was compulsory for students under the age of 16 years to be in class and that to attend the strike would be "breaking the law". Wriedt said she could not condone students missing classes and asked protest organisers to reschedule the demonstration to after school hours.

Hobart College student Duncan Meerding, a member of the Youth and Student Coalition Against War which is organising the March 5 strike, said in a media statement: "Brendan Nelson is being very hypocritical to lecture students about laws when his cabinet is going to break one of the biggest international laws ever." Meerding was referring to the judgement issued by 43 prominent lawyers that any unprovoked military attack on Iraq, even one endorsed by the UN Security Council, would be a violation of the United Nations charter.

"We see that the young people in Iraq who die from this attack will miss out on a life time of education, which is far more than the day or half-day of school that Australian students will miss by participating in this strike", Meerding said.

Meerding told Green Left Weekly that he has attempted to phone Nelson but, as of March 1, the minister has been "unavailable". The March 5 protest organisers have arranged for a deputation of student anti-war activists to meet with Wriedt on March 3. They plan to put the case that their protest action is reasonable and deserves the support of the state Labor government.

"The consequences of war are far more serious than missing a bit of school", Meerding told GLW. "It would be good if the state government would follow the lead of the ACT parliament and pass a resolution against war instead of treating secondary students as if we are unable to voice an opinion for ourselves.""

From Green Left Weekly, March 5, 2003.
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