BY SARAH CLEARY
HOBART — With campaigning for student union elections gearing up at the University of Tasmania, activists from the Socialist Alliance are calling for a referendum to establish the position of international solidarity officer.
Shua Garfield, the Socialist Alliance's candidate for president in the elections, told Green Left Weekly, "It's important for student unions to support the struggles of people overseas."
He pointed to the example of the July Students and Sustainability conference, held in Newcastle, which was attended by students from Papua New Guinea.
Only days before, "their fellow students in PNG had been murdered by their government for protesting the unjust policies of the World Bank", Garfield related, "and Alexander Downer, Australia's foreign minister, refused to condemn the killings and leant his support to the PNG government."
The conference passed a motion condemning the Australian government for its stance and expressing solidarity with the PNG students for their courageous actions.
"It was particularly important that the conference passed this motion", Garfield stated, "and recognised that the struggle of students here against neo-liberal globalisation and the push to privatise essential public services such as our education is part of the worldwide struggle for global justice."
Creating an international solidarity officer would be a positive step, the alliance believes, as it would aid in facilitating and organising solidarity campaigns and actions.
"Currently our government is so complicit in actively aiding governments which commit human rights abuses", said Garfield, pointing to the stance taken on PNG, government support for the economic blockade of Iraq and Australian military training of Indonesian soldiers.
"It's essential that as students we stand against this and tell our government that it's not OK to support regimes which murder people who want nothing more than justice and democracy."
To sign the petition for a referendum to be held for the creation of an international solidarity officer, or to help out with the Socialist Alliance election campaign at the University of Tasmania, call Shua on 6234 6397.