On April 4, students at the University of Sydney will protest against the $50-$100 million development of the United States Studies Centre (USSC), a "think tank" designed to "strengthen the relationship" between Australia and the US.
When the university was selected by the American Australian Association (AAA) to host the centre, PM John Howard and News Corporation head Rupert Murdoch were among those at the ceremony on November 14. Howard boasted about the $25 million that his government had committed to the project and Murdoch, an AAA patron, explained how the centre was initiated to combat "anti-Americanism". This followed a March 2005 Lowy Insitute poll that showed that more than 50% of Australians "regard US foreign policy and Islamic extremism as equally worrying".
"[Australians] must not allow these doubts to fester into an irrational antipathy that sees America as a greater threat to world peace than al Qaeda", Murdoch said. "The centre will conduct research, raise awareness, dispel myths, groom new leaders, and increase ties between the two countries."
The centre, due to open for student enrolments in 2008, will operate entirely under the direction of a board, half the members of which will be appointed by the university and half by the AAA. According to the university's official bid for the centre, the AAA will have veto power over the centre's academic appointments and course content. Leading figures in the AAA have said that if the centre's research is deemed "anti-American", funding will be withdrawn.
Resistance member and University of Sydney student Max Menyhart told Green Left Weekly: "What Murdoch and Howard falsely describe as anti-Americanism is the growing opposition in Australia to the US-led 'war on terror', and the Coalition's and Labor's support for the US-Australia alliance. Many people in the US would agree with us that it's not 'anti-American' to oppose occupations that are killing hundreds of thousands of civilians just so the US can militarily and economically dominate the Middle East."
"It's hypocritical that at the same time as the Australian government cuts public funding to higher education it spends $25 million on what will essentially operate as a propaganda centre for its agenda", Menyhart said. "That does, however, reflect the Howard government's priorities, and its fear that, unless institutions like the USSC combat it, public opposition to the war could force a withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq and weaken the US alliance."
Menyhart added, "The USSC has been set up to promote the strengthening of US imperialism and Australian support for that project ... We are demanding that the university remove the AAA's control over the centre and, unless this can be guaranteed, that the centre be shut down."
Join the protest against the pro-war USSC at 1pm on April 4 outside the Fisher Library at Sydney university. For more information, visit <http://www.ussc.org.au/>.