Students take to the streets on budget day


Photo: NSW Education Action Network/Facebook.

Students took to the streets on May 12, budget day, to call for free education and an end to the fee deregulation bill.

Students from the Education Action Network, a cross campus collective of students, called the rally in response to education minister Christopher Pyne’s promise to bring back fee deregulation.

The bill, which failed two rounds in the Senate, was brought back in the federal budget, after Pyne brashly stated “you couldn’t kill me with an axe” and repeated “I’m a fixer”.

Whether Pyne is indeed a fixer is a question for a broader character assessment. However, fee deregulation in exactly the same form as the last bill will now be put to the Senate once again.

The students called the rally to demand free education for domestic and international students, free academic materials, more substantial funding for research, democratically-run universities, increased welfare for students, no zero hours contracts for university staff and widening the definition of working hours to include preparation time for tutorials.

Speakers at the rally included Queer Officer for the Council of Australian Postgraduate Association Kate Alway, New South Wales National Tertiary Education Union’s Genevieve Kelly and an organiser of the University of Sydney Civil Liberties campaign, Erima Dall. Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon sent a statement to the rally.

In her statement, Rhiannon referred to Pyne’s past two failed attempts to push through fee deregulation. She said: “He has pleaded with cross benchers, scoffing at those who don’t support his proposals. He has spent an almost $15 million of taxpayer money on advertising for the campaign. He has played up the desires of the G8, and played down the needs of students, academics and other universities. He has used 1700 research jobs as bargaining chips, and he has tried to shepherd through deregulation by announcing a reduction in the funding cuts originally proposed.”

She also said that an equitable future for Australia must be one that includes free education. “We want to see fair, tuition-free education introduced in this country, in a way that does not foreclose on the job security of academic staff, or the quality of teaching.”

The Education Action Network will be rallying again at Sydney Town Hall in two weeks to continue the fight against fee deregulation and demand free education.

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