Thanks for your concern, but students know how to protest

May 30, 2014
Annabel Crabb in her 1950s style housewife persona.

Memo to concern trolls Annabel Crabb and Howard-era minister Amanda Vanstone: take your own advice and stop being selfish thugs and bullies. And if Fairfax journalist Crabb is going to criticise student protests for being “outdated”, she should drop the 1950s style housewife persona.

In a May 23 Sydney Morning Herald article, Crabb said she was “concerned” that thousands of students taking part in a recent national day of action against increased university fees were going about things the wrong way. Take notice students of Australia. Activism, you’re doing it wrong.

She even went so far as to point out this marvellous invention called “the internet” to the amazement of students far and wide. Surely no one under 30 has ever thought to use the internet as a tool for activism before.

But as if that wasn’t condescending or insulting enough, Crabb proceeded to tell a bunch of left-wing student activists that if they wanted a great example of how to do activism, we need look no further than our very own Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who ran some successful pro-Margaret Thatcher demonstrations on campus back in the day.

Someone pass the bucket.

As for Vanstone, students will be passing her advice to “stop being selfish thugs and bullies” along to the current Coalition government. This government is comprised of ministers who received their university education for free, and are where they are today thanks to that free tertiary education.

But this generation of students are accused of being selfish when they want to protest the fact that getting rid of the cap on university fees will more than double the fees for some courses.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s daughter received a $60,000 scholarship and a job with no description. That’s definitely not selfish, because according to Vanstone, the selfish thugs and bullies are the working-class kids who want affordable education and access to welfare while they look for work.

Undoubtedly, it is the power of these recent student protests and the rising popularity among students to heckle any Coalition minister who dares to step foot on their campus that drives them to voice their fake concern and the conservatives to constantly pronounce student activism dead.

Students have faced similar media accusations over their protest actions in the past. During nationwide protests against Pauline Hanson and her racist One Nation party in 1998, the corporate media viciously attacked student activists, calling high school students “brainwashed” and “manipulated and ill-informed kids”.

Green Left Weekly reported from an August, 1998, rally in Queensland: “The square was swamped by media, but the coverage was not all positive. Students were angry with journalists who tried to paint the protesters as dupes manipulated by communists.”

It is not new that students and young people face derision and contempt from the mainstream media, which never genuinely challenges the right-wing trajectory of consecutive federal governments.

But student activism is indeed alive and well. If anything, it is back with a vengeance in light of the proposed federal budget. In fact, student activism never died in this country, but its legacy was passed on among the left, ready now to be shared with students disgusted with this budget.

Students publicly protesting this budget on the streets and on their campuses are the only solution to countering this attack from the Coalition government.

As for journalists targeting students for lack of anything else to write about, the best way to counter this is for students to write about their experiences in independent media like GLW or call up journalists in mainstream media and demand a right of reply. We need our voices to be heard.

As the old adage goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, so let’s continue to hold our “Soviet-era” anti-budget protests, and let’s continue to protest like it’s 1969 because it was successful then and it will be successful now.

[Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance will be taking part in student contingents at upcoming union initiated rallies across the country: Adelaide, June 4 at 1.30pm Royal Adelaide Hospital; Sydney, June 5 at 12.30pm Parramatta Town Hall; and Melbourne, June 12 at 10.30am Victorian Trades Hall. For more information, like Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance on Facebook.]

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