Labor students' dominance challenged


Simon Cunich, Sydney

For the first time in a number of years, the left activist tickets in the Sydney University student representative council elections, which finished on September 21, posed a serious challenge to Labor students' dominance of the SRC. A coalition of left activist tickets is expected to have a majority on the SRC.

Dan Jones, the presidential candidate for left ticket Student Power came within 37 votes of defeating National Labor Students candidate Angus McFarland.

Student Power is an alliance of groups and individuals who have been involved in campaigns against the Howard government's "voluntary student unionism" (VSU) legislation, and against racism and war. Resistance members ran as candidates for the SRC as part of the Student Power ticket.

"The results reflect the currency of progressive politics among students", Jones told Green Left Weekly. "Our campaign challenged the government's and the university management's profit-driven agenda.

"While we narrowly lost the vote for presidency, the left won a political victory. We got votes, not with opportunistic promises, but by convincing students of our perspective for change."

The Student Power election campaign pointed to the campaign against VSU that placed pressure on Sydney University to provide funding to the SRC in 2007 as an example of the effectiveness of students mobilising against the Howard government's agenda on campus.

Another left ticket, Students Against Racism and War, run by members of Socialist Alternative, fielded its own presidential candidate. The two left-of-Labor presidential candidates received a total 48% of the vote, with president-elect McFarland only receiving 40%.

In the lead up to the election, Resistance members argued for a joint left ticket. ticket. The results show that if the left vote hadn’t been divided, there was a real chance the left could have won.

Both left tickets raised the slogan of "money for education, not for war" — taking a stand against the "war on terror", the occupation of Iraq and against the Howard government's support for Israel's war on Lebanon.

An important issue raised throughout the election by both tickets was the push by the federal government to have universities participate in military research.

Resistance member Max Menyhart, who ran for a position on the SRC, told GLW: "The vote indicates that students are not just concerned about student rights or higher education issues, but want to see their student organisation facilitating activity against the war in Iraq and the racist scapegoating of Muslims that is part of the 'war on terror'.

"The Labor students' campaign was based on promises to provide free course readers and higher youth allowance, but said nothing about how these things could be won. Also absent from their campaign was an approach to rasing political awareness among students or a focus on getting people involved in campaigns to defend education or around issues that student are angry about such as the Iraq war."