Last Monday night, activists staged a protest on Q&A against Education Minister Chris Pyne and his plans for the tertiary education system. For the most part, we’ve had an extremely positive response, but there’s also been a lot of tut-tutting and hand wringing from those who think we hijacked a democratic forum, and did more harm than
help to our cause.
Contrary to what Tony Jones thinks, there’s nothing democratic about the mind-numbing conservative consensus that marks QandA.
Week after week, the ABC carts out the most right wing panellists it can find, allows a few people to ask pre-approved questions, lets the panellists retort their pre-written answers and passes it off as, in the words of Executive Producer Peter McEvoy, a “free exchange of ideas”.
Our disruption of a tightly controlled TV show was the opposite of ‘undemocratic’. Democracy should mean that in a debate about higher education, students and staff who are directly affected and with the most to lose actually have their opinions conveyed.
The set up of the show purports to offer reasoned and rational discussion, but you can’t reason with people like Christopher Pyne. He is a born-to-rule Tory and has no interest in the opinions and struggles of students or anyone that’s not a rich bastard just like him. He rules for the 1%, and no argument, however articulate or measured, will change that.
None of the political parties represent the voice of students. In any case, we want to speak for ourselves. We want to take on politicians directly and on our own terms. That means putting forward arguments, raising our voices, speaking out of turn, calling out politicians on their lies, and yes, even chanting and using banners.
The political establishment and its official channels and processes aren’t there for us to use, but for people like Christopher Pyne. Students don’t get their speeches broadcast on TV or on the radio, we don’t have mates who run the newspapers. The response we’ve received to our protest confirms our view that sometimes the only way to be heard is to disrupt business as usual and refuse to be silent in the face of stifling conservatism.
We have reached a critical moment. Higher education is facing the biggest attacks in decades. In the upcoming budget, students can expect to see fee increases, the undermining of student welfare and the full or partial deregulation of the higher education system.
There is every reason for students to be pissed off. We don’t want to be polite, we don’t want to be respectful, or courteous, or measured. We are angry about the government destroying our education system and our lives,
and we are going to say so.
So we disrupted Q&A, and in a week we’ll disrupt the country on May 21st in the National Union of Students national day of action for education!
Sydney Uni students are meeting at Fisher Library at 1.30pm. Be there!