Heard this one before? An education minister walks into a University campus…
Ground level at tertiary institutions isn’t exactly a home ground for conservative politicians, particularly ones who are charged with the portfolio that looks after them.
So when current education minister Senator Simon Birmingham made a quick stop at the University of Sydney last night, things got ugly in a big hurry.
Birmingham was on campus to adjudicate a round of the Sydney University Liberal Club‘s highly coveted John Howard Debating Cup. And if you think that sounds familiar, you’d be right. Back in 2014 then-education minister Christopher Pyne had to be smuggled into the building to avoid clashing with angry students protesting the Liberal Government‘s proposed deregulation of university fees. Pyne was visiting USYD to adjudicate the very same event Birmingham attended last night.
And in a textbook case of “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” students and police clashed once again.
The Turnbull Government is maintaining the former Abbott regime’s plan to lift regulations on uni fees, which would leave institutions free to set their own price points.
A group of students representing the Sydney Representative Council Education Action Group stormed the room that Birmingham was in, chanting in protest before police with riot gear arrived to force them out.
The ensuing clash pushed the student group out of the Fisher Library, severely damaging one of the library’s electronic security gates in the process.
— Naaman Zhou (@naamanzhou) April 6, 2016
Footage captured from the scuffle shows police physically manhandling and pinning down protesting students.
USYD’s student newspaper Honi Soit reports that around thirty students were involved in the clash, and that several have been traumatised by the police response to the otherwise peaceful protest.
Liam Carrigan, the SRC’s education officer and organiser of the protest, stated that the event was a direct response to the Turnbull Government bringing the wildly unpopular fee deregulation proposal back onto the table.
“It is despicable that Birmingham thinks he can step onto campus after the announcement that the government’s higher education policy remains to be deregulating fees, a move that will lock lower SES students out of education and destroy accessible education in Australia.”
“It is important that the student movement remains militant in opposing these politicians on campus.”
Birmingham has yet to comment on the commotion, however he did tweet late yesterday evening indicating that the planned debate was completed as scheduled.
— Simon Birmingham (@Birmo) April 6, 2016
Uni Fee Deregulation is expected to feature once again in this year’s Federal Budget, which the Turnbull Government is scheduled to hand down on May 3rd.
Source: Honi Soit.