"Books not Bombs"
WORDS BY SANDRA BUOL
It was mid-December last year when the federal government announced a $2.2 billion cut from universities in the form of a two-year freeze on university teaching grants. In the May budget, the government had originally proposed a much higher cut, though this proposal was blocked in the Senate. Considering the fact that grant freezing does not need legislation, the government has found a way around the block. In addition to that, the government also proposed changes to the loan repayment threshold – those however will need Senate approval – both Labor and Greens are currently opposed to those measures.
It was end of January this year when Malcom Turnbull announced his vision for the Australian arm industry in a new defence export strategy. He wants Australia to be in the top 10 of weapon exporters and is willing to establish a $3.8 billion loan scheme for the industry. The government says the push for more exports will be in accordance with current export controls. However, amongst the priority markets for arms exports are also countries in the Middle East.
It was today that students all around Australia demonstrated against the government’s plans. “Books, not Bombs” is what they demanded, linking the two issues. “If Malcolm can afford to give his bomb manufacturing mates a few billion, there’s definitely enough money for free education for all,” they called out the government’s argument of not having enough money for tertiary education.
After several speeches in front of Fisher Library, including words from SRC President Imogen Grant, representatives from NUS and NTEU, and Greens MP David Shoebridge, the students – less than 100 of them – marched to Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence’s office, causing some prying eyes from the many parent’s attending the graduation ceremonies of that day. At the Vice-Chancellor’s door, the students repeated their demands: “No cuts, no fees, no corporate universities.”
However, none of the many chants was appealing enough for Spence to make an appearance.
Remains the question: of the many thousand USYD students who are and will be afflicted by budget cuts, why does only a handful care enough to make some noise?