South Australian students protest
against higher education attacks
by Bob Briton Students gathered at the Light's Vision in North Adelaide last Saturday to protest against the damage that will be caused to the South Australian higher education sector if Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson succeeds in pushing through his "reforms". The Public Education Rally was organised by the South Australian Public Education Alliance and MC'ed by former state Australian Education Union and United Trades and Labor Council President, Clare McCarty. In her opening comments she commended the students for their support of the recent 24-hour strike by university staff. Lecturer and National Tertiary Education Union branch President Rod Crewther praised the students for their public-spirited support of the universities, their merit-based system for places and the resistance they have shown to turning higher education into a moneymaking rort with paying customers. He also highlighted the assault being made on the independence of the country's universities. In reference to the legislation that currently threatens Australia's universities he added "I have never seen an Act with so many references to what the Minister could do. Our professor Dr Brendan Nelson, vice-chancellor and one person academic board for the universities of the whole of Australia, wants to be the guardian of course content and research output and the CEO as well, in industrial matters, by act of parliament." The students then moved their protest to the steps of the State Parliament where several other speakers addressed them. Adelaide University Students' Association President Sarah Hanson- Young summed up the message of the Public Education Rally: "These reforms should concern everyone. They will affect the way South Australians access higher education, changing it into an elitist club for the rich. High school students, their families, community groups all need to stand up and say, 'We will not accept this attack!' "The threats this package pose to South Australia are real and everyone involved is committed to working together to fight the Howard Government all the way." A Senate Committee reporting on the Government's higher education legislation has rejected it as being beyond amendment.