The Guardian November 12, 2003


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.

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