The Guardian 28 September, 2005

Liberals intimidate anti-VSU activists

Attempts to enforce Voluntary Student Unionism on Australian Universities have hit an all time low with two students at the University of Sydney being harassed and intimidated by a group of eight pro-VSU campaigners.

Campaigners from the Liberal Party-affiliated "Choice" organisation surrounded Mayuri Anupindi and David Barrow, accusing them of undermining the family unit and of being illegal immigration queue jumpers during the Sydney University student elections.

One of the "Choice" campaigners used his position on the University of Sydney Union Board to have the two men unfairly removed from the election venue.

Mr Anupindi, who is a first year student at the university said, "One minute we were rationally debating VSU and the next minute we were surrounded by yelling men, boat shoes and pointed fingers".

"We were simply taking part in the democratic process of the university; there was no need to jump to homophobic and racist slurring, like they did", Mr Barrow said.

These kinds of tactics are not uncommon from conservatives in student politics. Last December at the annual National Union of Students conference, members of the Liberal Party-controlled faction were constantly escorted from the voting floor for yelling sexist profanities at speakers, acting drunk and disorderly and standing up to chant "ogadabogada" while an Indigenous elder attempted to give a welcome at the beginning of the conference.

"They have a right to their opinion, but we worry that this is an indication of the ideology and behaviour of the federal Liberal Party", Mr Barrow added.

Mayuri Anupindi said, "They were getting riled up because they donít actually win student elections ó they donít take it well".

Meanwhile Federal National Party Senator Barnaby Joyce has declared war on what he sees as Liberal Party "zealotry", warning that he has the backing of the National Party Federal Council to cross the floor and block the VSU changes unless the government allows universities to create "alternative funding mechanisms with comparable levels of funding to existing fees".

"If the government puts the VSU legislation in the current form, the answer is no. I am hoping this time they wonít change it. Then we can cross the floor and now Iíve got a federal resolution to back me."

Education Minister Brendan Nelson has offered the Nationals an olive branch by inserting a sunset clause, allowing for a review of the impact of the legislation on universities.

However, Senator Joyce has rejected the Nelson deal saying, "I donít want to review it in a year. Iím sick of these reviews."

"We need to change the legislation. There are a lot of people in the Liberal Party who are just having a philosophical fight and donít really care about the consequences.

"They just want to have something to rave about at Portiaís [a Restaurant in Canberra]."

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