Whether you see them as ‘future leaders’ or ‘future has-beens’, student politicians have always been around. In the mid 1970’s, during the Whitlam Era of Australian politics, student activism in this country reached a peak, with student organisations making their voices heard on issues such as the Vietnam War. Since then, many student guilds have slumped in popularity, apathy has taken over from passion, and more and more young people are turning their backs on politics, both on campus and off.
At this university we are blessed with one of the best student guilds in the country. Established in 1913, the UWA Guild of Undergraduates has supported the rights and opinions of its students for nearly 100 years, and I’m not even remotely connected to the guild, so you know that isn’t precious self indulgent wank. In the face of overwhelming indifference to the political process by our generation, it’s pretty amazing that student politics can still generate such a frenzy on campus – with guild elections approaching towards the end of this semester, social media has been a buzz with debates of ‘food freedom’ and ‘electoral equality’. This sort of thing fills me with pride, because no matter which side people fall on, the fact they’re taking the time to debate the issues shows me they really care.
Recently, student politics, and more specifically, student politicians, have come under fire in other UWA student publications. I hate to name names, so I won’t, but a certain large beaked bird comes to mind. ‘Extroverted hack no-nothings’ cried the editor after attending the UWA Mock Parliament, ‘current wannabes and future has-beens’ he proclaimed, with such audacity and authority from atop his ivory tower. I’m sure his clouded judgement had nothing to do with the fact he arrived at the event swigging from a bottle in a brown paper bag. Nonetheless, his comments to most, were water off a duck’s back, until his tirade turned nasty. ‘I realised a mass execution of student politicians may be a great altruistic dead.’ And with that, things got personal. These comments come after the massacre of 76 members of Norway’s Young Labour Party on Utoya Island. He then continued his tirade on social media: ‘don’t write editorials when you are angry/depressed and rant about your violent hatred to student politicians – jokingly alluding to acts of violence – especially when some bastard on the other side of the world decides to take a similar idea to the horrific extreme. CAN’T WAIT FOR THE HATE.’ However instead of taking the chance to apologise, he said (in relation to his initial comments) ‘I’m not sure I was joking…’
Student politicians are the leaders of our future, former Guild Presidents include Kim Beazley, former deputy Prime Minister and current Australian Ambassador to the United States; Jim McGinty, former Western Australian Attorney General and member for Fremantle and Bob Hawke, former Australian Prime Minister. They can take it as well as they give it, and often yes, they’re full of rhetoric and hot air, but nothing justifies the unduly harsh criticism they often receive. These formative years in university form the foundation for long careers of public service, and their passion and commitment to change often goes without recognition on campus. So perhaps when you next feel like declaring the mass execution of dozens of student politicians an ‘altruistic’ act, think twice and appreciate the contributions that student politicians currently make to society, for example, giving up hours of their free time to sit through endless Guild Council or committee meetings, without expecting anything in return, and acting to serve students and students only. Oh, and sober up.
I hope you enjoy this issue of State magazine, where you can read about former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s relationship with ANZUS written by Jack Nitschke, and Francis Cardell-Oliver looks into The Australian newspaper and the role it plays in today’s political discourse. We also look into pornography, the National Schools Chaplaincy Program, political donations and our last word is on the war in Afghanistan. Finally, we have our feature article with unrivalled coverage of the 2011 UWA Mock Parliament, with its student politicians in all their glory.
UWA Politics Club