An alliance of progressive students at the Queensland University of Technology has won the student union elections after seven years of Young Liberal National Party control.
With a grassroots campaign, “Reach” secured 58 percent of the vote to the “Epic” Young LNP’s 42 percent. This came in the wake of a Democracy 4 QUT campaign, which overturned a rigged election result earlier in the semester, when Epic prevented opposition tickets from running and won by default.
Student outrage at this attack on democracy created the basis for a united front of independents, Labor students, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and Socialist Alternative to unseat the Young LNP.
This year, Epic’s swag of bread-and-circus policies (like “toga parties” and “puppies and pancakes”), which obscure the political character of the student union, didn’t stand a chance against Reach’s message of a democratic, transparent student union that will fight for students’ rights.
Not surprisingly, this message resonated, given how much students’ rights have suffered under Epic’s watch.
QUT students face the most punitive late submission policy in the country – submitting an assignment just one second past the due time results in an instant fail.
Student support services have been gutted, and first-year international students, who already pay exorbitant fees, are denied access to concession transport fares. The Young LNP also regularly used the union to endorse federal government attacks on higher education.
This election also marks a victory for the left at QUT, with the election of a socialist to the student council for the first time in at least a decade – a position that will be used to argue for an activist-oriented approach to fighting for students’ rights, not just around bread-and-butter issues of education, but also on broader social questions.
The long-anticipated lifting of Epic’s ban on oppositional political clubs will also be a boon for democratic political life on campus.
The victory of the progressive alliance at QUT is an example of what can be achieved when the left works together to oust the right from our student unions.
Now, important work lies ahead to rebuild student unionism and the left at QUT.