Politics

A Terrifying And Embarrassing Snapshot Of Student Politics In 2017

We regret to inform you that student politics is still terrible.

Last night was the University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council’s annual Reps Elect — an event you might remember from 2015 when the police were called, fuseboxes were tampered with, and the whole thing ended in tears while trending on Twitter.

By 2015 standards, last night’s event was pretty tame. There were no police or fusebox issues; just yelling, screaming, crying, disruptive piano-playing and general chaos that required the Returning Officer to repeatedly blow a piercing whistle to get the room’s attention.

In other words, it was tame only by the standards of people whose standards have been seriously eroded by years of exposure to this stuff. As we pointed out last time we covered this, these kids are likely our future politicians. Abbott and Turnbull, for example, are amongst the hordes of current political menaces who cut their teeth in USyd student politics.

Here’s a whirlwind tour of what went down last night, which will be fun to revisit in a few years when these kids grow up and enter real politics (that is, if they aren’t already working as staffers).

Young Liberals: Exactly Like Regular Liberals Except They Still Have Hair

To begin with, there’s the Young Liberals, who seem to have responded to being universally hated in student politics by doing more to cement that reputation. Last night, that involved doing things like voting against a motion to take a photo in solidarity with asylum seekers on Manus Island.

One of the Young Libs also used part of his precious one minute speaking time to proclaim his love for Cornettos, joining his colleagues in opposition to the union boycott of ice-cream manufacturer Streets. The reaction to that one was so aggressive that the Returning Officer produced a whistle and had to blow it repeatedly to get people to settle down.

Here’s a video of that (the applause is all for the whistle, which is making the first of many appearances for the night).

On The Topic Of Whistles…

Let’s take a sec to consider how cooked it is that it’s routine for the person running this meeting to bring a whistle to keep people in line. Here it is in use again, after a few people break into a chant to disrupt another speaker:

It’s pretty uncommon at these events for someone to make it all the way through a speech without someone heckling, chanting, banging a table, or, in the case of last night, loudly playing a piano just outside the room.

These disruption tactics aren’t harmless, either — last night several people with disabilities had to leave the room because the volume of noise and aggression was becoming dangerous. One person reportedly had five seizures.

The Petty Behaviour Doesn’t End There

The loudest stuff isn’t even the end of it. Check out this sign, for example, which was held up during some speeches. It’s genuinely laminated. Imagine thinking this was a good idea for long enough that you had time to find a laminator in 2017.

The general level of disrespect was high enough that the Returning Officer stopped the meeting and stormed out at one point. They also had to kick people out, but people generally did not respect her orders to actually leave, and instead stood just outside the doors and continued to heckle, or play piano.

Anyway, that’s all the 2017 student politics you need to see to get a sense that it’s still pretty terrible. I’d worry about our future leaders, but my plate’s pretty full worrying about the current ones.

Sam Langford is Junkee’s Staff Writer. She tweets at @_slangers.