Cormac Power – Do you wanna start by just kinda, for everyone listening out there, give us your name, the party and position you’re running for and what you study
Nick Brown – Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So my name’s ah Nick Brown um I’m running with Left Action this year. Um, and have for a few years now, um and I’m running for the position of Gen Sec which used to be Treasurer
CP – Yeah that new position they’ve created
NB – Yeah
CP – And just for clarity, a question we’ve been asking everyone, are you a member, or have you been a member of any political party?
NB – Yeah, yes, I’m a proud member of Socialist Alternative
CP – Socialist Alternative, cool cool cool
NB – Yep
CP – Let’s just kind of just start by getting an idea of what brought you to running for Guild, what your involvement has been over the years, what brought you to this position, why did you involve yourself with the Guild?
NB – Okay, yeah, yeah, well I mean the guess the first thing that brought me um into ah Guild Politics I guess if you will was ah really seeing um that there is an onslaught of both the Government and the University Administration to really transform our universities into degree factories. Um, you know, massive cuts to education funding, ah restructures to our courses, things like that, um and yeah I guess that like I got involved in a few of those protests organised by the National Union of students and some of campus, when I started a few years ago at uni at 2014 I think it was, and yeah, I guess, sorta seeing the fact that the Guild wasn’t doing a whole lot about um trying to build some sort of serious campaign against these attacks led me to sorta thing well you know we need to try and build some sort of activist left wing alternative ah on the ground
CP – Had you looked at kind of STAR, and other, obviously…
NB – Not really, I don’t think so, um, like, I’d never been involved or heard about STAR or Launch when I first um got onto campus, like it was sort of more of a thing I found out when you actually ran in the elections or was involved in the elections a few years ago, but um yeah ah you know
CP – Right, so when you run in those elections, were you then elected onto Guild Council?
NB – I was, for, for a year yeah
CP – How’d you find that? What was that experience like? Did that kind of, what, I guess, what understanding has that given you?
NB – Well it’s given me quite a lot of understanding actually, I think it’s pretty revealing about the way in which the Guild operates in a sense. So I was the only Left Action candidate on the council um and ah did what you know you knew we were going to try to do, keep the bastards honest you know, Star particularly make all these promises to try to care about students and you know fight against or oppose at least education cuts and things like that um yeah what I found in practice um when I was on council was that they kinda did quite the opposite really. SO I was on Council right around the time they were cutting over 300 staff, so there was as whole series of consultations and things like that, I was in a meeting with Council with the Vice Chancellor and ah none of them really wanted to criticise or sort of you know irk the waters with with the sort of you know the university administration. Um and you know by the end of that whole sort of saga they ended up sort of selling the cuts to students, saying we just sort of have to accept it, um, yeah, so when I was on council as well like, I mean like, I, I, had um, I got banned from sitting in camera, um, before which is ridiculous to me.
CP – What did you do to warrant that?
NB – I mean like I was sort of criticising the sort of generally way in which the Guild was treating um their staff primarily in terms of the trying to casualise a lot of the staff um ah and what not and so ah my sort of public position around the Guild Financial position were criticised and ah er but like basically they ridiculously moved the motion to ban me from in camera um so that like which is totally unconstitutional as well um as far as I’m concerned um but that gives you an idea of sort of like I don’t know like how they operate in a way like
CP – So I guess your experience and where that sort of yeah sort of placed you within the context of the Guild
NB – Yeah, yeah, and I think it really reinforced the fact that like you know these politicians come out of the woodwork once every year and talk to students and are like we’re your best friends, we’re promising all these things, but when it comes to what they do actually throughout the year, it’s just the same old same old shit really um er and you know running a Guild that just really ends up almost being an appendage of the university you know like
CP – I guess like on those sort of specific coming back these sort of policies that you see as the same, getting into policy specifically, um, like is, why did you choose, you mentioned the Financial Position of the Guild, relationship to the university, why did you choose Gen Sec as the position you want to run for? What sort of put you towards that? What sort of policies do you want to see changed there? Or is it just the general kind of ah what we’ve heard from other Left Action candidates about wanting to be an activist on Guild?
NB – That’s generally the thing, yeah. Ultimately, we’re pretty clear about this, we um, I thought Jade put it well in the debate actually if you were there
CP – I was indeed
NB – Yeah cool. Where she basically said, short of like dismantling this almost two party sustem, you know, we don’t have the same sort of vast private school networks and you know friendship groups that the ah the other two tickets have um ah so we’re explicitly like a smaller group who wants to get um one hopefully two councillors um ah onto Guild um so as to use that as a platform to um push I think more activist strategy for the Guild which we’ve had some successes with throughout the years I think and I think just the general fact that the elections now much more um based around the question of education rights and things like that as compared to what it was when I first started which was ah you know, who wants to get Nandos and Subway on campus of whatever um ah you know ah um like that’s an achievement in a way.
CP – So you guys think you sort of shaped that discourse more towards?
NB – Shifted the [inaudible] yeah yeah I think so, which is an important thing because I think that’s what the Guild should actually be bloody doing. Yeah so I guess my position is that you know we wanna run a full ticket and and and what not but again we don’t see us taking out the whole Guild and probably the Office Bearer Positions
CP – So if you did find yourself on Guild, as you said, you don’t expect that, but if you did somehow find yourself on Guild as Gen Sec, what’s a Left Action policy on on food and drink look like you know? I think that’s something that people don’t know and would be kind of interested to hear
NB – Yeah, yeah, 100 percent. Like um, well we moved, I mean I guess the starting point, we moved a motion God so on Food and Drinks a little while ago, I think Emma Norton when she was on Council moved a motion to introduce $4 meals which was then watered down to $5 meals and it was introduced for a year and then it suddenly disappeared. But um essentially yeah like you know I don’t think catering is necessarily the primary role of the Guild but I think importantly, this is a multi-million dollar organisation and it has the capacity to provide really cheap food and drinks for students of whom are you know more and more becoming under the pump with cuts to welfare under the pump um ah cuts to wages with like penalty rate cuts and things like that um you know like I saw some stat the other day like ah man I can’t remember the stat exactly but basically a large proportion of university students are just couch surfing and homeless
CP – I read a similar report, an increasing number are living in poverty basically
NB – Yeah, yeah, and the Guild has to deal with that, not just provide these fancy you know food options for their rich mates which is like exactly what bloody Quobba Gnarning is in a way you know like um where like the food is just like ridiculously expensive
CP – So what I’m hearing is essentially even on these issues of food and drink with people might assume are apolitical, I mean you see a kind of a direct link between ah food and drink and campus culture and things like that and broader political issues?
NB – In a way yeah. And again, it’s not the primary goal of of student guild, I’d say a lot of its resources should be going to things like just building the basic campaigns that we need and spending money on material and publicising the sort of attacks on students and trying to engage students in some sort of fight back which really wouldn’t cost that much money to be honest to print a few things off at least um ah but I think that should be the I guess you can say financial priority of the Guild
CP – Yeah absolutely. And I guess kinda by way of transitioning now, obviously then you’re aligned a bit closer to Star than you are to Launch, but I doubt you would necessarily define yourself as anyone who would want to be in any sort of coalition with Star?
NB – Yeah I mean I just think it’s becoming well I think particularly in this election the the um the vibe between us and Star is kinda stark in a way particularly with the Books not Bombs stuff and that Star and Launch are becoming more and more the same sort of piece in a way um I think um yeah like I mean I mean you just look at the candidates, a lot of them have just switched ships you know willy nilly, like it clearly means nothing to them
CP – bit of tye-dye you can scrub your clothes…
NB – Yeah exactly, and fundamentally, I think they are starting to represent two sides of the same coin in a way. They are all just student politicians, some of them are Liberals, some of them are Labor students or whatever but at the end of the day they’re all mates you know and don’t take the Guild politically that seriously. Whereas we have a very clear left wing agenda um ah you know with the Books not Bombs campaign I think that’s clear, Star doesn’t actually support that, ah you know, we’re pretty clear that I think students shouldn’t have any part to play in um ah in the military industrial complex in any step of the way there um and obviously Launch is trying to run against that because they can see that they’ve got a right wing sort of constituency to sort of appeal to there. Um but yeah so I think the lines are pretty clear um yeah um and I think STAR in the sense that progressive is just like corporate buzzwords you know like yeah
CP – Fair, interesting, I guess by a way of conclusion, people are being bombarded with endless campaign materials right now, the debate, we’re publishing god knows how many articles, if people were to kind of listen to this interview and kind of go into that polling booth, what should they remember and what should they take away from this interview about you and about Left Action when they are deciding who to vote to what is that takeaway message for them?
NB – I understand for a lot of students it’s clear that most students don’t actually vote that the elections appear like an absolute farce. And to some extent they’d be right because you go to the polling booth you get harangued by a mob of you know college students in like their various colours green and red, and they’re just like, I know you saw you in that tute, you know, vote for me, green on top green on top green on top, treating people like they’re absolute idiots. Um, you know, and you see it there, you know, they’re just like stunned you know voters and er rather than having some sort of you know making some sort of political or sophisticated arguments to people about why you should vote for me whoever. So I think you know to voters going in, I think, um, well particularly, they should read a lot of our material, Left Actions material, because we are pretty clear about our politics and what sort of campaigns we think the Guild should run, and if it’s something they support they should definitely vote. Um because it actually does make a difference, particularly because we’re a smaller group, your vote goes a long way, it’s not just going to be pumped into this Pyramid Scheme which is kinda what Star and Launch are, they run 100 people and your friend won’t actually get voted, but the votes will funnel up to some Liberal Student or Labor Student. In the case of Launch, all of their people who are going to NUS are Liberal Students, so they serve an agenda that they’re not honest about, whereas we’re pretty honest. A lot of us are socialists, we’ve been involved in a whole series of campaigns and we want people to vote for us on that basis. It’s a call out to all Left Wing students on campus um your vote really matters and you should vote for Left Action.
CP – A call to vote, something that I can always get behind, love a bit of Democracy. Nick, thank you very much!
NB – No troubles, been a pleasure.