Playground Politics is new Glass series about political groups on QUT campuses, where we interview student groups from across the political spectrum. In this instalment, Glass chats to the QUT Greens.
Can you tell me a bit about the history of your group? How did it start at QUT?
The QUT Greens was once quite an active group, but with the graduation of some key people, the group fell into a period of hiatus. We are now rebuilding our group and wanting to welcome new members!
What does your group aim to achieve on campus?
We aim to engage students where they are at, to have conversations about the things that are important to students. There are many pressures that students are under, be that cost of living, mental health, skyrocketing rents, the increase in indexation of student debt, it is a challenging time. We want to build a movement that will transform our political system that prioritizes tertiary education and makes the lives of students better.
What has your group been getting up to this year so far?
We were out during welcome week at the start of the semester having conversations with students about the bill to legalise cannabis, as well as a range of other issues. We are closely aligned with the North Brisbane branch that supports campaigns, and plans ways to engage the wider community in these important conversations.
How can students join your group and what can they expect if they join?
You can like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram. There is a link tree where you can join as a member of the QUT Greens, or you can join as a member of the party, which is only $15 per year for students, and that gives you the opportunity to participate in the party, vote in pre-selections and participate in policy discussions.
What’s your relationship like with the Labor/Greens/LNP other party?
Our relationship with Labor and the LNP, as a minor party is one that aims to bring pressure on the traditional duopoly. We don’t take donations from big business like the major parties do but rely on grass roots support to fund campaigns. I’d like to think, as we win more seats in different levels of government that we can be a thorn in their side and get real outcomes.
Can you explain to me the political positions of your group as if I’m five or an alien (or both)?
The Greens is a party that recognises what most of us are thinking. That politics done normally isn’t working for normal people. We believe that climate change is real and needs real action to stop and reverse its effects. Action such as stopping new coal and gas approvals, championing renewable energy, preserving green space, and protecting the environment. We believe that wealth needs to be distributed through a taxation system that demands billionaires pay more, so we can fund social services, put dental and mental into Medicare, abolish student debt, raise the rate of welfare payments and overall, fund a fairer, more compassionate society.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing QUT students at the moment?
Clearly, as I talk to my student colleagues, cost of living, and the rental crisis are the biggest issues facing students. We have a political class that prioritises the mega profits of large corporations over the need for people to eat, and we are prioritising the profits of property investors over the rights of renters. This is hitting students particularly hard, because they must work more hours on top of their studies to survive, which, considering many MP’s who are justifying this got their degrees for free, is incredibly unfair.
Last year, only 351 out of 50,216 enrolled students voted in the Guild elections. Additionally, almost all positions were elected unopposed. Why do you think that was? What do you think this says about the state of student politics at QUT?
Honestly, I think it’s a sign that students are incredibly busy. I personally went to university for the first time 20 years ago, and the difference in the engagement of on campus activities is quite stark. The students I speak to who are enrolled in my course are working longer hours, and putting all the energy they can into getting their assignments done, all while trying to keep their mental health in check. So, I just think that Guild elections don’t even rate a mention for most people, who are just trying to keep it together.
Is the club or anyone from your club intending to run a ticket or run in the next Guild elections?
Firstly, its important that we rebuild our group. Certainly not ruling it out, and I think that getting elected members into the Guild is a worthy goal.
What role do you think discussion of federal and state politics should play Student Representative Council meetings?
QUT isn’t in a bubble, and neither are our students. The policies of all levels of government, local, state, and federal impact our students, how we study, how much it costs to study, where our students live, how much students are paying to feed themselves and access medical care all impact on everyone. I believe that the Guild should be a place where activism occurs and seeks to put front and centre the welfare and concerns of students.
Is your group aligned with or contain members of any existing or past Guild electoral tickets (Grow, Reach, EPIC, etc)?
We have had members who were involved with Reach in the past, although they were folks who weren’t party members while they were involved in student politics.
Are any of your members currently involved with the Guild /or have been in the past, and if so, who?
Not to my knowledge.
Do you have any other general commentary on student unionism at QUT or around Australia at the moment?
I think, despite the challenges we fact that its an exciting time to be engaged in student activism. One example I’ll point to is work of Students Against Placement Poverty (SAPP), who are a student led group from various disciplines across the country who are campaigning to enact paid placements for students who are required to go on placement to gain their degrees. This group is backed by academics, led by QUT’s own Dr Christine Morley who have done extensive research into placement poverty endured by students, who have experienced significant financial distress, mental and physical health issues and has led some students to drop out of courses purely because the cost of going on placement, with the cost-of-living challenges is so high.