August 26th, ANUSA and the National Union of Students (NUS) collaborated to protest former National Treasurer Scott Morrison’s rise to the top of the Liberal Party and consequently the Prime Ministership.
Scott Morrison was sworn in on the 25th of August by the Governor-General as Australia’s 30th Prime Minister following a successful leadership spill, which saw Malcolm Turnbull dislodged as the leader of the Liberal Party.
Garema Place provided the canvas for ANU Students and other social advocates, to protest Morrison’s performance in his previous portfolios as Immigration Minister and Treasurer.
The protest consisted of a disappointing turnout comprised of ANU students and other community members, who huddled around a hung banner which proclaimed; “SCOMO = Cuts to Unis, Anti-Refugee, War on the Poor”.
ANUSA Education Officer Harry Needham stated that the number of protestors was “below what he had hoped”. Needham emphasised that the limited time frame to coordinate the protest and the timing in the scheme of the semester significantly impacted the level of student participation.
Needham further stated his belief that the ascension of Scott Morrison to the Prime Ministership instead of Peter Dutton suppressed the community’s reaction.
When asked whether he thought the turnout would have been larger if Peter Dutton had won the leadership spill, Needham agreed, citing Dutton’s negative portrayal in publications and media outlets. However, reiterated that Scott Morrison had been “inaccurately portrayed” as a moderate alternative and was “no better” than his fellow colleague Dutton.
Behind the protests were objections to the former Minister for Immigration’s instrumental role in the orchestration of Operation Sovereign Borders, a program established in September 2013, which aimed to combat maritime people smuggling. The online event titled the new Prime Minister as the “chief communicator of anti-refugee propaganda,” and echoed the sentiment that the Morrison Prime Ministership would see the current treatment of refugees continue.
Protestors also focussed on Morrison’s position at the forefront of the ‘It’s okay to say No’ campaign leading up to the same-sex marriage plebiscite in late 2017.
The online event demonstrated the former Treasurer’s willingness to reduce funding for universities, while concurrently increasing tax breaks for big business and “the well-off”. The event also titled Australia’s 30th Prime Minister Scott Morrison as a “strident defender of all the rorts used to give wealthy investors massive tax discounts.”
The ANU protest mirrors those undertaken on the same day in Sydney by activists, student unions, and community groups, who concurrently undertook protests against the leadership spill.
In a media release, the NUS Ethnocultural Officer Hersha Kadkol outlined the motives for protest, highlighting that “Morrison gloated about the fact that Australia’s ‘stop the boats’ campaign has become a model for far-right parties and governments around the world.”
Sydney University Student Representative Council President Imogen Grant echoed similar motives for protest. Grant stated that: “We can no longer say that far-right politics are embodied by minor players like Pauline Hanson and Fraser Anning. The Liberal Party wants to take their space and this raises a terrible danger for refugees, migrants, students, workers and all oppressed groups in Australia.”
Grant further highlighted that “Abbott’s government was brought down by student and community protests” and that they don’t want “a Trump wannabe for Prime Minister”.