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Fear the politicians of the future

  • 28 September 2012

If my short tenure in university politics gave me anything, it is an appreciation for non-politicians. Like Barbara Ramjan and journalist Lindsay Foyle, who both had dealings with young and rabid student politicians 35 years ago, I now have some dirt on the cabinet of the future, and I know who I'm not voting for.

I coedited the student newspaper in the final year of my BA. My coeditors and I came from different political backgrounds, and were elected on a politically unaligned ticket, giving and receiving our electoral preferences to and from various left and centre-left factions.

The tenure itself was hard work; learning to make a magazine from scratch with only a 2002 iMac and the phone number for a printer, while dealing with the strange demands and personalities of the office-bearers. Our pay rate of around $3.40 per hour perhaps was a little low.

Once in the media office, we decided to remain on peaceful terms with all of the other factions in office. We reasoned that it would make for a better working environment, and a better magazine if every student felt they could contribute, regardless of their politics.

We offered a right of reply to anyone who was challenged or insulted by the contents, and invited the relevant student representatives to respond to challenges levelled against their departments within the same edition.

This policy of openness quickly found us completely alienated from every faction we refused to make exceptions for. The rift between politicians and journalists was quickly established.

Nothing terrible happened — I wish I had more battle tales to recount. But then, I am lucky to not have been made a target of some A-type android's personality disorder. In previous years, women had been sexually harassed by opponents, property stolen and sabotaged, and people of all political bents had been smeared.

While everything that happens in the student unions around Australia is completely, mind-blowingly important, campus election weeks are by far the most stressful times in the political calendar. Over the three years I campaigned in elections for myself and others, I witnessed a good many tears spill onto hyper-coloured party T-shirts. Elections are a rollercoaster of betrayals, dodged regulations, and primary-school-grade bullying.

The worst offenders are usually campaigners who sit between the centre and the