There was an entertaining story on ABC's Lateline last night that basically said NSW Young Liberals were 'racist, sexist, and homophobic'. It went on to show footage of a bunch of (probably) drunk Young Liberals chanting 'We're racist, we're sexist, we're homophobic', which pretty much proves it, I guess.
Apparently, the ABC got this footage from some intrepid documentary maker who happened to be filming at a conference in Ballarat last year.
It was a busy day for security guards at last year's National Union of Students conference in Ballarat. For the second year, members of university Liberal clubs were removed from the conference.
Yeah, film this, I've just been assaulted, the security guard just punched me in the face, he's assaulted me, called me a cunt!
In 2004, Aboriginal elder Ted Lovett opened the national student conference with a speech from the land's traditional owners. He says that throughout his speech, Liberal students sang God Save the Queen.
Shortly after giving a rousing recitative to Regina, Her Royal Majesty, this avuncular group decided to 'take the air'. Or, to put it in more formal terms, they were 'escorted from the premises':
... The Aboriginal elder wants an apology and a guarantee that it won't happen again at this year's conference. In December last year, documentary filmmakers Vanessa Hughes and Jessica Tyrrell captured these images at the student conference.
At this point, it seems, the dauntless chaps gathered together and carolled in lusty unison the following inspiring lines:
STUDENTS (All chant):
We're racist, we're sexist, we're homophobic! We're racist, we're sexist, we're homophobic! (All sing): Glory, glory, Liberal students, in history's page, let every stage - advance Australia fair...
Far be it from me to question the ABC's motives, but it does seem a little odd to focus on the fun and frolics of a bunch of drunk fucks six months after it happened. Still, there was more to come. It seemed the ABC had happened across a former member of the NSW Young Liberals, one John Hyde Page, who had written a book, The Education of a Young Liberal:
John Hyde Page is a current member of the NSW Young Liberals and a member of the moderate faction, which has been fighting a losing battle with the right wing of the Young Liberal movement. He's recently published a book detailing systematic branch stacking by the Liberal Party's right faction, led by NSW Upper House member David Clarke. He claims racist attitudes are not uncommon throughout the new, dominant right wing of the NSW Liberal Party.
JOHN HYDE PAGE, AUTHOR:
I think it's a sign of the growing power of bigoted conservatism in the Liberal Party. I think it's a reflection of the sort of almost militarised operation that's been run by senior members of the right wing in this state.
I suppose that's the clincher, then. (Adam 1.0, by the way, has some more entertaining things to say on the subject of branch stacking.)
Anyway, in spite of the tenuous nature of the Lateline story - a puff-piece for a disgruntled former Young Liberal's book - I was interested to hear about this Page character. I think I'd run into him once or twice at Sydney University. I did some googling around for him at work today, and it turns out I was right; he had started off at Sydney University. I remember seeing his bland features pasted all over the campus one year (his glasses were his most remarkable characteristic). He'd been running for some union position or other. Possibly the presidency, though I don't really think he'd know what to do with ultimate power, even if he got it. If I recall correctly, he was campaigning for more taping for lectures, or some other worthwhile cause. It must have been doomed from the start - there was no way the 'Fight the Power' types that vote in student elections were going to be vote for him.
Doing a little more googling, I found this story by Rachel Hills, of Vibewire fame linking Page to another entertaining incident on Sydney Uni campus. It seems that, in a fit of pique at Honi Soit,the SRC newspaper, for negative press coverage, he took a goodly portion of the newspapers and threw them in the Victoria Park pond. Talk about the silencing of dissent! I remember at the time being pissed off because I wasn't able to get a hold of the paper, though I had no idea there was a Page connection.
Still, it was good to see old pasty-face Page resufacing again, (although without the glasses). It was almost like bumping into an old friend. If the blurb on the Melbourne University Press website is anything to go by, his book promises to be nothing if not entertaining:
'I put my hand out in greeting, but the (Right Winger) announced that he only gave the Liberal Party handshake. What was that? The guy suddenly turned very sombre . . . He placed one hand on each of my shoulders, he winked, then abruptly kneed me in the groin. I doubled over in pain. The Liberal Party handshake. It set the tone for much of what was to follow, from the Right Wing at least.'
Something tells me Page would have been the kind of kid who was always playing fifty-two pickup at school - while eating knuckle sandwiches.
But hey, I guess he could have a point. I was never one of the political kids at Uni. Pretty much the only Liberal I know personally is Rachel, and I'm rather sure that she would strenuously deny being racist, sexist, or homophobic, or, for that matter, classist, fascist, or bigoted in any way, shape or form. Ask her about whether she's planning world domination, on the other hand, and you might get a more equivocal response ...
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