Students of the University of Melbourne gathered in North Court yesterday for the ‘Parmas for Palmer’ protest.
The protest was aimed at Clive Palmer and the Palmer United Party’s senators, lobbying them to block changes to higher education policy. The event was organised by UMSU’s Education Public Department, and involved a parmigiana speed-eating contest. It gained widespread attention on social media and news outlets. The National Union of Students is currently considering making this a national campaign.
This protest fell on the same day that Palmer called on Tony Abbott for a double dissolution or mini-budget. The PUP leader has signaled disapproval of a number of proposed changes in the federal budget, including both higher education and “work for the dole” policies. He stated yesterday that the budget strategy has “failed”, and that the government now needs a “new strategy for growth.”
As the Palmer United Party hold the balance of power in the senate, they have the ability to block these changes from passing. As such, Clive Palmer and his party have been the focus of student protests lobbying for support for higher education. The Parmas for Palmer campaign was promoted heavily on twitter, with many posts tagging Palmer’s individual twitter account, as well as the Palmer United Party’s.
The LNP’s proposed changes to higher education include a 20% cut across the board in government funding for university fees, changes to the HECS and HELP systems, and a full deregulation of fees. These policies, if passed, will lead to higher university fees, and higher interest rates on student loans.
Palmer told the National Press Club last month that he is opposed to fee increases for higher education. Furthermore, one of the PUP’s official election policies was to abolish tertiary education fees.