So You Want to Get Into the Tragic Mess That is Australian Student Politics

O-Week is coming up! It's time to make some decisions re: the selling of your soul.

15 February 2018, 2:32am


It’s mid-February, and all around the country middle class 18-year-olds are buying Kikki K diaries and preparing for their very first year of tertiary education at one of this nation’s elite Ivy League-lite “Group of Eight” universities. You know, the ones with leafy sandstone quadrangles and residential colleges plagued by sexual assault.

Are you one of these lucky few? If the answer is yes, it’s important to know that in the coming weeks you’ll likely be faced with a very important choice that will define your late teens: either get involved in “student politics” or spend the next three years of your undergrad as a NOBODY. An unpopular non-preppy LOSER who will never get a nice cushy public service job. One of those unfortunate weirdos who never hang around campus after class and retain all their friends from high school and—if we’re all being honest—actually seem really happy and well adjusted and chill.

Student politics, as anyone who achieved an HSC score over 85 courtesy of growing up in a high socio-economic suburb and several expensive after school tutors knows, is essentially a friendship cheat code. You sign up during O-Week and bam: instant friends (“comrades” if you’re Young Labor). More friends than you—someone who never really “made waves” in high school—have ever had and will ever need, actually. Watch your Instagram following climb to the hundreds within weeks. Suddenly, you can’t walk from Introduction to Criminal Law to Introduction to Torts Law without being dragged into six identical conversations.

Because here’s the catch: you will have made more social connections within two months than you did in six years of high school, but they will all be exactly the same beigey person. Literally they will be indistinguishable from one another. And they will all be really obsessed with something called “ALP Spicy Memes Stash.”

Getting involved in student politics isn’t hard. Mainly, it requires a complete surrendering of any personality facet that makes you unique. But, and this is particularly relevant if you are an outsider, ie you went to an elite public school as opposed to an elite private one, there are a few tips and tricks to make the most of it. To dominate the campus. To become what is bizarrely and unironically known as a “hack.”

You, white 18-year-old, you deserve more than to become treasurer of the student union. Those guys only ever end up in state politics. Aim for president, and head straight to Canberra after graduation.

Practice This Phrase: “Yeah I’m Doing Law But I Don’t Want to Be a Lawyer”

It’s not impossible to enter student politics from a non-law faculty, but if you do manage it you’ll be a fringe player at best. For reasons directly related to the TV show Suits, a law degree possesses extremely valuable social currency at Australian universities, and you should try and enrol in one ASAP. A law degree says a lot: You’re smart, but not really “science smart.” Like, you couldn’t get into med school, but you do still really want to be a part of society’s elite. This kind of attitude is rarely judged harshly by anyone at the University of Sydney. Law school is 20 percent people who think they’re going to star in Rake, and 80 percent people unable to admit to others or themselves that they’ve signed up for a six-year $60,000 degree they have no academic interest in purely for the prestige. The venn diagram of this latter group and student politicians is just a circle.

Have “Some Thoughts” on Israel

Related: in five years time, while interviewing for a government job, you will be forced to quietly and meticulously scrub your social media profiles for problematic status updates.

Be Middle Class as Hell

In your first week of university, every single person you meet will ask the same seemingly innocuous question: Which high school did you go to? This isn’t actually small talk so much as a crucial test. If your answer isn’t “X Grammar” then you’re doomed to fail it. If you don’t have the requisite private school credentials, though, you can try and make up for your lower class status through posturing. Start getting really passionate about brunch, and move to a better suburb ASAP.

Related: Be Prepared to Spend $300 Per Week at Gorman

Gorman: Dangerfield for the bourgeois!

Be Weirdly Prepared to Cling to Party Politics

A lot of people equate student politics and activism with idealism, often framing that wide-eyedness in a negative light. Such criticisms don’t really apply at Australian universities—where student politics tends to precisely mimic what goes on at a federal level. While, inarguably, university presents the best and only opportunity you’ll ever really have to experiment with new ideas and systems, if you want to succeed in student politics you should put aside new ideas and blindly accept and support whatever offshore detention camp it is that your party of choice espouses. Sorry!

Related: Hate “the Trots”

This is crucial. In order to succeed in student politics you should really, really, really, passionately hate any and all campus socialists. They’ve made the choice to break with the ALP, and it’s their loss, okay? Campus socialists are easily identified because they lack the requisite Gorman, and appear, horrifyingly, to be in this for something other than personal gain. Don’t be seen hanging out with them.

Openly, and Without Any of the Shame a Normal Person Would Feel, Aspire to a Career in Politics

This one is fairly self-explanatory. Basically, you want to be the sort of dead-eyed door knocking type who thinks Peter Dutton is an okay guy. Someone who would pose in a photograph with Julie Bishop, probably while dabbing. One who thinks Anthony Albanese is cool and funny. Who believes that Barnaby Joyce, a man paid $100,000s each year to serve the public interest, “Shouldn’t be so heavily scrutinised by the media.” Who dreams of jogging around Lake Burley Griffin every morning. Who, regardless of party affiliation, possesses a deep admiration for John Howard—a man who “stuck to his principles and didn’t deserve to go down in 2007 like he did.” I don’t know. It’s literally impossible for me to imagine what it is like to inhabit such a bleak mental space. But these people absolutely exist, and they’re running your student union, and very likely they will be forming government in 20 years.

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