March 2014

“Abbott & Pyne, hands off our education!” is the rallying cry to be heard around the nation this coming Wednesday, the 26th of March, as students and university staff come together to protest the Federal government’s proposed cuts of an estimated $2.3 billion to the tertiary sector. UNSW students will also be making their presence known, with a pre-protest party being held on campus at the Village Green at 11am that morning before heading to join the peers at the rally.

We don’t need no education / we don’t need no thought control.

It is unlikely that Pink Floyd’s chorus of disillusioned schoolchildren were singing about Christopher Pyne’s review of the national curriculum, but if they had been, it would have been not only prescient, but entirely appropriate. Not because education is bad – it’s one of the most valuable things that anyone can ever be given, and arguably the most valuable service our state provides its citizens. It’s not that people don’t need it, but an education system that serves as an ideological platform for washed-up conservatives to impotently rebel against society’s progression towards pluralism and tolerance hardly deserves the name “education” at all.

VB is a very special type of beer. It is not for everyone, and it is not for everyday. It is for those with a hard-earned thirst.[*] And one day, that could be you.

A hard-earned thirst differs considerably from the conventional instinctual drive to rehydrate. Conventional thirst stems from a desire to avoid a parched throat, bad breath, clammy skin, general discomfort and eventual death. Yawn.

The New South Wales Parliament’s lower house voted late last year in favour of legislation that, for the purpose of grievous bodily harm, recognises the personhood of foetuses after a sufficient stage of pregnancy. Despite explicit exclusions for medical procedures, extreme controversy has surrounded the law, which opponents believe could lead to the curtailing of abortion rights.

That the bill was put to a conscience vote and was subsequently voted against by several government ministers, underscoring the fact that it is particularly contentious. Unfortunately, however, the capacity for constructive discourse on the issue has been obfuscated by some of the more draconian opposition to the law.

As a young woman, I find the thought of Zoe’s Law being passed in NSW alarming, especially while abortion remains in the Crimes Act. To many, that might seem like a shrill and irrational response to a bill merely trying to bring justice to a mother who lost her unborn child. What happened to Brodie Donegan was gut-wrenchingly awful. I can’t imagine the pain of losing a child due to the carelessness of another. But is Zoe’s Law – named for Ms Donegan’s unborn daughter – the best way to bring about justice in this situation?

The NSW Bar Association doesn’t think so. It argues that the current law in this area is satisfactory, as concluded by the 2010 Review of Laws Surrounding Criminal Incidents Involving the Death of an Unborn Child. It believes situations like Ms Donegan’s are addressed in the Crimes Act, which states that grievous bodily harm includes “the destruction (other than in the course of a medical procedure) of the foetus of a pregnant woman, whether or not the woman suffers any other harm”.