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Students pucker up to Pyne

A student takes part in the PashPyne kissing booth. Source: Twitter.

By Joe Bourke.

 

A new way to protest higher education reforms has begun at university O-Weeks around Australia.

GetUp’s PashPyne kissing booths have made an appearance at Sydney’s University of Technology (UTS) and the Australian National University in Canberra (ANU).

The booths feature a six foot cardboard cut-out of Education minister Christopher Pyne.

Students are encouraged to take photos of themselves kissing the booths and post them online with the hashtag PashPyne.

GetUp campaigner Natalie O’Brien said the kissing booths are a quirky way to generate conversations about the issue.

“On the one hand we wanted to give students a chance to kiss goodbye to deregulation, but on the flip side we wanted to use these booths as a way to engage new students in the campaign. So our Pash Pyne kissing booths are a fun way to kickstart a conversation with new first yearr students about what the government has planned for tertiary education.” Ms O’Brien said.

President of the Sydney University Young Liberal Club, William Dawes, said the campaign doesn’t contribute to the debate surrounding reforms.

“The Education Minister, as much as anyone, seems to be aware that he’s become a bogeyman in the eyes of left wing student activists,” Mr Dawes said.

“From what I’ve seen, the campaign itself doesn’t really contribute to the debate surrounding the future sustainability and quality of our university system.”

Ms O’Brien said the booths are one of the many ways GetUp is attacking the reforms, and a “cheeky tactic for a serious issue”.

“We’ve had GetUp members calling their MPs, calling crossbenchers, and we’re participating in a huge national day of action in March…”

“These booths are a fun way to engage new students on campus but of course a part of our broader education campaigning,” she said.

Student protests have been at a high in the last year, the most recent featuring a clash between police and students. Several were pepper sprayed.

Mr Dawes said he believes this high is due to “the fact that there’s a Liberal government in Canberra”.

“Looking through the reports and images of these protests, I can’t help but notice the same faces and names popping up again and again – people who I’ve crossed paths with at Sydney University, and who are more often than not members of the Education Action Group and other far-left groups. Their voices reflect a narrow pool of opinion.” Mr Dawes said.

Ms O’Brien said accessible education is at stake, and therefore important for the future of Australia to protest.

“I think there’s scope for students to have a more radical voice. I think that ultimately these issues call for radical action.” Ms O’Brien said.

“We don’t want a U.S. style system. We don’t want U.S. style student debts. We don’t want 100,000 dollar degrees, and if the choice we face is turning out on the streets in order to stop those things, then I think that’s exactly what we should be doing.”