Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 21, September 6, 1976.
Do you smoke? You do? Well bad news, my friend. You've just become an oppressed minority. Like stray dogs who crap on middle class lawns. It happened at the SRC meeting the other day. What do you mean. "never heard of it?". You'll hear of it soon enough if you and your habit ever get within coughing distance of anyone's sensitive nostrile. But that was just an appendix to a meeting that didn't quite live up to my lively expectations.
Some of the delegates from August Council gave brief accounts of what went on in their various commissions, and a couple of other reports contained, for a change, some good news. Anne Dwyer, Cultural Affairs Officer, said that at the Arts Council SGM the Arts Festival in 1977 received unanimous support, and Gyles Beckford reported that the University Council has decided to donate $150 yearly to the Southern Africa Scholarship. Peter Aagaard also resigned from the position of Association Secretary, but in order to retain some meagre grain of objectivity, I won't comment on the goodness or badness of that.
Support for Watersiders
The first motion to arise stated that the Associatior support the Maritime workers in their principled stand against nuclear warships, and that we urge the Government to get rid of the Truxtun and forbid any others to come here. Lindy Cassidy, who moved the motion, said that we had to look at the implications of involving ourselves in US foreign policy, and that we should consider the possibility and the consequences of a nuclear confrontation, or a nuclear accident.
Mr George Goddard of the Waterside Workers Union then took up an invitation to speak to the meeting. He wasn't trying to pressure us into anything, and said it would be good, of course, if we supported the motion, but if we didn't he wouldn't be unduly distressed. Not unduly distressed! He obviously didn't realise he was talking to members of the second most powerful pressure group in the country!
He said that members of the unions were concerned for the safety of the citizens of Wellington, and to show the support being received he quoted the number of telegrams that had been sent. The score? 365 for, 2 against.
The unions had planned to strike if a nuclear-warship arrived - the presence of the Truxtun, he said, was not a matter for panic or irrational action. They were not going to let the Government make their minds up for them. At the risk of being labelled right wing, reactionary, fascist, and all those other words, I can't help wondering how many of the striking workers really do have their own strong feelings about the Truxtun's visit.
Mr Goddard then produced a supporting quotation from a book, about how fascist propaganda promotes the idea that the world's problems can be resolved without a struggle or confrontation. The idea was that because of our reverence for the written word, a quotation from a book would carry more weight than a speech. This, of course, is the whole philosophy behind SRC reports, If you read about it, you're more likely to believe it than if you actually see it happening.
A couple of other speakers supported the motion, but the most noticeable facet of the discussion was the lack of articulate opposition. Instead there was a succession of jeers and illogical interjections from the floor, dashing any hopes of a constructive debate. In the end the motion was passed.
Support for Trade Unions
The next motion, moved by Peter Aagaard, was one of support for workers rights. A boilersuited Aagaard, in a commendable impersonation of the Red Threat, explained that the purpose of the motion was to give the Association some general policy in this area, where it has previously been lacking. Several people spoke to the motion, and the usual arguments about Government interference and restrictions, and the possible extension of these to Students' Associations, were put forward. After a division, the motion was carried overwhelmingly.
Next came a motion about contributing to a Black Power defence fund. It seems that a Black Power gang went to Upper Hutt to fight a rival gang. Nothing happened, and they came back. One of their cars, a stolen one, crashed on the way back and another car was stopped by the police shortly after. Weapons were found in the car. They were charged with unlawful assembly, and the motion, moved by Mr Hannan, said that we recommend a $100 donation to a fund for their defence, and it was passed. Now why, I hear you asking, should we support a group of armed, violent thieves? On princple, of course, why do we do anything?
Putting all cynicism aside, though, (which I find harder to do the longer I stay at varsity) the 'unlawful assembly' these people were accused of resulted from their being stopped by the police. In order to make the charge stick, the prosectution must argue for a wide interpretation of 'unlawful assembly'. If the defendents are convicted, it will set a precedent, and the wide interpretation may include pickets and demonstration marches and other such gatherings. To stop this, the defendents must have a good defence counsel, which requires money, which is where we come in. So as well as aiding the aforementioned armed, violent theives, we may also be saving our own skins at some future date. If you're still not convinced, then do something about it.
Lectures Imperialism and Smoke Free Zones
Another motion, which slipped through without a ripple, said that we recommend the cancellation of lectures between midday and 2pm when the annual election forum is on. This was to give every student a chance to question the candidates before voting. A very good idea. (You're not required to be objective if everyone agrees with you).
The last motion on the agenda was one of condemnation of the Governments of NZ and Australia for their attempts to stop the Soviet Union giving aid to the Pacific Islands, and of support for the Islands' right to be free of New Zealand and Australian imperialism.
The only real opposition came from Chris Barker, who wanted to know why Russian money was aid while ours was imperialism.
Don Carson said the motion contradicted itself because it advocated free choice for the Islands, as long as the choice didn't include Australia and New Zealand. The motion was amended to refer to any imperialism, then passed.
Just when I thought I could go home, this smoking thing arrived. An executive meeting had voted against a smoking ban in meetings, and a motion was put that SRC doesn't support it either. It was lost, and Derek Fikkers, opportunist to the last, moved a motion in support of a smoking ban. After lots of funnies, it was amended to a 'no smoking' rule for the public parts of the Union Building (as opposed to its private parts - which aren't that hot anyway) and passed.
And so, to a chorus of addicts taking a long last drag, and enjoying a last wheezy hack, the meeting ended.
(p.s. the group by the door was very well behaved!).