Student protesters take over Q&A

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The broadcast of popular Australian TV show Q&A was interrupted on Monday night by a student protest targeting Australian Education Minister Christopher Pyne.

The protest was in response to proposals from the Commission of Audit for the May 13 budget suggesting the deregulation of university education.

Christopher Pyne had been the focus of many questions on the panel before the protest. One question initially directed at Pyne from the audience was given to former parliamentary speaker Anna Burke to discuss first. When she started to answer, students unfurled a banner behind her reading "More brains, not warplanes — Fund education". This was accompanied by rhyming slogans shouted from the crowd of students including the phrase: "No cuts. No fees. No corporate universities."

Unable to quell the protesters, the ABC briefly cut the program to air a musical segment from a previous show, while removing the protesters from the building. Upon return to the broadcast, about two minutes later, the host Tony Jones apologised for the incident: "Apologies to the minister, apologies to everyone on the panel, apologies to the wider audience watching[...] This is not what we want to happen on the program, that is not what democracy is all about and those students should understand that."

Social media responded to the demonstration immediately, with mixed reactions about the incident itself and Jones' handling of it. Education writer Maralyn Parker remarked on Twitter, "The riot on #qanda is indicative of how deeply Australians feel about the destruction of education the Abbott Govt is inflicting on us".

The commission proposed to raise tuition costs by 14% and require repayment of the HECS loan starting at minimum wage, A$32,354, according to Gwilym Croucher of the University of Melbourne. The commission also proposed to reduce Commonwealth subsidies down to 45%.