Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 10. 24 May 1972
While most students were lazing by provincial fires in parental shelters, the usual few were disrupting the Pacific Basin Economic Council's 5th Annual Conference held in the University Union Building last week.
If past presidents of the Students' Association were more informed of the nature of this conference and had let people know about it, use of the building could have been denied some months ago. That Margaret Bryson, Graeme Collins and Peter Cullen did not know does not make them responsible, for this year's PBEC conference was the first to which the press had been invited. No-one at all knew much about PBEC until last week. New Zealand's PBEC officials did offer, however, some time ago to discuss the conference in case difficulties might arise. President Cullen and deputy Union manager Brew saw little reason to take up the offer, or to discuss it with other students.
Most protestors seemed to have little knowledge of what PBEC's aims were. But their feeling toward such an influential gathering of businessmen was quite clear.
New Zealand is already hamstrung by overseas interests which dictate our policy and our standard of living. Deeply involved in these interests are the members of PBEC. Even if they are 'nice' men, as we are told, their philanthropy does little to relieve the exploitation, degradation and pollution which must be endured by those who work for them.
The demonstrations were 'fought' specifically against those financial interests represented, who are profiting out of the Vietnam War and the general exploitation of S.E. Asia and South America.
The worst feeling that came out of the confrontation was the formerly latent antagonism towards the Union Administration i.e. against manager Buick-Constable, his deputy Brew, and their assistants. Also Cullen's calling the police caused much ill feeling. Vice-Chancellor Taylor stood back and watched. It had to be Cullen's decision to call the Police. After repeated requests for the demonstrators to clear the landing outside the Union Hall, he was left with little alternative if the PBEC delegates were ever to be allowed to leave. When the police did arrive students shifted quite promptly, showing that Cullen's action was justified in some measure, for the demonstrators wanted to harass but were not willing to be arrested.
Police on campus provided a major diversion as always. After locking themselves in the Contact office they found that they were also barricaded in. A little embarassing for them, but scarcely a revolutionary action directed as it was against administrators and not against legislators.
The abuse Union workers (especially house manager Jim Collins) received was notable for its distasteful and arrogant rudeness. The ill-will generated by Alec Shaw's rabid demands and denunciations of Cullen, Buick-Constable and Brew cannot be excused as the release of pent-up temper.
So radical youth are frustrated that they could not stop a conference which will doubtless affect our economic position and will certainly affect our poorer neighbours to a considerably worse extent. They will know the economic disadvantage it is not to belong to the economic power group of the Pacific Basin.
We, the well fed youth have the time to feel frustrated by the slow process needed if the world is to be changed. In the Pacific Basin power lies with the U.S., Japan, Canada, Australia and perhaps N.Z. The other 17 countries invited to participate in the conference as guests are presented with the decisions and the rules the big 5 make. The poorer countries are in no position to argue.
We would do well to remember that the frustration these poorer countries feel is neither with the dialectic nor with the bureaucracy. It is a more physical frustration the pain of an empty stomach with nothing to fill it.