Sydney University Liberal Club

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The Sydney University Liberal Club (SULC) is a student association operating under the auspices of the University of Sydney Union (USU).[1] The club hosts policy debates, annual dinners, student election campaigns, and guest speaker events with members of parliament. It is an affiliate of the Australian Liberal Students' Federation.[2]


Founded in 1933, the Sydney University Liberal Club has a historical rivalry with the Melbourne University Liberal Club, which was established a few years earlier in 1925.[3]

The Patron of the Sydney University Liberal Club is Former Prime Minister 1996-2007, John Howard. Whilst historically the Liberal Club claimed two state delegates within the Liberal Party, the club itself is no longer formally affiliated with the Party.[4]

The club attracted attention for its early opposition to the White Australia policy. In 1958, it circulated a memorandum called "White Australia in a Changing World" at a Liberal Party Convention in Sydney, describing the policy as the "greatest stumbling block in our foreign policy that exists today." [5]

A defining debate in the club over the past 30 years has been Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU). With the exception of a short period in the late 1990s, the Sydney University Liberal Club has been a consistent supporter of voluntary student unionism, and has attracted national media coverage in recent years for its pro-VSU counterprotests.[6]

John Howard Debating Cup[edit]

In 2010 the club launched the annual John Howard Debating Cup with the purpose of celebrating the legacy of the Howard Government and providing a forum for public policy debate amongst Liberal Students.[7] The Howard Cup is an intervarsity debating competition between six Liberal Clubs across New South Wales, consisting of preliminary rounds and a grand finals.

In 2011 over 250 attendees from Sydney University, Macquarie University, University of Technology Sydney, University of New South Wales, University of Western Sydney, and the University of Wollongong attended the competition.[8][9]

Each year the grand finals features an adjudication and keynote address by John Howard, and adjudications by notable conservatives like Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, Janet Albrechtsen, Piers Akerman, Alexander Downer, Natasha Maclaren-Jones, Tom Switzer, and Paul Fletcher. The Cup was initiated by then Vice President Alex Dore. Winning teams of the competition have been:

  • 2010 - University of Wollongong Liberal Club
  • 2011 - Sydney University Liberal Club[10]
  • 2012 - Sydney University Liberal Club
  • 2013 - Sydney University Liberal Club
  • 2015 - University of New South Wales Liberal Club


In 2006 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the club had become more conservative after a former member of the club proposed a resolution to reintroduce the death penalty for "heinous crimes", and to strip non-Christians of the Christmas and Easter holidays.[11] This prompted allegations of 'strong conservatism', and claims that it risked the Liberal Party's reputation as "a broad church",[12] even though these motions failed to pass or to attract any significant support.

In 2009, the club drew controversy in The Australian after a hostile takeover attempt by the "far-right" was quashed at an Annual General Meeting chaired by David Clarke MLC, and attended by Marie Ficarra MLC and Dominic Perrottet MP.[13] An investigation by the Liberal Party ensued after allegations of threatening behaviour towards young members of the club.[14] police were also called to the incident.[15]

In May 2011, this same "far-right" group again drew controversy in the Sydney Morning Herald after the Vice President and Secretary noticed the addition of over 60 international students to the club membership list just hours before a scheduled Ordinary Meeting.[16] The Ordinary Meeting was subsequently disbanded by security, and a scheduled Annual General Meeting was postponed until September by the University of Sydney Union (USU). The stacking was instigated by then club President Adrian Pryke after his defection to the hard-right.[17]

The club has also been a major contributor to the "Make Education Fair" campaign, headed by the Young Liberals. This campaign was created with the stated purpose of exposing and reducing political bias throughout all levels of education.[18] A Senate enquiry conducted to examine this potential bias, saw many club members provide evidence.[19]

In 2016 the club had a split in membership over a contentious upcoming SULC election between the President and Secretary. Amid concerns about vote-stacking, non-students registering to vote, and other issues, the University of Sydney dissolved the entire membership and required all members to re-apply in person.[20][21][22]

On September 23, 2012, SULC hosted its annual President's Dinner with a keynote address by Sydney radio presenter Alan Jones. In his address Mr Jones was cited as saying, "The old man recently died a few weeks ago of shame. To think that he had a daughter who told lies every time she stood for parliament" [23][24] in reference to Prime Minister, Julia Gillard's recently deceased father. At the same event the Club auctioned off a jacket made of chaff bags, a reference to his previous comments on radio that Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, Julia Gillard and Bob Brown should be "put into a chaff bag, thrown out to sea and made to swim back".[25] These comments drew strong criticism from mass and social media commentators. Both the Liberal Club and Alan Jones issued an apology in relation to the matter.[25]

Notable alumni[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The University of Sydney Union Website". USU Online. 1999-03-26. Archived from the original on 2012-03-23. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  2. ^ "About Us". ALSF. Archived from the original on 2013-04-09. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  3. ^ "About Us". MULC. Archived from the original on 2013-11-09. Retrieved 2012-10-30. 
  4. ^ Hancock, Ian (2007). The Liberals: A History of the NSW Division of the Liberal Party of. Leichhardt: Federation Press. p. 78. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Young Liberals crash the party at pro-union march - National". 2006-04-13. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  7. ^ "The University of Sydney Union Website". USU Online. 1999-03-26. Archived from the original on 2012-03-23. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  8. ^ "the University of Sydney Union Website". USU Online. 1999-03-26. Archived from the original on 2012-03-23. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  9. ^ "The University of Sydney Union Website". USU Online. 1999-03-26. Archived from the original on 2012-03-23. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  10. ^ "the University of Sydney Union Website". USU Online. 2011-06-15. Archived from the original on 2012-03-23. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  11. ^ "Party animals - National". 2006-07-01. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  12. ^ "Factions deal while the members leave - Opinion". 2006-06-12. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  13. ^ "Young Liberals' factional divides grow into obscene texts". The Australian. 2012-09-28. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  14. ^ "VEXNEWS 2012 | THE RETURN OF THE UGLIES: NSW Liberal Hard Right MPs invade Sydney Uni Liberal Club and fail". Archived from the original on 2012-03-29. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  15. ^ "Club no stranger to scraps as party factions vie for influence". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  16. ^ Sean Nicholls (2011-05-21). "Hard right tries to take over uni Liberal club". Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  17. ^ Damien Murphy and Aaron Cook. "A big day for ... Kylie Minogue". Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  18. ^
  19. ^[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ "Liberal Club's membership dissolved by USU, AGM postponed". Honi Soit. 
  21. ^ "Accusations of stacking fly as SULC gears up for a factional showdown". Honi Soit. 
  23. ^ "Julia Gillard's father died of shame: Alan Jones". The Australian. 2012-09-28. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  24. ^ Heath Aston (2010-09-20). "Alan Jones says Julia Gillard's father died of shame". Melbourne: Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  25. ^ a b "Alan Jones apologises for speech that claimed PM's father 'died of shame'". Daily Telegraph. 2012-09-30. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  26. ^ a b c "List: which MPs were involved in student politics?". Crikey. 2010-10-01. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  27. ^ Howard, John Winston (2011). Lazarus Rising. Sydney: HarperCollins Australia. p. 27. 
  28. ^ Abbott, Tony (2011). Battlelines. Melbourne: Melbourne University Publishing. p. 11. 
  29. ^ "About Alex". Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  30. ^ "Dominic Perrottet MP > About Dominic > Biography". Archived from the original on 2012-10-10. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  31. ^ "The Hon. (Don) Donald Thomas HARWIN, BEc(Hons) MLC". Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  32. ^ "The Hon. Dr Peter PHELPS, MLC". 2011-05-04. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 

External links[edit]