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Nick Xenophon Sued Adelaide Uni To Stop Them Running Anti-Apartheid And LGBTI Campaigns

And was financed by the Uranium Producers Forum to do it ...

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South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon, the man likely to hold the balance of power in the Senate after July 2, sued Adelaide University for spending money on political campaigns against apartheid, and organisations promoting reproductive choice and gay rights.

Legal documents obtained by BuzzFeed News show Xenophon took the University of Adelaide and seven student politicians to the South Australian Supreme Court in 1977, while he was a part-time second year student studying a Bachelor of Law/Arts.

At the time Xenophon was 18, editor of the student newspaper On Dit, a member of the Liberal Club, and still going by his birth name, Nick Xenophou.

On DIt / Via

In his introductory On Dit editorial, Xenophon railed against the union's “misuse” of student funds, such as spending “$440 on Chile posters and Medibank broadsheets”.

He also outlined his plan to "stop the bias" at the student rag and described himself as having "evil, fascist tendencies":

"The principal problem facing previous On Dits was that of bias. I intend to 'stop the bias' in two ways. Firstly, there will be less emphasis on the heavy politics (particularly international politics) that filled the pages of On Dit in recent times.

"A second way of making On Dit a directly representative newspaper is by ensuring that both sides of an issue be published. This means that in, in some cases, I or other members of the On Dit staff will be writing to provide the second side of an issue, (although it is assumed that a flood of articles from clear cut leftists will arise to counter-act my evil, fascist tendencies)."

In another editorial, he talks about a "disturbing trend on campus for minority interests to attempt the imposition of their values upon others", such as the Gay Society and Women on Campus.

Xenophon describes the policies of the Australian Union of Students (now called the National Union of Students) as "out of touch with student interest" but still "rammed down our throats".

He specifically singles out the "humourless feminists".


Court documents show Xenophon sued the student politicians from three organisations - the Adelaide University Union, the Students Services Association, and the Australian Unions of Students (now known as the National Union of Students) - for what he claims was unconstitutional spending of union fees to support political campaigns.

Supreme Court of SA

"A number of the organisations or causes on which such moneys are proposed to be spent are matters having no connection with students and which are not connected with the regulation, admission, matriculation of students or instruction tuition applications for awards or any other matters provided by the University of Adelaide," Xenophon's affidavit reads.

"Abortion", "Homosexual Seminar" and "Solidarity Week" (an anti-apartheid campaign) were specifically named by Xenophon as causes he believed student funds shouldn't be spent on.

Supreme Court of SA

The seven student politicians were executive members of the organisations and were sued personally "in their representative capacity on behalf of all members", meaning they were all personally liable.

In his affidavit Xenophon says he doesn't agree with how the student associations are spending their budgets, which include the $25.50 union fee he paid annually as a part-time student, because he says it’s not within the power of the student union to spend the funds for political purposes.

Xenophon asked the courts for a restraining order to stop Adelaide University funding the student bodies.

He wanted the courts to stop the University of Adelaide from funding the Adelaide Student Union, and to stop the student union from giving money to the Student Association of the University of Adelaide or Australian Union of Students (AUS).

He details the following spending as examples of unconstitutional spending:

- $300 on a Marxist feminist conference

- $500 on the Pacific Peoples Action Front

- $3,000 on the anti-Apartheid grant

- $1,000 on the Five Power Defence Campaign

- $1,000 on the Anti ASEAN Campaign

- $2,500 on the DRET information Office and DRET Rent

- $500 on the Squatters Campaign

Xenophon told BuzzFeed News that the case was settled out of court and if he could go back to 1977 he "wouldn't have gone near the court action with a barge pole".

"At the outset this happened 39 years ago, when I was a pimply faced 18 year old. I have described my time as a Liberal Club member at Adelaide Uni as part of my 'misspent youth'. Some people do drugs when they’re young – I joined the Liberal Club. Both are harmful in different ways. So the answer is yes, I was part of the legal action – it was a case about the students’ association not being democratic and exceeding its powers under its constitution."

Xenophon says he financed the lawsuit, but also received a cheque from the Uranium Producers Forum for $500.

"My record in parliament on supporting the rights of women to a safe termination, marriage equality and my long-standing opposition to apartheid are clear," he told Buzzfeed News, adding that he did not remember writing about his own fascist tendencies, but that "it would have been said in self-mocking satire".

The Nick Xenophon Team looks likely to pick up three to six Senate seats and possibly one lower house seat in South Australia on July 2, according to polling by Research Now.

Robert Prezioso / Getty Images

The seat of Mayo in South Australia, currently held by controversial Liberal MP Jamie Briggs, is tipped the most likely lower house seat to go to the Nick Xenophon team. The party also has its eye on Sturt, the seat of innovation minister Christopher Pyne, and Grey.

Xenophon's critics say he’s a populist, and that it’s hard to pin down exactly what the former young Lib stands for because he's always moving the goal posts. Pyne told ABC's 7:30 on Monday night that the senator "is able to agree with everybody that he speaks to because he never has to deliver on any policy".

"At the end of the day a vote for the Xenophon Team is a vote for instability," Pyne said.

Xenophon told BuzzFeed News the innovation minister should "stop behaving like a student politician" and check his voting record.

"He is still sore that I opposed his crappy $100k deregulated uni degrees policy that he was pushing as recently as last year. I have delivered on a whole range of issues and advocated strongly for gambling reform, marriage equality, consumer protection, and Australian made and Australian jobs."

Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.

Contact Alice Workman at

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