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Last year protests by staff and students at the University of Sydney saw the university senate vote to not endorse the chancellor’s appointment of former state premier and current BAT Australia chair Nick Greiner to an advisory position in political science at the university. As if to rub salt into Greiner’s public humiliation, the university then advised BAT that they were no longer welcome to set up a stand at the annual student careers fair and extol the virtues of working for a tobacco company—“You get to do lots of great stuff like talking to government and the media,” one student was told by a gushing BAT staffer.
Website checks this March saw BAT poised to woo students at three other Sydney university careers fairs. Alerts to staff and student bodies saw swift action. The University of Western Sydney reversed its decision to allow BAT to participate within hours of a ’phone call being made. Macquarie University expressed regret that nothing could be done this year to reverse its acceptance of BAT, but has said it will be the last time. As we go to press, the University of New South Wales is bracing itself for a rowdy reception for BAT led by Mr Sigi Butt, who enthusiastically urges students to sign up with BAT to help kill thousands of Australians each year while making lots of money.
Mary Assunta and I accompanied Sigi to the Macquarie careers fair, and before being evicted by some rotund security guards, managed to get a flavour of the latest company line fed to BAT’s new recruits. Lavina, a chirpy media graduate, was unfazed by my question about whether she felt comfortable working for a company whose products kill thousands of its customers each year. “Oh, you can’t say that!” she trilled. “There are many other things that cause cancer. You just can’t put it down to smoking,” declining to allow the conversation to be recorded by a radio reporter. I congratulated her on how well she had absorbed her training, and enquired whether they were any companies producing legal products for whom she would not work. Mercenary recruitment agencies, perhaps? “What do they do?” she asked. “They pay you to go to other countries to kill people,” I explained. Lavina said BAT was a “great company”. So, I understand, it was said of some of those who supplied slaves to America, ran opium out of China, and sent children down mines in the 19th century. All legal activities then.