Adrian Adelaide was at uni with Natasha in the late 1980s and has all the dirt on her glorious rise up through the student ranks.

Chris Pyne, Rachel David, Steve Ronson et al, were on SAUA Council and other notorious Libs were proving to be obstinate and difficult for the lefties, not to mention Pyne disposing of SAUA records/archives whilst in the Finance Vice-President position and generally just being a Christopher that we love and admire of contemporary times.

What do to? In early 1988 a group of Communists/Trots on Campus had a plan to create a new group that would appeal to the same constituency as the Liberals but was actually controlled by the lefty trots, maoists, commies and socialists that didn’t want the Libs to get any more numbers on the Union Board and SAUA Council particularly.

Around this time a young first year arts student, Natasha Stott-Despoja (hyphenated name was a bonus) was mixed up with the Commies/Trots on campus and was privileged to these plans of effectively creating a new political force on campus with the blessing of the perceived forces of goodness.

She was attracted to it in first year like the proverbial moth to a flame. Natasha willingly volunteered to be a part of the new group. The Commies saw her capacity to split the Liberal vote on campus and she was away. With Commie support she found herself on the Security on Campus committee, an unstructured and innocuous committee usually described as political crumbs by the factional warriors and not associated with any heavy politics grouping. She was elected to the Education/Services Standing Committee in the ’88 elections and served as a committee member during 88/89. The metamorphosis was beginning.

The rest falls into place for Stott-Despoja and subsequently she changed her clothes and her friends, dumped the commies/lefties and worked tirelessly to recruit hip and groovy people to the ‘Independents’ throughout 1989 who were just like normal students and were apolitical. Nat knew there was political middle ground to be exploited and she was going to get as much out of it as she could. She was developing political currency whilst claiming to be apolitical, she was focussed and good at it.

She also simultaneously flirted with the Labor students on campus and joined the ALP in 1989 whilst continuing to build up her profile on campus and make allies across the political spectrum with much social conviviality. Politics at Adelaide Uni was controlled by the boys and predominantly still is. Even Libs were interested in her and the ‘Independents’ later became a hiding place for closet Libs. It still is! If they’d only known the source of its genesis and that of its founder!

In 1989 she worked her magic and instead of going the usual route of standing committee – SAUA councillor – office bearer, Nat went from a standing committee to the Women’s Officer in 89/90. She maintained her linkages, some would say friends but that would be inappropriate use of the term when referring to Nat and her ambitiousness, with the ALP, but wouldn’t even acknowledge the other lefties who had created her.

The Indies were building and the steamroller was driving its way into the Presidents Office and she was elected in September 1990 and President in 1991. She recruited mainly women and her faction was, and mostly always has been, a matriarchy. Remembering that she was narrowly defeated for the NUS National President at the 1991 NUS Conference at Deakin Geelong. She was able to secure the nomination by harnessing some splits in the ALP and seeking out like-minded, usually weak-minded non-aligneds interstate, and that grouping had become known as the national Independents.

What a rise! 1988 knocking around with Communists and not three years later on the ballot sheet running for the national Presidency. No surprise she is in the Senate and has been for years without ever doing anything but politics. Gotta give it to her she has got something but when it all comes to a head there is really no substance just the ambition and the incredible ego, which is a fragile one!

In addition to the circumstances of the NUS presidency, it was the first time the ALP/NOLS and the Loopy Left (Left Alliance) had ever voted as a bloc in the history of AUS/NUS. This was brought about by the alleged actions of one David Feeney, now ALP State Secretary Vic, who was a high profile member of the National Independents Faction and was said to be involved in some measures of intimidation.

This alleged action caused Natasha to lose the Presidency as the loopy Left had the shortest caucus discussion in the History of any Left grouping and decided to back the NOLS surfie boy Tony White! It is not known whether Nat condoned these alleged actions of intimidation but it is well known that this sort of stuff did nothing to advance her chances in the student movement and she just quit. I’m sure you know the rest from her start with the Democrats. I remember back then the Democrats used to regularly advertise for staff. Don’t know what the problem was but no doubt that’s how she got her start as she wasn’t a democrat when she applied for the job. It was just good enough for the Democrats that they had an ex-student leader who wasn’t a Labor or Liberal member!

It is personally surprising to see someone like Feeney so high in the ALP party machinery but, then again, it is also surprising to see Natasha leading the Democrats.

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Peter Fray

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