Drew Pavlou is eyeing a political career with a tilt at a seat in the Federal Senate as part of his plans for the future he told Neos Kosmos.
The last two years were a tumultuous time for Mr Pavlou, 22, the University of Queensland (UQ)student who drew fire from the People’s Republic of China for his human rights activism, was suspended from his final-year studies and stripped of his elected seat on the university’s senate.
The case drew international attention and the University of Queensland reduced the suspension from two years to six months. At the beginning of the year, Mr Pavlou was back to complete his Bachelor of Arts studies in Philosophy, Literature and History.
In October last year, even as he fought for his place in the university, he launched the not-for-profit Defend Democracy and submitted a petition that called on the Australian government to cancel its free-trade agreement with China. The petition came at a time when Australia had become embroiled in a number of disputes with the PRC that are yet to be resolved.
Mr Pavlou also gave evidence before a federal enquiry into foreign influence in Australian universities that was driven by federal MP Bob Katter who was a strong supporter of the student during his troubles last year.
Mr Katter had planned to put Mr Pavlou up for a Senate seat under the banner of his party, Katter’s Australia Party (KAP), but that was voted down by the party hierarchy.
Mr Pavlou told Neos Kosmos that while he had considered a career in law over the past year, he felt that a life in politics was closer to his heart as the could effect the most change.
“I did not stop my activism, but I have been more introspective and studying a way forward. My situation was sort of unique.”
He said that not being selected to run for the Senate by the KAP was “sad, but ultimately good for me.”
He said that he shared some ideals with Mr Katter such as his concerns for ordinary people and the fact that the political system and the economy were top heavy, but they had diverged on other issues.
“My father has run a fruit shop all is life. He gave up school in Grade10 and supported his family. Now, he says, he would not be able to do that. Why?
“It is harder for small-business people to make a living, ordinary people are locked out of the system that is rigged for the people on top,” said Mr Pavlou. During his time out of the limelight he had considered a career in the law and was still working once a week for Tony Morris QC, the barrister who supported him during last year’s legal battles with UQ.
READ MORE: Banned UQ student activist Drew Pavlou draws strength from his Greek-Cypriot family
“The law is a noble profession but it is not for me. It does not light a fire in me. My role is to live my life for other people” he said..
The core of the party, the Drew Pavlou Democratic Alliance, is drawn from Defend Democracy and boasts 200 volunteers and 800 party members, including 150 from Sydney and Melbourne and 50 from Adelaide.
“The big parties have been able to build their brands over many years. I have been recognised through the media and we have to use that as we do not have a big budget to work with,” said Mr Pavlou.
“I am doing something new and different to remind people that change can happen if we work together. … the experiences of the last two years have been difficult. I am idealistic, not naive. I have experienced how people can try to break you. I am under no illusions.”
He said his family, friends and his return to the church kept him grounded.
Mr Pavlou isworking on the party manifesto which he provisionally entitled “Now it Springs Up”and siad he wanted to increase the party’s membership to over 1,500 members to strengthen his tilt at the Senate when elections come up in 2022.