Stand Apart, an anti-National Union of Students (NUS) ticket, launched today. The ticket will run Gen Reps, NUS delegates and an International Students’ Officer.
“The NUS is past its use-by-date,” said ticket convener Ashish Nagesh. Stand Apart seeks to remove ANU from the NUS, an organisation he called “increasingly ineffective”and “caught up in factional warfare”. “Disaffiliation is a catalyst” for reform and change, said Sebastian Rossi, Stand Apart’s main policy writer. Rossi insisted that he sees benefits to a national student union, but that there are specific problems with the NUS which cannot be solved without ANUSA leaving. “The NUS is important to prevent increased taxes to students, higher HECS fees, and to facilitate cooperation between universities,” he said, but took a hard line against “a lack of transparency, factionalism, and I would dare say misuse of funds”.
Disaffiliation from NUS requires a referendum of the entire student body. Elected representatives vote on accreditation – a vote on whether to provide funds to NUS in a given year, and in return receive votes at the National Conference of the Union.
The last anti-NUS ticket was 2015’s Liberal-club supported ‘Axe the SSAF’. Unlike this effort, Nagesh said Stand Apart will support the compulsory SSAF fee. “I don’t think the SSAF should be abolished,” he said, “it’s still a viable means of using student money for the greater good of students”.
Nagesh, the Treasurer of the ANU Liberal Club, stressed that Stand Apart is not a Liberal ticket. “I am a proud Young Liberal”, Nagesh said, but the ticket “is a broad spectrum of political ideology”. Rossi is also a member of the ANU Liberal Club, as well as at least three other candidates. Nagesh claimed that members of the ticket had previously been members of Young Labor and the Greens Rossi is also the President of the ANU Men’s Network, a position that he plans to continue even if elected until the AGM early next year.
The issue of ANU’s involvement in the NUS is a long-running dispute. Observers and delegates to the NUS have cited poor behaviour on the floor of the conference, a high level of factionalism, and an aggressive culture surrounding the conference. This year, affiliation was only granted after General Representative Tom Kesina attached conditions: that the NUS release its minutes from previous conferences; release formal records of votes; and appoint a non-factional returning officer, amongst other criteria. The NUS has not as of yet complied with all these criteria. Nagesh said that these reforms were “good, but not enough”.
The ticket offers radical changes to ANUSA policies. Stand Apart wants five of the 14 Gen Rep positions to be exclusively for international students. Rossi said that international students, despite being “perhaps the majority” of students were underrepresented in ANUSA (International students constitute 31% of the ANU student body). Three of Stand Apart’s 12 General Representative candidates are international students. The ticket will also encourage clubs to have an international students on their Executive, but will not, as earlier had been considered, require it for affiliation. Phoenix Tian is the ticket’s candidate for International Students Officer.
Rossi also revealed a previously unheard-of policy: to supply independent candidates with ANUSA support and volunteers, if they are “approved by both the executive of ANUSA and the SRC”. Rossi argued that this would provide independent candidates with the manpower and time to compete with larger tickets. When asked whether volunteers would be comfortable working for tickets they may not support, Rossi told Observer that volunteers should see it as “helping out ANUSA – it’s about democracy and fair representation”. Rossi said that the twin approvals will act as a sufficient check and balance. “You’d have to be friends with the executive and the SRC to corrupt it,” Rossi said.
Stand Apart initially planned to run a candidate for Women’s Officer, breaking with the internal Women’s Department selection process, but is understood to no longer be doing so after realising their candidate was ineligible. The Women’s Department, similarly to most other Departments, traditionally selects a candidate through an internal meeting, who runs unopposed in the general ANUSA election. Stand Apart, however, planned to run a candidate, who cited an “isolating and a little hostile” environment in the Women’s Department as a result of a “monolithic bloc that currently leads the department”. However, after Observer asked the candidate if they satisfied the ‘active member’ requirements of the ANUSA Electoral Regulations, they withdrew, admitting that they were unaware of the provision and had only attended two meetings this academic year instead of the required three.
The candidates are Ashish Nagesh, Antigone Bradshaw, Kavindu Bandara, Brandon Bodel, Varun Bajekal, Tanvir Singh, Hannah Green, Sebastian Rossi, Jacob Li, Georgia Clarke, Phoenix Tian and Thea Winter.
Correction: The year Axe the SSAF ran was 2015, not 2013 as originally written.