Lift, Shake Up and Maclean Elected NUS Delegates

Two candidates from Shake Up and Lift along with independent Howard Maclean will represent ANU students at NUS National Conference this year.

Shake Up’s Cameron Allan and Freya Willis, Lift’s Tess Masters and Harry Needham, and independent candidate Howard Maclean have been elected to represent ANU students at the NUS National Conference in December. The lack of domination by any ticket will likely mean a mixture of positions are represented at the Conference, but all elected delegates agree that accountability and transparency issues within the union need to be addressed. Maclean, Lift and Shake Up have all said they support the filming of National Conference, with the exception of autonomous and confidential elements.

The NUS, or the National Union of Students, is a representative body that seeks to serve the rights of Australian university students at a national level. The five elected delegates from ANU are sent to the annual the NUS National Conference, where they decide on policy for the year. They can choose to sit in a faction, which tie members together under a shared political platform, and have the power to bind votes. Broadly, the NUS’ aim is to fight for student rights through advocating change, organising campaigns and protests, talking to student unions such as ANUSA, and lobbying the government. More information on NUS can be found at the end of this article.

The affiliations of each delegate to the NUS’s powerful factions will also be significant in their voting. To the best of Observer’s understanding, all delegates are likely to sit with National Independents or as true independents, with the exception of Freya Willis, who will likely sit with the National Labor students, a faction which binds votes of delegates (i.e. all delegates vote the same way).

The two major tickets did not commit to a position for or against NUS this election. LIFT has no plans to accredit or disaffiliate from NUS, and Shake Up’s candidates have “different views on the NUS”, but no plans to disaffiliate. Maclean has taken a much harder line against NUS, at times saying that the only way NUS could be improved is if it’s destroyed and replaced. He has voted against accreditation in the past. Disaccreditation is a less severe response than disaffiliation, and only means that ANUSA will not pay accreditation fees to NUS, but would remain in the Union.

ANUSA agreed to accredit this year on condition that NUS release minutes and financial statements, conditions which have not yet been met. The delegates just elected,after sitting at this year’s NUS National Conference (NatCon) will return and advise the SRC on their decision whether to accredited in 2018. As NatCon is highly non transparent and little information is released, Delegate reports often have a significant role in shaping the decision of the SRC.

Independent Howard Maclean aims to reform the NUS by pushing for transparency and accountability, autonomous voting and representing ANU students. He states that “we cannot afford an NUS that is badly broken and as incompetent as it currently is,” describing these issues as “deeply seated cultural and structural problems … that no single delegate, and no single university can fix.” His main goals are to stream NatCon, to bind his vote to the Departments’ wishes on autonomous issues, and to consult the ANU student body with decisions, keeping an accessible voting record to remain transparent. He plans to sit independently at NatCon, without association with a faction or with the National Independents.

Shake Up’s Cameron Allan and Freya Willis have expressed an intention to increase accountability and transparency, as well as student engagement with the national body. Allan voted for accreditation this year, and is expected to sit either with National Independents or as an independent, separate from any faction. Willis will most likely sit with the National Labor Students (NLS), the Labor Left faction. Rather than voting in on the Conference floor, Willis will instead represent ANU students indirectly by voting on which positions the Labor Left caucus takes.

Shake Up’s policies include promoting the release of detailed minutes of NUS meetings and conferences, the release of all financial documents, and filming of NatCon, with the option to stop video upon request. They also encourage autonomous voting for policy and elections in marginalised groups, and greater representation of TAFE institutions.

Lift’s Harry Needham and Tess Masters have also been elected. Lift has said their main aim at NatCon is to decide on whether ANUSA should reaccredit next year, and to promote each delegate’s policies. Needham plans on sitting with the National Independents, which consists of ‘soft’ Labor and moderate Liberal members, and promoting regional access to education at NatCon. Masters will likely either sit in the National Independents, or as an independent without association to any faction, and plans on addressing sexual assault and students’ rights as workers at NatCon.

Lift’s NUS policy included focus on regional access to education, the welfare of international students, sexual assault and the right of student workers, and governance and financial reform. They acknowledge that these policies may not all be addressed at the conference, due to “the complex processes of cogging and business committee, combined with factional politics”.

 

More information on the NUS

Money used to fund ANUSA’s accreditation and participation in the NUS is drawn directly out of students’ pockets. If ANUSA decides to pay the fee, then they would have to pay approximately $10,000, with all their expenditure ultimately stemming from the university SSAF pool. This $10,000 consists of a $5,000 accreditation fee and five $1,000 conference attendance fees for the five delegates. Members of the Senior Representative Council (SRC) vote on ANUSA’s accreditation each year. This excludes NUS delegates, unless they also occupy a SRC position.

The NUS National Conference is held every December, where delegates decide on policy and elect NUS positions. Filming at the conference is banned, and the minutes are undetailed, outlining only the motion of policies without explanation or description. In addition to this, NatCon is famous for its unruly environment, with instances of verbal and physical abuse between factions.

There are six main factions:

  • Student Unity (Unity), the Labor Right faction, usually forms 30% – 40% of delegates.
  • National Labor Students (NLS), the Labor Left faction, usually forms 20% – 25% of delegates. Members of the NLS are bound to vote as the faction chooses.
  • Socialist Alternative (SAlt), is the socialist faction, and forms 10% – 15% of the delegates.
  • National Independents are a diverse group of independents that do not bind votes but still share information as a faction, which forms 15% – 20% of the delegates.
  • Australian Liberal Students’ Federation, the Liberal Party faction, usually form 5% – 10% of the delegates.
  • Grassroots Left, usually associated with the Greens Party, form 3% – 5% of the delegates.