The National Conference of the NUS begins today, and will consider a vast variety of policies on education, welfare, unionism, and student minority groups. The positions they choose will be the official positions of the Australian student community next year. There are hundreds of these policies, and many will never even make it to the floor, but we’ve picked out some of the most totally bonkers out there, and some that are most directly relevant to ANU students.
You can follow more of our coverage on our NatCon 2017 LiveBlog.
Shirtfronting Simon Birmingham
Welfare 5.29 would, if passed, require the NUS welfare officer to literally shirt-front Simon Birmingham, the federal minister for education. This is motivated, the motion says, by his “exploitative, base ideology and his outrageous haircut”. It also calls for NUS to lobby against increases in course fees. This is not unusual for the Socialist Alternative, who threw paper at Birmingham at an event earlier this year.
Condemning unpaid internships, including ANIP.
The NUS will vote on condemning unpaid and unfair internships in two different motions- 3.2 and 5.5, characteristically titled ‘Unpaid Interns****s’ and “’Experience” doesn’t put food on the table’, both put forward by National Labor Students. The motions consider these to be ‘an exploitative practice’, and proposes lobbying to raise awareness of this. This has implications for ANU, which has a number of unpaid internship programs, notably the ANIP. Delegate Howard Maclean stated that he believes these programs are ‘in high demand and beneficial to ANU students.’ There are divided opinions on ANU campus about the costs and benefits of such programs, where some students suggest that the experience is valuable, while others suggest that it allows for exploitation and increased student debt. The NUS will likely pass both motions, having condemned unpaid internships in the past.
Banning pineapple on pizza
Welfare policy 5.47 highlights the issues with pineapple on pizza as a “blight on all things pizza represents.” This is in line with current ANU Observer policy, which condemns the practice. The motion would ban pineapple on pizza from any meal served or provided by the national union.
Currently, NUS bans video, audio or livestreaming of the National Conference. Their stated reason is to protect privacy, but most agree the real reason is they don’t want the often damning events of NatCon published on the public record, partly because they don’t want to damage the NUS’s reputation, and partly because plenty of those at NatCon have political ambitions in later life.
At various times, the Liberals, SAlt and the Nat Indies have supported livestreaming – the Indies very consistently. Student Unity are the most consistent opponents of streaming, and as such the policy will likely fail.
A policy proposed by the University of Melbourne Student Union calls for NUS to “investigate the possibility of livestreaming the National Conference”. It also asks that the cost of attendance for media Observers (currently $1050) be lowered.
Livestreaming, and broadly transparency, has been a key issue in the debate over NUS at ANU, with the Union’s failure to allow streaming a consistent argument by those opposing the Union.
Literally ending capitalism
Discussion of the evils of capitalism are strewn throughout various NUS policies, and largely taken as a given by a lot of the policy discussion. This year, NUS will vote on a specific motion calling for the “full socialisation of industry”. This essentially means that all workplaces would have mandatory unions, all workers would be mandatory members of those unions, and those unions would have unilateral power – essentially turning every business or company into a cooperative.
This motion is unlikely to pass, given Unity, the right-wing Labor faction, control conference floor, but there’s always a chance they’ll trade it with SAlt in exchange for their votes on something.
Provide ANU with guns to fight magpies
Of particular importance to ANU students, the NUS policy document highlights the need for forceful removal of magpies from campus. Actions in the policy, titled “Say it loud say it clear! Magpies are not welcome here” suggests guns and other weapons should be provided to affiliated student unions to remove problem birds. Aggressive magpies on ANU campus are a common problem in spring, and affect walking paths throughout the campus.
Condemning ANU working with the Government/Military
The policy outlined in this section by the NUS addresses and condemns monetary and research-oriented relations between private firms and universities (and their respective Vice-Chancellors). Specifically, the policy condemns these relationships with military/defence contractors, the example outlined being that of Lockheed Martin, the Defence Science Institute, and the University of Melbourne The policy argues Lockheed Martin are complicit with war crimes and genocide by association through the weaponry they build and provide.
The policy platform rejects this privatisation and condemns VCs who engage with said privatisation. It also calls for all universities to divest from arms manufacturers and cease using the funds garnered from students for the aforementioned military research purposes. Notably, in the policy’s first action the NUS National Education Officer will provide material condemning these relationships and subsequent research in regard to the ANU, as well as the University of Melbourne and RMIT. The National Education Officer will support any campaigns against university corporatisation, and will specifically endorse and give active support to campaigns against Lockheed Martin in the University of Melbourne.
Another example of this issue was raised at ANU after left-wing groups protested ANU’s research agreement with the Department of Immigration, claiming it showed complicity in the policies of the government towards refugees.
Greens party members are Liberals in disguise
Clickbait motion heading aside, the text of the motion, proposed by NLS (Labor Left), basically argues that because Richard Di Natale once mentioned he’d be open to governing with the Liberals, he should be condemned until he reverses that statement. The motion is quite colourful, calling his suggestion “Thatcherite, right wing, anti-poor, anti-worker, anti-young people and anti-student” which is an impressive list. Given Labor factions control a majority of conference, it’s extremely likely this motion will get up.
This kind of motion is quite common at NatCon – broad political statements that lack concrete campaign outcomes.
A senior member of Greens at ANU told Observer that none of their members are secret Liberals.
Confused about any of the lingo? Check out our explainer on what the NUS is and how NatCon works.
Taz Hudson & James Howarth contributed to this report.