The 2017 National Conference of the NUS has formally opened. Traditionally a political circus of screaming chants, factional warfare and highly questionable voting procedures, this year’s Conference promises new drama, with an unprecedented proportion of conference held by the Labor Right ‘Unity’ faction, and a swath of controversial policy positions.
Over the next four days, NatCon will discuss policies on education, unionism, student welfare, minority groups, and regional/remote students. There will also be elections for the National Officers, and the State Branch Officers.
NatCon is infamously unclear on which items will be discussed when. At NatCon, many policies don’t make it to a vote before the conference ends, and some delegates will be absent, so it’s less about the number of supporters for a policy, and more about whether and when the policy comes up.
Many policies may also be packaged – if BizComm feels they are uncontroversial, or, more maliciously, wants to sneak something through, they can present a huge number of motions en masse for a vote. We do know that Education policy is likely to come first. We also know that elections will come last, on the Thursday afternoon. Everything else is totally up in the air.
This year’s Conference will maintain the tribal partisan divides which cause controversy and chaos at the conference – but the balance of power has shifted. Student Unity, the faction associated with Labor Right at a national level, has a 44.7% share of votes on the floor. Unity has an absolute majority, however, because they’ve done a deal with the Liberals for their 6.1% of votes, pushing them over the magical 50% mark.
What does that mean? With an absolute majority, Unity holds all the cards. They’ll have 4 of the 7 members on BizComm, which means they’ll decide which motions get put to a vote. With their absolute majority on the floor, they’ll be able to control exactly what passes and what doesn’t. They will also be able to unilaterally amend bylaws, which require only a 50%+1 majority, but will not be able to seek other constitutional changes (which require 75%+1) without the support of a couple of other factions. Just because Unity has a majority, however, doesn’t mean some deals won’t (and haven’t) been done. Deals will have been done for the National Executive, and we hope to bring you more on that later in the week.