ANU Union Elections 2019: Head to Head
Elections for the Board of the ANU Union will open on Monday. There are currently four vacancies, one of which must be filled by a postgraduate student. Administered by Elections ACT, polling will take place at ANU Sport, and conclude on Thursday. This year two tickets are running, named Revive, and Relaunch. Revive is aligned with ANU Labor Left, and Relaunch with ANU Labor Students (Labor Right). Two individual candidates are also running, who are understood to also be aligned with the Labor Party.
So what’s happened to the ANU Union, who’s running in the election, and what do they stand for? Here are the tickets head-to-head.
A Brief History
Due to the Kambri redevelopment, the Union’s presence on campus has decreased in recent years. The Union was not offered a tender in the Pop-Up village to run ANU Bar, which resulted in later legal action. A settlement was later reached with the University, with the Union saying it was moving “towards the relaunch of the ANU Union with an exciting new operation program from 2018.” Financial Statements of the Union since 2015 have shown a decrease in the value of its assets and levels of revenue. This is attributed the cessation of income from vendors due to the redevelopment.
In 2018, candidates for vacant positions of the Board were elected unopposed, and were mostly comprised of Labor-aligned students. The Union was relatively quiet on social media until November, when they announced their move to ANU Commons.
Revive is composed of candidates who never been on the Board before. In response to criticism of their inexperience, the ticket commented that “you shouldn’t have to be a board member to know what’s going on in the Union.” Revive categorises their policies as covering “transparency and accountability, fairness and equity, improved financial practices, and a better social hub for students.”
Relaunch is composed of students in their later years, with some candidates having experience within the Board. In comment to Observer, the ticket highlights one candidate who “saw the struggle and the fight it took to remain amongst the university’s desire to rebrand and demolish the centre of student life on campus.” Relaunch believes that “The ANU Union needs more than just new directors on its Board, it needs a reform of its constitution to reflect the new state of the Union.”
Affordability for Students
An early policy of Revive is to create a “two-tiered” payment structures for vendors in the new ANU Union precinct. In response to questions about the financial sustainability of this policy, the ticket states that it’s “definitely one of our more long-term goals.” The ticket could not promise that they could ensure prices would return to pre-Kambri levels, saying “the only people who can guarantee that is the current Union board.”
Relaunch, meanwhile, says that getting prices to pre-Kambri levels “is financially possible”, labelling it “a priority”. A key focus of the ticket is making the ANU Union an affordable alternative for students. Relaunch aims “to advocate for affordable, low-cost alternatives to the continued corporatisation of the university and student services on campus.” In their statement to Observer, the ticket says that their “ability to form relationships” and “understanding of how student organisations work” will allow them to achieve their policy aims.
Claessens as Chair of the Board
Late last year, the Union was caught up in a harassment claim within ACT Young Labor, with Board directors Nick Douros and Francis Claessens named in the complaint. Douros was appointed to the board by ANUSA. Both directors are aligned with the right faction of the party. The complaint was later upheld by an internal investigation. While Douros’ term finished last year, Claessens still holds the position of Chair as of the date of publishing.
In response to questions from Observer about Claessens continuing to hold the position of Chair of the Board, Revive said they were “deeply concerned by this fact and struggle to understand why the current board would seek to promote someone found guilty of bullying.” If elected, its candidates will call for the resignation of Claessens, and “hope that Relaunch and the 2 other individual candidates will do the same.”
Relaunch did not comment on the viability of Claessens as Chair of the Board, saying that they “believe that is an internal board matter.” The ticket points out that the position of Chair is up for election in April, which will allow for “a new chair and deputy chair that reflect the values of the Union.” The ticket affirms that “we understand the responsibilities to be undertaken by the Board and will continue to promote these values if we as a ticket are elected.”
Policies Revealed Throughout the Week
Revive promises to make funding grants to clubs and societies. The ticket highlights that “…the Union has previously delivered these grants, even through times of deficit, [but] there was a relatively recent and unexplained decision to stop.” While the ticket has not consulted Clubs Council about this policy, they affirm that their “priority is delivering these grants” by creating “discussions” in the Boardroom. In previous days, Revive has also posted policies concerning meeting attendance and the creation of an international student spot on the Board.
Relaunch additionally seeks to collaborate with ANUSA and departments to create “student environment that is welcoming, accessible and inclusive to all the students that attend this university.” The ticket emphasises the return of ANU Bar, and invites students to share their stories through a survey.
Both tickets confirmed to Observer that full policy platforms will forthcoming in the coming days. Polling opens at 11 am at the ANU Sport and Recreation Building.
This article has been edited to clarify that Nick Douros’ term ended last year, and that he was appointed to the Board by ANUSA.
News Editor Eliza Croft did not contribute to this article.
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