By Adelle Millhouse
In addition to roles on the SRC, students will this week elect delegates to the National Union of Students (NUS). Electrify, Empower, New Leaf, and Climate Action are all running candidates.
What is the NUS?
The NUS is the “peak representative body” for Australian undergraduate students. It advocates and lobbies on behalf of students, and conducts campaigns, conferences, and protests throughout the year. The executive officers and the policy of the NUS are decided at National Conference (NatCon) each December.
ANUSA’s delegates will attend this conference, and, if ANU re-accredits with the NUS, will also get to vote on policy and elect national office-bearers. ANUSA has not accredited with the NUS since 2015, as the NUS has not met the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) set by the SRC, but this year’s KPIs are somewhat less stringent than in previous years.
The NUS is highly factional. Factions control what policies are pursued, and who will receive Executive positions at NatCon. Most of the NUS’s factions practice “vote-binding”, which obliges their members to vote the party line. Any delegates that are elected by ANUSA who sit with a binding faction will only be able to vote the same way as that faction.
NUS Delegates are not part of ANUSA’s Student Representative Council (SRC). Delegates are, however, able to hold a voting role in the SRC at the same time as the delegate position. Most NUS Delegate candidates this year are running for another role.
All of Electrify’s candidates will sit with the Labor Right ‘Student Unity’ faction if elected. Student Unity is the NUS’s largest faction, and controlled approximately 39% of delegates at NatCon last year. It also practices vote-binding. Electrify’s candidate for education officer, Nick Pagonis, currently sits on the National Executive of the NUS as a General Representative.
In a statement to Observer, Electrify stated that, if elected, its delegates will “continue to make sure that the NUS is run effectively”, and will ensure that the NUS “supports ANUSA in all of its activities, particularly in terms of advocacy and institutional knowledge”.
Electrify’s NUS delegate candidates are Pagonis, CASS College Representative candidate James Eveille, and Gen Rep candidates Eleanor Hickey, Georgette Mouawad, and Sophie Macdonald.
Empower’s candidates will sit with the National Labor Students (NLS) faction. This is the Labor Left faction of the NUS, and the second largest, controlling approximately 27% of delegates at NatCon last year. NLS also practices vote binding.
At present, Empower has “no specific NUS policy points” in their platform. The ticket told Observer that the NUS should address issues “of the wider student union movement”, and not “narrow campus issues that are not representative of other universities”. However, Empower said that its delegates do plan to address those problems faced at ANU that are also felt at a national level, such as “corporatisation of university campuses”. They plan to use the NUS’s platform to consult with other universities on these issues.
Empower’s NUS Delegate candidates are Education officer candidate Henri Vickers, and Gen Rep candidates Ben Yates, Vincent Lee, Zoe Ranganathan, and Abby Flynn.
Climate Action did not respond to questions about what faction its delegates will sit with if elected, but given the affiliation of their members, it seems highly likely that they will sit with the Socialist Alternative (SAlt) faction. SAlt practices vote binding and controls approximately 12% of the NUS conference floor.
Climate Action said that if elected, its delegates will use the NUS to organise more national protests, lead campaigns against the corporatisation of universities, and to “show solidarity to the struggles of the oppressed”. Climate Action also wants to have the NUS cease campaigning for the Labor Party, which it calls an “enemy to students, the oppressed, and the planet”. Labor-aligned factions control more than 60% of the conference floor.
Climate Action’s NUS delegate candidate is Grace Carter.
All candidates from the ‘Turn Over a New Leaf’ ticket will sit with the Grassroots Independents if elected. This faction is an amalgamation of the former National Independents and the Greens-affiliated Grassroots Left. The faction does not practice vote-binding, and comprised approximately 18.5% of conference floor last year.
New Leaf has released a detailed policy for NUS reform, focusing on accountability, transparency, and representation for autonomous groups. If elected, its delegates will support livestreaming NatCon, though they acknowledge that achieving this is unlikely due to the historical voting of other factions. They pledge also to present “detailed report backs” on the Conferences at SRC, and will support ANU student media’s access to NatCon. Last year, no student media outlets from ANU were allowed to attend the conference.
At present, there is no autonomous voting for positions such as Queer* Officer. Instead, the Officer positions are, like other NUS Executive positions, worked out between the factions. New Leaf’s delegates say they would promote the people endorsed by relevant autonomous student groups for Officer positions – for example, they would endorse the Queer Collaborations’ pick for Queer* officer. New Leaf’s delegates, if elected, plan to consult with ANUSA’s departments prior to NatCon, and put forward policies endorsed by those departments.
New Leaf’s candidates are Presidential candidate Lachy Day, Education Officer candidate Skanda Panditharatne, Gen Rep candidates Aryanne Caminschi and Jason Pover, and General Secretary-elect Taylor Heslington.
Skanda Panditharatne and Jason Pover were Observer News Editors in 2018.
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