ANUSA SRC Abandoned After Student Refuses to Leave

Security guards leaving the room.

By Adelle Millhouse and Eliza Croft

SRC 6 has been abandoned after a student, named three times, refused to leave. The dispute arose during a discussion of a motion condemning incoming Chancellor Julie Bishop – one of three motions which General Secretary Lachy Day had initially excluded from the meeting’s agenda. 

The student who refused to leave was 2020 Environment Officer-elect Grace Hill, who is associated with the Socialist Alternative (SAlt). Hill had moved a motion to have the SRC condemn the appointment of Bishop as Chancellor. The preamble labelled Bishop “an enemy of students, workers, and anyone who isn’t a corporate vampire”. The motion also would have  obliged ANUSA to refuse to work with Bishop as Chancellor. The motion was initially excluded from the agenda due to what Day described as “defamation reasons”.

The SRC initially moved to hold an ‘in camera’ discussion of “SRC standing orders”. When the SRC is ‘in camera’, only voting members are allowed to remain in the room and hear discussion. This discussion continued for an hour and a half before student media were allowed back into the room, and the livestream was restarted. Other non-SRC members remained outside. 

Discussion then moved to the motion, initially excluded from the agenda, to condemn Bishop. It was at this point that it appeared that the SRC had discussed more than just “standing orders”. In a motion that seemed pre-planned, Education Officer Tanika Sibal moved to “roll the Chair”. This would force General Secretary Day to change his initial position and allow the SRC to discuss the motion. Upon being rolled Day elected to cede his position, as he felt he was “unfit to Chair” given his previous actions. After a brief discussion, the SRC voted to allow Hill, as the initial mover of the Bishop motion, to be present and speak to her motion. 

The motion was debated, and the SRC moved to a vote. Details on the debate can be found at our liveblog, or on our livestream. Hill, still present in the room for the vote, photographed those members voting against the motion on her mobile phone. SRC members objected to this, and Hill was named. Hill had previously been named twice, and was thus asked to leave the meeting. She refused. 

The meeting was then suspended until Hill left the room. Day announced that the meeting would be paused for ten minutes, after which it would be abandoned if Hill remained in the room. Hill again refused to leave. Day then called ANU Security to remove Hill, who still did not leave.

As the meeting had been paused, all students were allowed back into the room. SAlt member Kim Stern expressed outrage at the decision to remove Hill. “Have a good last time doing this without socialists in the room,” he said. Multiple Socialist Alternative members have been elected to ANUSA for next year. 

The condemnation motion was not the only motion originally excluded from the agenda. There was also a motion moved by Wren Somerville, which called on ANUSA to condemn “Australia’s long history of racism, and the Government’s recent racist attacks on Chinese people”. The motion would have had ANUSA run a campaign against anti-Chinese racism, with posters and a forum. The text of the motion was posted in the ANU Schmidtposting Facebook group.

A third apparently excluded motion was in support of the Hong Kong protests. The motion was also moved by Somerville, who emailed the text to Observer. It called on ANUSA to “[stand] in solidarity with the student-led protests in Hong Kong against the proposed extradition law” and condemn “the violent response from the Hong Kong police force”.

The three excluded motions follow on from the SRC’s decision at SRC 5 to not discuss a motion supporting the Hong Kong protests. ANUSA issued a statement saying this was because “the motion was not relevant to our objective [sic] and goals under the constitution”. Somerville, who moved the SRC 5 Hong Kong motion, was told by Day that her SRC 6 motion condemning anti-Chinese racism was excluded “for similar reasons”.

In 2011, the SRC passed a motion calling for the end of mandatory and offshore detention. In 2016, the SRC passed a motion condeming Holocaust denial.  ANUSA did not respond to Observer’s request for comment, which asked how these motions and the Hong Kong and anti-Chinese racism motions differed from this precedent.

Somerville labelled Day’s actions “not only extremely undemocratic but also unconstitutional”. Section 14(10) of the ANUSA Constitution says that whoever convenes an SRC meeting (i.e. the General Secretary), must “include on the agenda any motion proposed by an ordinary member of the Association andsubmitted to them at least three (3) Teaching Days before the date of the meeting”.

At tonight’s meeting, Clubs Council Secretary Jason Pover asked Day, “Is ‘defamation’ ANUSA’s ‘national security’?” Day responded that he does not make decisions without good reason, saying, “I have been informed on good authority that this is a defamation risk.” Day explained that ANUSA’s lawyer had advised him that the motion could make himself, and the association through vicarious liability, “liable for a defamation claim”. “The law trumps the Constitution,” he said.

Day also said that the decision on the anti-Chinese racism motion was based on “precedent” from SRC 5, and that the motion was excluded out of concern for “the welfare of ANU students”.

As the meeting was abandoned, no further motions could be discussed. The SRC had been scheduled to receive reports from all Gen Reps, vote on a motion to “condemn the climate vandalism” of the Labor and Liberal parties, and consider amending the ANUSA budget so that the Clubs Ball could receive more funding.

Anthony Lotric and Hayley Hands contributed to reporting.

Eliza Croft is a member of the Australian Labor Party. She has had no involvement with campus political clubs.


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