News //

UniGate Week 11 – New alliances, charitable sexism, allegations and complaints

All the rumours, hearsay, and downright slander from the world of student politics and culture.

A preference for new alliances

Forget what you know about student politics. The boundaries have been redrawn, the delicate alliance system recast. It has finally happened: the Indies and Labor left are working together. The unfathomable was confirmed late last week when it emerged that Union Board candidates Tim Matthews, Tara Waniganayaka (both Independents), and Eve Radunz (Labor left, NLS) had entered into a three way preference deal. For the last two years, student politics has been dominated by the contest between these two groups, coming to a head when Matthews ran against NLS’ Phoebe Drake for SRC President in 2011. That race was one of the most heated and fiercely contested in recent history, with both sides accusing the other of intimidation and bullying tactics. Matthews and Waniganayaka played down the deal, emphasising their decision to work with Labor was based on Eve’s strength as a candidate. Aside from the fact this deal brings two old foes together, it has also raised eyebrows because of the omission of Kade Denton, another Board candidate with close ties to the Independents. Without the support of the Independents, Denton has been left in a situation where no other candidate will be asking voters to give him their second preference. Locked out of all the deals, Denton’s campaign has decided to give its preferences to Waniganayaka and Matthews for nothing in return. The admirable intention from this seems to be ‘even if our friends screwed us, we’re good enough not to screw them’.


Oaktree waters the bloketree?

The Oaktree Foundation: ending world poverty, training young leaders, and reinforcing the patriarchy. That’s how it looked to the Gate when we learned some curious details about this week’s Oaktree Society Charity Auction Night, in which students offer an activity or service and are auctioned off (and thereby get a numeric value on their popularity – or lack thereof). Official Oaktree material sent to the commodities people to be auctioned off at the event neatly divided the suggested services along gender lines. While ladies were invited to clean the winning bidder’s bedroom, make their favourite dessert, or, our personal favourite, engage in a “3 hour make-out session” (how tiring!), suggestions for the guys included being the winner’s handyman or taking them to the gym. After the Gate made inquiries, Oaktree President Ed Arthy issued a clarification to those who signed up to be auctioned off. Arthy, who didn’t author the offending document, claimed to be “perplexed” that there was a gender divide in the suggestions, and described the situation as “a big misunderstanding”. Yes, Ed, it was a big misunderstanding – of the last few decades of gender politics. (Arthy also expressed disappointment that we chose to focus on this issue instead of on Oaktree’s efforts to improve education for children in developing countries.  Well, if blatant sexism is employed in the name of raising money for the kids, then it must be OK.)


R-O-lling in the deep

As would likely be the case in an election with so many candidates vying for so few positions, the Returning Officer (RO) has had an active role in this Board election. The Returning Officer receives all complaints about candidate regulation breaches, and deals with them accordingly.

So far, the Gate knows of complaints brought against four candidates: William Dawes, Grace O’Brien, Bebe D’Souza, and Tim Matthews.

As reported last week, complaints were made against Will & Grace which accused them of pooling their resources to funnel votes into Grace’s campaign. This is significant, as candidates were given $500 grants for their campaigns this year, and were thus told that any pooling of resources would be strictly prohibited. The RO has now dismissed all complaints, stating that having Grace’s name printed in a larger font size on t-shirts and having all their A-frames instruct voters to preference her first were merely attempts to counteract the natural preference for Will in their slogan, and his placement higher up the ballot. However, the Gate now understands that members of another campaign have appealed the ruling, and will take it to the Electoral Arbiter. Who dat? you say. According to the USU’s regulations, the Arbiter “shall be a barrister or solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales or a judge or magistrate”. Cool. We’ll have the latest on this for you next week. 

A complaint has also been brought against Bebe D’Souza, alleging misconduct of her campaigners. The complaint stated some of her campaigners had endorsed (read: liked on Facebook) a defamatory banner against Will & Grace, and that some of her campaigners had yelled “fucking scabs,” and “rich Liberal bourgeois scum” at the pair because they actively crossed the picket line during Tuesday’s strike in order to campaign. D’Souza was also under fire for one of her campaigners threatening to create a “know your Liberals” flyer for election day (any material other than campaign leaflets are forbidden on election day).

D’Souza sent the RO a detailed response, claiming that campaigners from several other candidates also endorsed the banner, that Will & Grace campaigners called themselves scabs and wore “I am a scab” stickers on strike day, that none of her campaigners were campaigning on strike day and were therefore acting of their own accord, and that she is unable to control her campaigners while they ‘like’ “banners from the comfort of their own bedroom.” The RO hence dropped all complaints on Monday morning.

Finally, we reported last week that Tim Matthews was handing out Pokemon cards, an accusation he has since denied. This hasn’t deterred Matthews’ opponents, however, who are now targetting him where he is at his softest: in his onesie. Yes, the painfully ubiquitous all-in-one animal outfits are the latest item of controversy on the campaign trail. Before the election, the RO explicitly ruled that onesies would count as commonly owned items, meaning if you use one in your campaign you will not have to deduct its worth from your spending cap. So with this precedent in mind, how could another campaign have any grounds for complaint? Well, it’s now being argued that the onesies used in Matthews’ promotional videos are of a higher quality than your average, everyday, household onesie, and that as a result he should have to include their cost in his expenditure declarations. This marks the first point in history that anyone wearing a onesie has ever been accused of being too classy. Yep, serious shit. You’ll see it in the High Court circa September.

Filed under: