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The Manning Files – Week 9, Semester 2

All the #usydvotes goss, just before voters go to the polls.


If you find dealing with student politicians trying during election season, try being Paulene Graham. As returning officer, she is paid to administer the elections and listen to the many gripes and grumbles of the candidates.

Although Paulene declined to comment on any specific complaints – though we’ve heard of several – she told The Manning Files: “There have been a variety of claims made from all sides about promises that are made. Free political speech allows for quite a bit of hyperbole.” Paulene added that the relationship between the two presidential candidates has been surprisingly congenial. “The two presidential candidates are being very nice to one another,” she said. The Manning Files team is pleased to hear this, though the polling days are sure to tell a different story.

However, the University has been less agreeable. According to Paulene, USyd has booked a number of events on and around Eastern Avenue throughout the campaign, preventing campaigners from chalking and postering in certain areas. Some of the noticeboards have also disappeared from Eastern Avenue, something Paulene described as “disappointing”. Next year USyd will put the SRC elections as a permanent marker on their calendar to avoid future clashes.


The 2014 Presidential Debate occurred last Thursday. Right off the bat the presence of Sydney University Liberal Club publication Mon Droit on the interviewing panel caused some consternation (see the editorial on page two), but fortunately the indomitable former USU IPP and debate chair Astha Rajvanshi was on hand to crush any resistance to our reign of terror.

A major point of difference between the candidates that emerged was the candidates’ approach to the National Union of Students (NUS). When Kyol Blakeney (Grassroots) was asked how he would fund his policy platform, he suggested cutting funding given by the SRC to NUS. However, when asked later how he planned on fighting fee deregulation without the coordinating with NUS and its affiliate student organisations, he clarified that he would not work to actually disaffiliate from the organisation, but merely to reduce the level of funding it receives.

Amy Knox (National Labor Students) was also asked if she felt comfortable giving SRC office bearing positions to members of Socialist Alternative, a group who have sided with Grassroots in the past. “I’ve never publicly said I’d give them spots in the future SRC,” said Knox. She refused to comment on if that meant she would not be giving them spots.

But without a doubt the biggest bombshell was when the candidates were asked to name the most objectionable quality of their opponents. After a lot of awkward thumb-twiddling, Blakeney nominated Knox’s inexperience as her most objectionable quality, whereas Knox suggested she disliked Blakeney’s attitude towards NUS.


Although Grassroots, Stand Up!, Left Action and Switch have had their fair share of disputes over the past couple of weeks, little compares to the running feud currently playing out between the two Palestine-focused tickets. Omar Hassan is running at the top of Free Palestine (a Left Action/Socialist Alternative ticket) and Fahad Ali is running at the top of Students for Palestine for SRC (an independent ticket).

From September 16-19, Ali sent six emails to Returning Officer Paulene Graham detailing various complaints against Hassan. Ali alleged that he approached Hassan on September 11 and asked for their two tickets to work together in some capacity, an offer that Hassan allegedly declined. While this is perhaps understandable in the heated election arena, other complaints made by Ali were accompanied by evidence of Hassan’s alleged wrongdoing.

Ali’s next allegation – that Hassan covered up Students for Palestine for SRC posters with Left Action posters – came with accompanying photographs. The next allegation – that Hassan claimed to be the only pro-Palestine ticket in the election – was confirmed by a student witness. The next – that Hassan has allegedly been telling voters Ali is not committed to the Palestinian cause – came with an audio recording of Ali interviewing a voter. In the recording, the voter recounts a Free Palestine campaigner saying Ali’s “heart really isn’t into [the Palestinian cause] and the main thing he’s trying to do is campaign because he wants a position”.

The animosity between the two is well documented, with public Facebook barbs traded even before the election. Omar Hassan did not respond to several requests for comment.


Dom Ellis, member of Honi ticket Heist, is nervous about the upcoming Honi elections. Despite the only other serious ticket, SWAG, dropping out of the race, Ellis and his team insist on campaigning. “It’s about letting people know our plans for the year ahead so they know what they’re voting for,” he says.

When asked how he thinks Heist’s chances of winning are looking, he replies: “good”. The team is planning to have a relatively decent campaigner base coming out for the 12 or so hours of voting. “I may or may not have engaged in a wager about winning with certain Honi editors*, but we don’t have a target, we just want to win,” says Ellis.

So who’s looking like more of a threat out of the other two Honi tickets: Pravda or Chris Pyne? “We get the impression that most people don’t know what Pravda is but having said that most people also don’t like Chris Pyne … But Chris Pyne is probably slightly more likely to be a threat because Celeste Arenas, who IS Chris Pyne, has made one post on Facebook,” Ellis responds.

Arenas acknowledged her lack of formal campaigning, but said her campaign has received “a great response” regardless.

“Campaign material may or may not become more visible during upcoming election days which is all subject to whether or not I have the time,” she said.

“I think my chances of winning are pretty high,” she added. “It all depends on my base support.”

On the other side, Pravda’s sole ticket member Pedram Mohseni describes his campaign as “pretty tough” due to the language barriers between him and his campaigners. “Most of them are Cossacks so I’ve had a hard time explaning to them that the RO says beheading other campaigners is against the regulations. But walk-and-talks are pretty great when most of your campaigners are on horseback,”says Mohseni. We’re glad to hear it.

Mohseni also aptly points out that none of the tickets have a three-letter slogan and circular logo, so the possibility that nobody could win still remains.

*We cannot confirm nor deny this.