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Switchroots win SRC majority, 80% vote for divestment

John Gooding reports.

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COUNCIL

Switch, Grassroots, and #Cumborepresent (Switchroots) have won eighteen seats on the University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council (SRC), giving them a majority in the 33-seat body. Having eighteen seats means Switchroots will be able to shut out all other factions when selecting the SRC Vice-President, General Secretary, and Education Officer for next year, as well as guaranteeing them three members of the five-member executive. A majority also guarantees Switchroots control of half of all offices with two office-bearers (for a full list of SRC departments and positions up for grabs, click here, and for a primer on who all these factions are, click here).

Of the fifteen remaining seats, five have gone to Student Unity (Labor Right), five have gone to National Labor Students (NLS, Labor Left), three to Sydney Labor Students (SLS, also Labor Left, long story), one to Socialist Alternative and one to a independent. The Switchroots coalition is made up of Grassroots members, former SLS members, and Indies, though who exactly is in which group at this stage is a little blurred; seemingly immortal Indie headkicker Rhys Pogonoski declared that the Indies are “dead” on campus at the Switchroots victory party. A source from Switchroots told Honi that “factions are playing less and less of a role within the Switchroots group; it just isn’t factoring meaningfully into decisions about office-bearers and executive council”. The broad Switchroots coalition also included members of Solidarity, a socialist faction on campus.

After having their presidential candidates crushed by Labor in 2011 and 2012, the Indies made little impact on SRC elections in 2013. The Indies were entirely shut out of office-bearing positions in the 2013 SRC due to Grassroots and Labor having a two-thirds majority. Honi predicted at the time that “the days of genuine ‘Voice/Indie’ Presidential bids may be over” due to a lack of potential candidates with office-bearing experience, and earlier this year we characterised the Indies as “virtually dead” within the SRC. This is no longer the case; the Indies have definitely been resurrected in the realm of the SRC, albeit experiencing some Grassroots assimilation during the process. In contrast, the fortunes of Labor have not done quite so well. In 2012 all Labor factions had unfettered access to office-bearing positions, in 2013 NLS was entirely shut out, and this year all of them are likely to be partially shut out.

Meanwhile, Socialist Alternative’s (SAlt) rise on campus has been brought to a particularly sharp halt. This year the group has the Education Office and three councillors; next year SAlt will have one councillor and likely no chance at any of the single office-bearing positions. Earlier in the year SAlt entered into a SRC preference deal with the Labor factions at the expense of Grassroots, with whom SAlt sided in 2013, getting the Education Office in the process. Evidently, SAlt’s move did not pan out well, though whether Grassroots would have reached out to the Indies (and whether the Indies would have worked with them) had SAlt not left Grassroots to begin with is another question entirely.

Finally, the #CumboRepresent ticket, which was part of the Switch campaign and supported Kyol Blakeney (Grassroots) for SRC President but had individualised shirts and material, managed to get three councillors elected off a single ticket. On the first day at Cumberland Blakeney outpolled Amy Knox (Stand Up!) 188 to 27. On the second day, the margin was 104 to 2. You can’t beat a local, it seems. Future Stupol hopefuls, underestimate the good people of Cumberland at your peril.

2015 SRC
Your Students’ Representative Council for 2015.

 

HONI SOIT

As the only ticket in the race with more than one person on it, Heist for Honi unsurprisingly won with 2402 votes, ahead of Christopher Pyne for Honi with 331, PRAVDA for Honi at 247, and 953 informal votes. Despite not having any meaningful opposition, Heist accrued fewer total votes than SEX for Honi the year before, which, look, if we’re being honest probably says something about either their work ethic or our work ethic, really. The astronomical number of informals is in part due to the fact that despite no longer existing as a ticket, SWAG for Honi still appeared as an option to voters. Ballots with votes for SWAG with no further preferences indicated were thus considered informal votes, and as equally valid as ballots that were blank, ballots that were numbered incorrectly, and ballots with giant penises drawn on them.

After preferences on the how-to-votes of SEX for Honi contributed to Jennifer Light being elected in a tight race for SRC President last year, the SRC passed a motion prohibiting cross-promotion on campaigning material between Honi tickets and SRC/NUS/Presidential tickets. This was intended to separate Honi and SRC elections, so one would not be able to meaningfully impact the other.

However, this was not to be. Relations between Heist and Stand Up! got off to a rocky start when a Stand Up! member allegedly helped get the ball rolling on SWAG for Honi to assist Knox’s campaign. If Heist were to have genuine opposition, campaigners and resources would have likely come to them from the Grassroots and Switch campaigns, weakening those groups in their contest against Stand Up!. After SWAG dropped out and Heist’s victory was all but assured, some Heist candidates and campaigners took to verbally spruiking Blakeney to voters, a tactic not banned by the regulatory changes. Where there’s political will (and considerable acrimony), there’s always a technically permissible way.

DIVESTMENT REFERENDUM

Finally, the referendum on whether the University should divest from companies fossil fuels found that 2974 (or 79.67%) of students were in favour, whereas 759 (or 20.33%) were against. When similar questions were put to the student populations at the University of New South Wales and the University of Melbourne the response was 78% and a whopping 97% respectively. However, both of these polls took place outside of student elections, unlike USyd’s. If this year’s crop of politically active students weren’t preoccupied with SRC victory and paving their way to future world domination, it’s safe to say a lot of effort would have been directed towards the divestment cause instead.

NUS

Of the seven students elected as delegates to the National Conference of the National Union of Students, four came from the Switchroots group and three from Stand Up. Presidential candidates Kyol Blakeney (GR) and Amy Knox (NLS) were elected, along with Declan Waddell, Nina Pearson and Cameron Caccamo from Switchroots and Alisha Aitken Radburn and Jennifer Light, both of Unity (Labor Right).

Thanks to local Stupol historian (and *conflict alert* Switch campaigner) Cameron Caccamo for clearing up a few technicalities, you can check out his coverage here.

Correction: This article originally stated that all votes for Swag were considered informal.
Correction: This article originally omitted the involvement of Solidarity in the Switchroots coalition.