Accusations of stacking, non-student sign-ups, a Facebook page allegedly appropriated by past-president Alex Dore, and a factional how to vote printed on the official club insignia have all formed part of ODay for the Sydney University Liberal Club (SULC).
The day was the main chance for competing factions to sign up members for support in the upcoming club election, after the USU wiped the entire membership earlier this year.
The stall was manned by a USU staff member and two security guards throughout the day.
Allegations of Stacking
For context, a “centre right” faction of SULC has been split into two. One group (led by Josh Crawford, supported by past president Alex Dore) has splintered into a new faction. The centre right faction that remains is led by incumbent president Will Dawes and president hopeful (and recent USU Board candidate) Dom Bondar.
Members of SULC involved in both sides of the dispute have indicated that they believe non-students have signed up, not for the purpose of participating in the society, but to vote in the upcoming Annual General Meeting for the President.
A member of SULC identified Dore, who is no longer a student, signing up. A member of the Liberal Club and senior member of the NSW Young Liberals said that “There is no doubt that there have been efforts by people in the left to stack the club”. A further example of non-student sign-ups seems to include Jane Cusack, Executive Assistant to the Dean of Engineering and Information Technology, Crawford’s Aunt.
Crawford denies any allegations of stacking, saying “all of the people I signed up today were genuine Liberals” and “I am going to be engaging the membership to get the club on track. My goal is not to stack or play games – it’s to get the best outcome for the club after we’ve seen instability and a lot of bad behaviour by members of the executive”.
Implications of stacking go the other way as well. A witness identified Jakov Miljak, a controversial Young Liberal who was let go from his staffer position after allegedly starting a physical confrontation with a Turnbull supporter. Miljak is no longer a student.
There is no substantial evidence that non-Liberal parties have attempted to seize the opportunity to influence the SULC election, although multiple Labor students did sign up.
At this stage, it is almost impossible to identify the quantum of disingenuous signups. The USU Board is yet to determine a date for the AGM.
A member of SULC and senior member of the NSW Young Liberals told Honi that “SULC is traditionally a very important recruitment base. If you control SULC, you’ll have a pretty good chance at having a chance at the Young Liberal movement.”
A Controversial How to Vote
A “How to vote” (HTV), which sported the SULC insignia and therefore had the appearance of official SULC correspondence, and supporting Dom Bondar for President and Dimitry Palmer for Treasurer, was distributed at the stall.
The HTV raises concerns that the Bondar faction has purported to embody the club prior to election.
Crawford was not distributing similar material. At the stall he indicated to Honi that he thought that handing out such material was “inappropriate” and that the USU attendant had requested that they desist
The USU staff member declined to comment.
Dawes commented to Honi that the staff member “suggested that we stop doing the HTVs because things could get complicated. It was not a direct order otherwise we would have complied. There is nothing in the constitution about how to run an election. This is now an election campaign.”
An Alleged Facebook Page Hijacking
Dawes has alleged that the Immediate Past President of the club, Alex Dore, appropriated control of the Facebook page by removing all other administrators (including Dawes) when the dispute boiled over.
Dore is a supporter of Crawford and no longer a student.
Honi has seen evidence that Dore is not a current administrator of the page. There were a number of administrators at the time Dawes was removed.
The latest post on the page reads “Great to see former SULC President Alex Dore on ABC24’s Weekend Breakfast yesterday (even if Twitter wasn’t as enthused)!”
Dore declined to comment.
Disputed Mailing List
The primary catalyst for the original dissolution of the membership list was an insurmountable challenge to verify its contents.
Dawes has made an inference that there have been fraudulent additions to the list.
Honi has seen evidence, including statutory declarations, of people who were ostensibly surprised to find themselves on the SULC list.
Crawford has categorically denied adding any such names to the list.
It is highly doubtful that Crawford would be able to rely on ‘members’ who are unaware that they are signed up to the club – they would naturally not turn up to the AGM to vote.
Where to from here?
Bondar indicated to Honi that “it has been very disappointing from a club policy point of view that we have had whole swathes of new members leave because they don’t want to be involved in any club conflict.”
USU President Michael Rees told Honi on the evening of ODay, “to my knowledge, everything at the SULC stall went smoothly today and people respected the rules established by the USU”.
The window to sign up before the AGM formally closes this Friday.
From what Honi understands, it seems that the Bondar/Dawes faction likely accrued more support on the day. This inference is based on their larger presence at the stall, their placement at the front of the stall, and provision of the How-to-vote.
It will only become clear at the AGM whether this inference is correct.