Josh Crawford has been elected president of the Sydney University Liberal Club in a victory for a splinter “left” group, endorsed by NSW Young Liberal president Alex Dore.
Josh Crawford, who is the son of state Liberal politician Catherine Cusack MLC, beat out 2016 failed USU Board candidate Dom Bondar, with a vote count of 170 to 114.
He led a group of people from the party’s left. Accompanying him on the ticket were Shimmy on Board campaign manager Jacob Masina (Secretary), Jessie Nguyen (Treasurer), 2015 failed USU Board candidate Jennifer Zin (Vice President Policy), SRC councillor David Hogan (Vice President Activities) and SASS president Ed McCann (Vice President Development).
The group’s how to vote promised, “With your help, we will re-energise SULC and restore it to a stable, inclusive and successful beacon of liberalism and conservatism on campus.”
The group successfully defeated an establishment ticket from the party’s centre-right. Led by Bondar, this group was backed by outgoing president, Will Dawes, and included current treasurer Dimitry Palmer and Mon Droit editor Catherine Priestley.
The meeting was held in the Footbridge Theatre and was attended by close to 300 people.
The vote count for remaining positions is yet to be finalised, although it is highly likely that attendees voted according to each how to vote.
SULC has traditionally been a base for the centre-right of the Liberal Party. The club has strong connections to federal politics, with prominent members regularly seeking pre-selection in federal and state seats and working as federal and state staffers.
A senior centre-right source told Honi before the votes were announced, “There are huge implications if Crawford is elected. The left faction are here in numbers to support them. It will have a seismic impact on the party dynamic, given their betrayal of alliance.”
The SULC AGM was postponed to today after the USU dissolved the club’s membership in May, in response to then president Will Dawes and then secretary Josh Crawford being unable to agree on a method of measuring members eligible to vote for the executive election.
The factional dispute manifested in accusations of stacking, allegations of hijacking of the SULC Facebook page, omitting members from mailing lists, inability to schedule general meetings and all-round high degrees of animosity.
The USU required the entire membership to sign up again at ODay, under the watch of security and USU personnel.
Bondar’s team were handing out how-to-vote pamphlets at the ODay stall. A number of non-student ACCESS card holders attended the stall to enrol, overwhelmingly with the intention to vote for Crawford, prompting allegations that he was attempting to stack the election.
At tonight’s meeting, many students voted and left after hearing Crawford’s speech for presidency.
Screenshots seen by Honi show instances of sneaky behaviour from the Crawford camp leading up to the election. In one screenshot, a supporter of Crawford is shown to be discouraging long-time SULC members from attending the AGM, presumably due to their intention to vote for Bondar. The supporter suggests the meeting may be aggressive and dangerous. (Not without precedent: in 2015, a Young Liberals event at City Tattersalls Club ended in a widely reported punch-on.)
In another set of screenshots, a member of Crawford’s ticket is shown to be messaging various friends asking if they know anyone who has an ACCESS card, unfussed whether they identify with the Liberal movement or not, and even trying to solicit votes from Labor Club members.