Campus factions Student Unity (Labor right) and National Labor Students (NLS, Labor left) have signed a deal with “Moderate Liberals” to form a coalition for the upcoming Students’ Representative Council elections.
The deal, detailed in a series of leaked screenshots from Student Unity’s private Facebook group seen by Honi Soit, sees a formal alliance between Labor and Liberal factions for the first time since a power-sharing agreement between NLS, Student Unity, Liberals and Sydney Labor Students (SLS, Labor left) collapsed a week before the 2015 allocation of SRC executive positions.
“We have chosen our coalition and signed a deal for the election,” Michael Elliott, Student Unity’s campus convenor, posted in the group shortly after news of a Grassroots and Sydney Labor Students alliance for September’s election became public. “We will be working with NLS and the Esther Shim aligned ‘independents’ – more accurately the moderate Liberals.
“I know I previously ruled this out but circumstances have changed dramatically.”
Elliott initially denied the existence of the deal to Honi, but recanted when shown the screenshots. He confirmed their authenticity, insisting that “no formal deal is in place” despite acknowledging that a deal that pledged electoral support and distributed SRC positions had been signed.
“Had SLS not decided to work with Grassroots, then we wouldn’t be in this position,” he said, arguing that the moderate Liberals “have shown less willingness to work actively against the National Union of Students than SLS and Grassroots”.
Despite Elliott’s confirmation, current SRC president Chloe Smith, the most prominent NLS member on campus, denied negotiating or signing the deal. She insisted that NLS has a blanket rule against dealing with Liberals, despite the faction having done so as recently as last year.
“This is the first time I’ve heard of any deal with the SRC,” Shim, a former Liberal and recently elected USU board director, told Honi. “I’ve been focusing more on Honi Soit elections.”
The leaked screenshots indicate substantial paranoia about the possibility of the deal being discovered. “I must stress that nobody outside this group can know the breakdown of positions, or that we are working with the mods,” Elliott wrote.
“If anybody gets under your skin or tries to speak to you (especially honi [sic]), please say nothing and let me know immediately. IF YOU ARE CAUGHT LEAKING THIS INFORMATION YOU WILL BE DISCIPLINED HEAVILY.”
This likely reflects the fear that discovery of the deal would lead to a backlash akin to the 2015 furore that saw NLS step away from a similar partnership to form a coalition with Grassroots and the Socialist Alternative.
Terming the deal with NLS and Liberals a “powerhouse coalition”, Student Unity member Dylan Williams, currently Welfare Officer of the SRC, followed Elliott’s announcement with one of the more insidious lessons of campus politics: “If any friends ask who they will be campaigning for when you ask – tell them that it’s all for you!”
In the event of an NLS/Unity/Liberal victory, the deal would hand Unity the SRC general secretary position, one of two education officers, a general executive, welfare officer and at least eight minor positions.
It is unclear exactly which Liberals are party to the deal or which SRC positions they have been promised.
The Labor/Liberal coalition will face off against an alliance of Grassroots, SLS and the Socialist Alternative who are supporting current SRC General Secretary Georgia Mantle for president. Williams appears to term these groups “IRRELEVANT FACTIONS” in a rousing organisational post to the Unity group.
Moderate Liberals were previously rumoured to be supporting the presidential ambitions of Sydney Arts Students Society president, Ed McCann.
Nominations for the election close August 17. Polling will be held on September 21 and 22 following a two week campaign period.