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Faction accused of co-opting Labor Club

Andrew Bell reports.

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Members of National Labor Students (NLS) have accused competing faction Sydney Labor Students (SLS) of appropriating Labor Club events to recruit new members by purporting to be the club itself.

Jack Whitney, a senior member of NLS and current University of Sydney Union (USU) Board Director, told Honi, “An event had been organised through the USyd Labor Club to welcome new members with drinks at the Madison Hotel in Surry Hills that evening. Despite several [NLS members] being financial members of the club, none of us had been contacted about the event. I was only made aware of it through a third party who was a recent sign-up [to the Labor Club].”

Honi has seen text messages sent by SLS member and fellow USU Board Director Shannen Potter to a recent sign-up which read, “This is Shannen from the USyd Labor Club. We’re having a new members event next week which you may be interested in, please give me a call back.”

Potter has claimed she was under the mistaken impression that it was a Labor Club event. “I was assisting in inviting people to an event, and was mistakenly under the impression that it was a Labor Club event. SLS members are very active in the membership and leadership of the Labor Club, and a miscommunication was the source of my error,” she said.

“This is the latest addition in a long-running series of incidents within USYD Labor Club where certain members of the executive and the club have been excluded from participating in club activities,” said Whitney.

Members of NLS believe this is a symptom of wider dysfunction in the Labor Club. Lachlan Ward, current SRC General Secretary and member of NLS, told Honi, “The club is completely dysfunctional, because the club is controlled by SLS. Basically the club has not been operating at all.” Members of SLS, including Potter, rejected the dysfunctional label. “It’s confusing that this accusation of dysfunction is coming from a group that is, for the most part, not involved in the club,” she said.

The most salient complaint relates to the latest Annual General Meeting (AGM). Members of NLS claim that the meeting did not take place at the venue advertised. A number believe the meeting hasn’t taken place at all.

An element of the confusion, is that no one Honi spoke to, outside of SLS, seemed to know who the new president is. Potter said, “As far as I’m aware Michelle Picone [of SLS] was elected president at the last AGM and is the President currently.”

Complaints have made their way to the USU President, Michael Rees. He told Honi, “The first concern raised about the Labor Club AGM was that sufficient notice was not given to members of the club about the meeting. This allegation was incorrect: notice was posted on the USU website (as required by our C&S regulations) and the appropriate notice period was observed.”

Potter told Honi, “It’s clear that Labor Club AGM occurred and was run according to the C&S Regulations. NLS’s allegation that the Labor Club AGM did not take place is completely false. This is just a desperate attempt by a small and dying faction to smear the Labor Club as a whole. It seems that NLS failed in their goal to take control of the club and have resorted to spreading baseless lies, which is very disappointing.”

Honi was made aware of these issues as NLS and SLS gear up to support different SRC presidential candidates, with NLS engaged in a deal with Labor Right faction Unity and the moderate Liberals to support NLS’s Isabella Brook, while SLS will be supporting Grassroots candidate Georgia Mantle.

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