Election edition stupol bonanza

The policy write up

Three presidential candidates, two Honi tickets. How do they stack up? Three presidential candidates, two Honi tickets. How do they stack up?
I’m blue if I was green I would die

­The Electoral Officer Paulene Graham has ruled that Switch, the Grassroots-aligned ‘independent’ SRC group, cannot run on ‘Grassroots green’.

Graham decided that, as the two tickets are independent groupings, Switch could not “trade on the fame and reputation” of Grassroots.

In SRC elections, certain colours have become strongly associated with certain political groups. The various permutations of young Labor traditionally run on red, the Liberals on white and blue, and the Socialist Alternative on purple.

Switch has only run once, in 2014. In that year, the group ran on yellow as a proxy ticket of Grassroots, which ran on green.

This year, the situation is different. Grassroots’ SRC and NUS tickets were excluded from the election after handing in their forms late.

Imogen Grant, formerly the Grassroots presidential candidate, is now running with Switch.

Switch itself includes a number of past and present Grassroots figures, as evidenced by the fact that their campaign manager, Liam Donohoe, has previously run with Grassroots.

The ruling is a significant blow to Switch, and the remnants of Grassroots who are set to support its candidates. The green colour is strongly associated with progressive politics, including the state and federal Greens Party.

Yellow, by contrast, lacks those associations.

The same awareness of colour associations is evident in the moderate Liberals’ (running as ‘vision’ this year) decision not to use the blue of their parliamentary parents, who are as unpopular on campus as expected.

The policy breakdown: Honi Soit tickets


They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, so in that case … thanks Heat. Their policy leads with a promise to bring a “breath of fresh life” — (air?) — to Honi, which is interesting since their policy points bear a strong resemblance to last year’s winning ticket. Let’s break it down:

Heat: “We love awesome written work, but we want an Honi that’s prepared to bring the HEAT and cook up some spicy AV content.”

2016: “We’ll partner with other campus media and the performing arts to deliver sea-parting audiovisual and digital content.”

Heat: “Consistent thematic editions that are advertised clearly to our reporters and our audience.”

2016: “Pitching can feel like diving into the deep end, so we’ll give you optional weekly themes to get your creativity gushing.”

Heat: “Closer working relationships between editors and reporters, such as scheduled pitch discussions …”

2016: “We’ll host weekly pitch meetings for reporters to float their ideas and test the waters.”

Heat: “Breaking news is better placed on the website where it is more accessible, easily updated, and part of a 24/7 news cycle, leaving our print edition to address news with a more insightful eye, writing well researched and engaging analysis.”

2016: “Honi is a weekly publication that needs to keep up with the 24-hour news cycle … We’ll follow online news coverage with deeper analysis … in the following week’s paper.”

We suppose this is what happens when you have a current editor managing your ticket.

Despite this, their desire to “fuel the fire of Honi’s current multimedia” is admirable, particularly when ticket members Nick Harriott and Andrew Rickert have been key in this year’s foray into podcasting and videos. Promising “a minimum of one [podcast and video] per week”, however, smacks of a team unaware of the work it takes to put out a weekly paper. 

Beyond the “Buzzfeed of USyd” 2.0 policy, their candidate images indicate a lack of branding direction (see the Honi Soit CV section later in the paper) with everything from a giant hotdog, Fahrenheit 451 and misc athletes making an appearance. In keeping with their policy, perhaps they should have taken inspiration from last year and doused themselves in tabasco sauce.

MintWe can tell

Much like their rival Heat, Mint for Honi are also a throwback to 2016. With an emphasis on upending the Honi establishment, Mint’s policy statement reads much like that of last year’s unsuccessful ticket Time (unsurprising given the involvement of Time’s very own Michelle Picone — second time lucky?).

Diversity is a word which appears frequently in Mint’s policy statement. “We take pride in our diversity of intellectual opinions, backgrounds, degrees and writing experience”, it reads. This is a commendable aspiration. Diverse backgrounds and new perspectives are important for any Honi ticket. So too is writing experience. While Mint’s statement cites a diversity of writing experience, only two ticket members have ever contributed to Honi. This lack of experience was made apparent by the number of grammatical errors in the statement sent to Honi.

Nonetheless, Mint members have had their work featured in a number of miscellaneous media outlets both on and off campus. Again, the ticket’s ideological diversity ought be commended — Georgette Bechara’s backlog includes an impassioned defence of alleged sexual offender Cardinal George Pell.

Despite all of their bluster about escaping “Stupol ivory towers”, to create an unbiased Honi, Mint is a heavily political ticket. As Honi reported last week, Mint has a member from each Labor faction, and is managed by Unity (Labor right) hack Dom McDonald. In fairness, Mint have made a genuine (if slightly opportunistic) attempt to create an ideologically diverse ticket, with Patrick Hendy and Georgette Bechara clearly representing the political right. Nonetheless, Mint’s deep connection to various factions is inconsistent with their desire to create an Honi devoid of any distinct political agenda or pandering to campus hacks.

The policy breakdown: presidential candidates

Brendan Ma

Brendan Ma — an “independent” candidate and Liberal Party member who is running with the Liberal-backed Vision group — boasts a policy statement with refreshingly specific promises, such as holding open consultation hours between students and the President, and introducing a $5000 means-tested textbook subsidy pool.

His statement mentions an emphasis on fiscal transparency, yet some policies suggest a lack of understanding of the SRC’s current finances. His goal of increasing the focus on “frontline student services” seems to relate to the SRC’s legal and casework services, though almost 40 per cent ($681,903.29) of the SRC’s planned expenditure in 2017 ($1,832,427.92) is already devoted to these services. Further, in a section about sexual assault on campus, he says, “the SRC only contributes $360 to the Sexual Harassment Department – not good enough”. While that figure is technically correct, it gives a misleading impression of the SRC’s focus on the issue, because the Wom*n’s Collective — which has led the campaign significantly on the issue this year — received $4884.

He also wants to “implement de-stress programs like therapy dog days”, which seems like a wasteful use of funds given the University already provides such services.

Bella Pytka

Bella Pytka’s policy statement is as general as those of the Labor candidates who have come before her. Her policies focus on students’ rights, touching on many significant issues such as sexual assault on campus, expanding the SRC’s casework and legal services, and fighting for cheaper student accommodation and a safe campus, but provide little elaboration on how these will be realised. Other promises are to change federal/state government policies, such as introducing travel concessions for international students, which are not directly realisable by the SRC.

One of her more achievable policies is reforming the special considerations system and expanding simple extensions across all faculties. In fact, it’s so achievable that part of it has been done. Stand Up’s statement last year stated it had “won” the fight to “achieve a campus-wide policy on … simple extensions”, though Pytka was not running with them then. However, with unresolved issues around simple extensions, it is understandable that Pytka would seek to address this issue further.

Pytka’s experience as the SRC’s general secretary this year saw her work as part of a team that passed significant reforms of the SRC elections, demonstrating her experience working with multiple factions to get controversial motions passed.

Imogen Grant

Imogen Grant is a member of broad left faction Grassroots, but is being supported by Switch — a combination of independents and Grassroots members — after Grassroots’ SRC tickets were excluded from the ballot.

Her policy statement is generally progressive and positions her as an activist. Her policies share similarities with both other candidates and form somewhat of a midway point between Ma’s specificity and Pytka’s vagueness. Like Pytka, Grant references federal government policies, but with an even more ambitious (read: unachievable) aim — “free, fair and fully-funded education”. Also like Pytka, she addresses special considerations and simple extensions, saying she wants she wants to “fight for a fairer … system”. She also very vaguely suggests “collaborat[ing]” with international students to “[ensure] that they have a voice in issues that affect them”.

Like Ma, she wants to introduce consultation times for presidents and like both her fellow candidates, she addresses campus sexual assault, saying she wants to fight to end it and “expand the SRC legal service to include a discrimination solicitor specialising in sexual assault and harassment”. Unlike them, she would be able to draw on more extensive experience fighting for these issues as Wom*n’s Officer this year.

Rules are rules . . . until they’re not

As Honi reported last week, several Grassroots candidates were excluded from the SRC ballot for handing their nomination forms in 30 seconds after the clock struck 4:30pm. It appears that the same scrupulous black-letter approach to the SRC regulations has not been applied consistently throughout the election.

For example, Part 8(1)(a) of the SRC regulations states that an Honi ticket’s policy statement must not exceed 500 words. In what may or may not have been an elaborate attempt to cement their self-styled image as the inexperienced, outsider, too-cool-for-Honi ticket, Mint initially submitted a policy statement for the election edition that was nearly 1000 words long — i.e. almost double the 500 word limit. Fortunately for Mint, Electoral Officer Paulene Graham took pity on them and allowed them to submit an amended, 500 word statement well after the nomination deadline for inclusion in the election edition of Honi. Seems inconsistent but okay.

Presidential candidate Imogen Grant was allowed to replace references to Grassroots with references to Switch in her statement, after the Electoral Legal Arbiter upheld Graham’s decision to exclude the former from running in the election.

I smell a rat

The SRC’s Education Action Group are looking to bring a giant inflatable rodent onto campus.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The collective is looking to rent ‘Scabby the Rat’ for the upcoming staff strike on September 13. For those of you unfamiliar with union shaming, ‘Scabby’ is a rather menacing giant inflatable rodent that has featured in various union strikes to disgrace the staff and students who cross the picket line. This allows the strikers to bring physical form to the names they give those crossing the picket line: “scab”, “dog”, and “rat”.

According to a recent EAG meeting, the collective were initially looking to rent the rat for a day from the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union for the cool price of $5,000. Since going to print, Honi has discovered that the EAG has managed to do a deal with the Victorian Branch of the Electrical Trade Union to secure Scabby’s services for just under $100. Nevertheless, this seems a bit much, especially considering you can pick yourself up a real rat from a nice gumtree seller living in North Turramurra for just 15 bucks. He’ll stick around for about two years. Who knows, he may even love you?

The Fair Work Commission has forced unions to pay significant fines for this kind of activity, deeming it in contravention of Australian workplace bullying laws. The stop bullying orders, which are used to restrict picket line activity during industrial action disputes, actually came into effect with the emergence of the inflatable.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union has told the EAG they are trying to “track Scabby down” to get him in on time for September 13. Well, it seems like the rat is on the loose.