The Presidential Race: Profiling Josie Jakovac (Boost)

Despite an impressive CV, Jakovac occasionally sets a standard that she herself cannot follow

A photo of Josie Jakovac next to text reading: "SRC 2019: Josie Jakovac". The 0 in 2019 is a rotating SRC logo

Editors Pranay Jha and Liam Thorne are not involved in the 2019 coverage of the Honi Soit, NUS and SRC elections.

A Chinese translation of this article can be found here.

Quiz score: 52%

Like many before her, Josie Jakovac is a member of the Liberal Party who is running as a self-described Independent. To many, this will be no surprise. The so-called trend of ‘Libdependence’ has pervaded student politics for some years now, particularly in the realm of the USU. Candidates touting this approach have often claimed to have separated their “private” political convictions from their candidacy for the sake of serving the interests of students. By now, it almost feels redundant to note this strategy, given its status as a permanent fixture in the Liberal playbook. For Jakovac, however, this kind of duality appears to be an unignorable feature of her candidacy.

Take, for example, the issue of international student Opal card concessions. It goes without saying that the NSW Liberals have been unambiguously intransigent on the issue for some years now. During her interview, Jakovac was initially evasive when asked whether she would support efforts to lobby the state government to change its stance, purposely conflating a promise to advocate with a promise to deliver. Once the distinction between these two promises was properly established, Jakovac was still equivocal as to whether it was something she would support, promising only to “lobby for international students”. It was only after being presented with a hypothetical scenario in which the council specifically requested for this kind of advocacy did Jakovac concede that, if such a scenario arose, she would consider adopting a stance aligned with the efforts of international students.

To this extent, Jakovac’s promise that her “own private political thoughts and opinions will have no sway on [her] presidency” seem to ring true. For some, a willingness to concede when the interests of students and personal beliefs conflict will likely be genuinely commendable. This is similarly the case in Jakovac’s commitment to maintain the autonomy of Honi Soit — despite being a member of the Evangelical Union herself, Jakovac said that she would not have censored a controversial Honi cover published earlier this year which depicted the former Cardinal George Pell being hanged.

Jakovac’s willingness to separate her own interests from the demands of the job does not always manifest in entirely selfless ways, however. One example is the issue of time commitment. As of this year, the SRC President is paid an annual stipend of over $42,000 – now above the equivalent of a minimum wage salary. Jakovac has declared that a central tenet of her policy platform is ensuring that “for every dollar of their fees that the SRC spends, [students] feel a direct benefit”. Despite this, Jakovac is quite honest in admitting that she harbours no intention to drop her study load whatsoever next year, committing already to a full time Commerce/Law schedule if elected. Jakovac dismissed concerns that her proposal — performing two full-time commitments — was physically impossible. This may nonetheless leave some voters unconvinced, given the size of the stipend and the expectations that come with the role.

Perhaps one of the most notable examples of this recurring theme is the disparity between Jakovac’s policy to “stamp out racism” and her own praxis. In July 2018, Jakovac lamented Croatia’s loss in the World Cup final, labelling the French national team “Africa”, a reference to the ethnicities of various players. Jakovac asserts that she was not aware of the offensive undertones of her statement at the time of making it (even going so far as to label her 2018 self a “dumb kid”), and has demonstrated to Honi that she was immediately contrite. Though it’s clear Jakovac has not and does not harbour any of the malice she is seeking to “stamp out”, it remains pertinent to ask whether she is best suited to carrying out such an ambitious task given the recency of her self-confessed lack of knowledge on the topic.

Beyond this, Jakovac should be commended on the impressive upwards trajectory that has led her to her nomination for president. Having only been at uni for less than half the amount of time as her opponent, Jakovac has cultivated an impressive CV: she’s been both a councillor and a member of the General Executive in this year’s SRC and is actively involved in a number of clubs and societies. As noted in our analysis of Donohoe, Jakovac displays a stronger ability to identify emerging issues facing younger students, for example Open Learning Environment units. Similarly, Jakovac displayed a more specific knowledge of the student sexual assault crisis than her opponent in the president’s quiz, correctly reciting statistics relating to the prevalence of the issue.

As with any student election, voters in doubt would do best to make their way onto the campaign trail and seek out candidates to find the answers that these pages cannot provide them.

View the questions from this year’s quizzes here.

Honi is hosting the annual Presidential Debate on Wednesday 18 September from 1pm at Hermanns. 

Submit a question to your candidates here.

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