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“Thank you, I haven’t been shouting in a while”: May SRC Meeting Recap

This month’s SRC meeting saw students discuss electoralism, Palestine, and staff strikes.

On Wednesday night, we found ourselves back in the under-ventilated basement of the New Law Building for another SRC meeting (no vegan fruit tingles this time, sadly). SRC President Lauren Lancaster opened the meeting at 6:15pm. Here’s what followed —

Hiring and firing

A few key changes have happened in the SRC’s lineup of Office Bearers. 

As we reported last meeting, Maddie Clark has resigned as Women’s Officer. Her replacement, Dashie Prasad, was provisionally elected last night. They told the meeting that: “The role should always have anti-colonial and activist politics attached to it” and highlighted the significance of having a non-binary Women’s Officer during a time of escalating transphobia.

The SRC has also finally found an Indigenous Officer in Jaime Stanley, who was also elected last night, along with new Queer Officer Ella Pash, who is replacing Will Stano and Ira Patole. 

Strategies: activist, electoral, and more. 

As usual, contestations over left-wing strategy abounded throughout the meeting. 

The discourse started when SAlt regular Owen Marsden-Readford asked Lancaster whether the SRC will be supporting the National Union of Students’ (NUS) “cretinous” ‘It’s Time for Change’ campaign, which he claimed was a veiled campaign for the Labor Party. Lancaster replied that the SRC had supported the NUS’ campaign to lower the age of independence, but that “I think that we are all fairly capable of thinking critically about the demands the NUS put out.”

Education activists argued that students should be prioritising organising for the NTEU strikes next week. Education Officer Lia Perkins (Grassroots) and General Secretary Grace Lagan (Unity) both praised the current strike building efforts, saying they had done a great job of reaching ordinary students. 

“That’s why I think the strikes have to be the number one consideration over the next two weeks”, Education Officer Deaglan Godwin (SAlt) said, arguing activists should deprioritise the USU Elections over the next week and a half.

The USU copped further flak later in the meeting, on a motion proposed by Tiger Perkins calling on the University and the USU to divest from fossil fuels. Several speakers, including NLS’ Mikaela Pappou and President Lauren Lancaster took aim at the USU’s lack of transparency, consumption of SSAF funding, and continued lack of structural change despite several progressives on the Board,

“Why are you running for USU then?” clamoured SAlt, on the USU Board Elections that have dominated Facebook feeds and Courtyard cafe in recent weeks. 

“I’m not”, replied Lauren. While technically true, she is in fact authorising and helping to manage Onor Nottle’s Board run.

Awesomely, Oscar “postgraduate” Chaffey, who had arrived at the meeting for unspecified reasons, decides to deliver a grand speech in defence of electoralism — complete with quoted paragraphs from Red Flag’s defence of the Victorian Socialists. 

This, of course, relaunched a separate debate about whether the Left should run in USU Board Elections. If you’re not familiar with this fraught argument, catch up here and here. ​​”I struggle to see why running candidates who are baby capitalists makes meaningful change,” observed Eddie “No Relation” Stephenson, “What is there that a left-wing Board Director can do in a corporation?”

Predictably, this incited a series of yells across the room: “Not a corporation, it’s unincorporated.” (Oscar)

“Ohhh, original.” (SAlt)

“There are many incorporated organisations which are better than the USU!” (Mikaela)

“Isn’t SAlt registered with the USU?” (Tiger)

“Tiger ‘the joker’ Perkins.” (Deaglan)

“This was well worth my time,” Chaffey told Honi.

Consultation vs Chinese New Year

Michael Grenier, who ran on Libdependent ticket Wave but insists he votes Green, proposed a motion that called for people proposing SRC motions to consider consulting students before doing so. The motion also levelled criticism at a motion passed earlier last year which renamed ‘Lunar New Year’ to ‘Chinese New Year’ in SRC communications.

However, some saw the motion’s opposition to alienating any students as an attempt to silence the Left on campus. “It’s completely ridiculous to say that the SRC can’t pass motions that alienate particular demographics,” argued Yasmine Johnson (SAlt). SAlt pointed out that almost any political motion would inevitably alienate at least some students, so the function of the motion was to condemn controversial, yet valid, proposals.

“Next time propose a motion that means something,” advised General Secretary Alana Ramshaw (Switch) as it was voted down. 

Nakba Rally discussion gets heated

The Council spent at least 40 minutes debating a motion, proposed by Sophie Haslam (SAlt), encouraging students to attend a rally commemorating the Nakba. SAlt speakers discussed the brutality of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and urged the Council to oppose it, but Ben “BenJo” Jorgensen (Liberal) proposed a supposedly “common-sense” amendment to condemn ‘terrorism and violence’ on any side.

This amendment was not amenable to SAlt, with Owen Marsden-Readford delivering a moving speech arguing that “the amendment says that both sides are equally to blame, and that is abhorrent, there can be no equivalence between the oppressor and the oppressed.”

Michael Grenier entered the fray, taking issue with a specific part of the preamble to the motion which suggested that “In April, 158 Palestinians were injured when far-right settlers, backed up by police, raided Al-Aqsa mosque after Friday prayers. Palestinians fought back with sticks and stone and hastily-build barricades.” Grenier claimed that the Israeli police had been defending Jewish sacred sites and that this part of the motion constituted antisemitism.

If the debate was already unproductive, it levelled up when Gabi Stricker-Phelps, who was conspicuously absent for her Report of the Undergraduate Senate Fellow, materialised in the Zoom. “This Council is no stranger to my views on this subject… The rhetoric used in this sort of motion is extremely divisive… there’s dangerous misinformation going on here,” Stricker-Phelps opined.

Lia Perkins contested Stricker-Phelps’ framing of Jewish students’ perspectives on Israel, arguing: “I speak as a Jewish student who does not feel represented by the Australian Union of Jewish Students… I support the people of Palestine in fighting for their rights”.

The Council moved to a vote, which passed, despite Stricker-Phelps’ erroneous attempts to vote against it (as a non-Councillor, she does not actually have a vote). Grenier and the Liberals opposed, with BenJo insisting his dissent was noted.

Further BenJo Bullshit

Ben Jorgensen put up lengthy but widely-ignored defences of government policy at every turn. 

BenJo complained, in his characteristic “common-sense” fashion, that a motion in support of Friday’s climate strike perpetuated “misinformation” about Australia’s efforts on climate change, which he described glowingly. 

He similarly accused a motion opposing militarism in the Solomon Islands of being “misinformation”: “Australia is the Solomon Islands security partner of choice.” Despite urging the Council to “be in favour of world peace,” the motion nonetheless passed.

Even Michael Grenier was sick of Ben’s shit, at one point audibly commenting “I don’t want to be associated with Ben (Jorgensen) at all”, says Michael Grenier. 

What did people agree on?

A number of issues more or less united the Council. 

Support for strikes, including a boycott of communications with University management, unanimously passed. “Management don’t just do bad things because they’re bad people… they do what they do because the University is run like a corporation”, Deaglan Godwin argued.

Pleasingly, a motion opposing attacks on abortion rights in the US passed without contestation. SAlt speakers contextualised the erosion of reproductive rights within a broader failure of liberal politics to safeguard human rights. “It’s a total disaster for women’s rights… a total blow to the entire working class,” said Annabel Petit. 

Grace Lagan observed that it is the most vulnerable people who are harmed by restrictions on abortion and who are at the forefront of the pro-choice movement, thanking the Women’s Collective along with her co-Officer Bearer Alana Ramshaw for their activism on the issue.

A motion calling for the establishment of an autonomous disabilities space following an Honi investigation into the absence of one also passed unanimously. “Disabled students really deserve to have a space that they can comfortably just exist in,” SRC Welfare Officer Grace Wallman argued.