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NatCon 2022: Day 3 Wrapped

Autonomous discussions, uncontested elections and question time on Day 3 of NatCon.

Our reporters awoke bright and early Wednesday morning, ready for a third day of Natcon, NUS’ yearly debate on national student union policy and strategy. With a change in seating arrangement separating SAlt and NLS, things were looking up as they filed into the lecture hall for a day of lively (if not inane) debate. A ‘physical altercation’ occurred the previous night, and those involved in the brawl were warned that they would be removed from the conference before the end of the day.

NLS spoke to a motion on sex work, stating that ‘so many students do sex work to support themselves. Sex work is work, workers need to be protected.” Despite speaking against the criminalisation of sex work, SAlt spoke against the celebration of sex work as progressive. They ultimately voted against the motion.

As SAlt opened debate about the Religious Discrimination Bill (RDB), their speaker was cut off by the organiser for wearing the wrong lanyard – delegates are unable to enter the floor until they provide the correct identification. Nonetheless, they confronted Labor factions about the bill, demanding their stance given Federal Labor’s promised support for the bill

NLS argued that they would not support a discriminatory Religious Discrimination Bill, saying that they ‘cannot commit the NUS to condemning any form of a RDB’. The motion to condemn the bill failed as Unity and NLS voted against it.

Autonomous Chapters

During the First Nations chapter, SAlt moved to ‘tax the most destructive companies to fund education”. Unity criticised the motion for being ‘tacked on’ and unproductive in the autonomous chapter. A motion to make the First Nations Officer autonomous and elected by First Nations delegates was passed. 

The Uluru Statement was another point of contention, with members of SAlt speaking against it. They said that ‘we have to stand with the people in the streets, not the oppressors!’, while an NLS speaker said ‘Indigenous people decided on this [Uluru Statement], we don’t need some white saviour bullshit’. A motion to condemn the ‘tokenism’ of the Voice to Parliament ultimately failed.

The Disabilities chapter saw over eight motions passed, in what was the largest expansion to the Disabilities chapter ever. As the only chapter that “uses wordings that allows a lack of commitment to actions when referred back to” the opening motion called on the NUS to amend its wording to be “just as assertive and directional” as the other chapters.
USyd Disabilities Officer Jack Scanlan spoke to a motion implement the recommendations that arise from the upcoming Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. “The disability royal commission is incredibly important for tackling the systematic structures of abuse, because disabled people are the most likely to be abused and the least likely to speak up or have the ability, energy or resources to do so,” he said.

The chapter also saw the passages of motions to make activism more accessible. Jack Scanlan spoke to a motion improve disability welfare benefits and fight the privatisation of disability services, arguing that “there’s only been one faction going to NDIS rallies. It’s not you [SAlt], it’s NLS!”

The chapter also saw the passage of a motion to organise an AccessCon once every two years. The 2022 Disabilities Officer Georgie McDaid (NLS) spoke in favour of the latter, saying “it is a great opportunity for disabled students to come together across the country to discuss issues which affect them.” The motion passed with the support of the Labor factions, with SAlt abstaining.

NLS clashed with SAlt over the efficacy and composition of the NDIS. NLS speakers defended the scheme while acknowledging its flaws, while SAlt called for its complete overhaul. SAlt claimed that it “relegates services to private profiteering companies” that “exploit disability support workers,” with Georgie McDaid (NLS) arguing that SAlt was misconstruing the issue. “I would love to educate SAlt on the difference between the NDIA and NDIS. The NDIA could be labelled as bureaucratic and neoliberal, but not the NDIS. You’re confusing the two. The people that make the system and have the problem is the NDIA,” McDaid said. The motion passed.

The International chapter, typically the shortest at Natcon, included motions supporting free tertiary education for all and less discriminatory hiring practices. Motions passed with little dissent, apart from SAlt criticising Labor’s lust for lobbying, as usual.

The Ethnocultural chapter opened with a motion to free Palestine. A representative from the Australian Jewish Students Union condemned the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, stating that ‘excluding us from the conversation will enshrine tokenisation and risk danger occurring to Jewish students’. 

A Jewish SAlt speaker argued that the movement to free Palestine is an anti-racist struggle, and that BDS should not be construed as anti-semitic. The motion ultimately passed with support from SAlt, NLS and some independents.

As the ethnocultural chapter continued, a motion was passed to instate an ethnocultural officer at all affiliated student unions. 

The small and regional chapter opened with little fanfare, as SAlt delegates continued to heckle Labor delegates, telling them to film a video of themselves denouncing the Labor Party. It seems that despite their disapproval of the party’s stance on refugees and the Religious Discrimination Bill, Labor delegates are hesitant to put it into concrete form. SAlt should know better, staffer jobs are on the line!

A procedural motion to ban non-Middle Eastern delegates from wearing scarves was passed. An NLS speaker accused members of SAlt of “appropriating Middle Eastern culture” and of emulating Pauline Hanson as they wore traditional Palestinian Keffiyeh, a rising symbol of the movement to free Palestine. “It’s our fucking culture to stand in solidarity with people,” a SAlt speaker yelled back.

Election of National Executive

Following the withdrawal of nominations, the following people were elected to the NUS National Executive unopposed.

PresidentBailey Riley (NLS)
General SecretarySheldon Gait (Unity)
Education OfficerXavier Dupe (SAlt)
Women’s OfficerEmily Searle (Unity)
Welfare OfficerGrace Franco (Unity)
Queer OfficersGrace Hill (SAlt) and Damien Nguyen (Groots)
First Nations OfficerPatrick Taylor (Unity)
Disability OfficerIsabella Harding (NLS)
International Students OfficerArya Kushwaha (Unity)
Ethnocultural OfficerBen Naiju (Unity)
Small & Regional OfficerCheyne Howard (Unity) 
VE OfficerSalwa Kilzi (NLS)

The following people have been elected to the state branches unopposed. 

NSW State Branch PresidentAidan O’Rourke (Unity)
NSW State Branch Education Vice-PresidentIshbel Dunsmore (Groots)
VIC State Branch PresidentGuleid Abdullahi (Unity)
VIC State Branch Education Vice-PresidentMitch Evans (NLS)
WA State Branch PresidentDylan Botica (NLS)
WA State Branch Education Vice-PresidentMelani De Alwis (NLS)
ACT State Branch PresidentLuke Manning (Independent)
ACT State Branch Education Vice-PresidentContested
QLD State Branch PresidentEdward Uzelin (Unity)
QLD State Branch Education Vice-PresidentYi-Hung Chen (NLS)
SA State Branch PresidentContested
SA State Branch Education Vice-PresidentContested

Roles that are contested will be determined on Day 4 of the conference.

Question Time 

Office bearer reports opened, accompanied by questions from student media, including our comrades at Woroni and Farrago. When pushed on recent embezzlement, the General Secretary states that there was a ‘clear lack of accountability’ within the NUS. They have since enforced a ‘more formal’ executive committee, enhancing ‘open communication’. 

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Update: This article has been amended to more accurately reflect the full extent of developments in the disabilities chapter.