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A political paradigm shifts as NLS splits

While the federal leadership lurches, big changes are happening within Labor here on campus.

If you thought factional splits and infighting were limited to the senior factions of Labor Party, now you know better.

The Sydney University Branch of National Labor Students (NLS) has voted to break relations from its parent organisation and disaffiliate from the NLS national network.

The Sydney caucus passed the vote unanimously, with one member abstaining and one other walking out. The newly independent Sydney Branch will now be known as Sydney Labor Students (SLS).

SRC President David Pink. The first non-NLS President in 13 years
SRC President David Pink – the first non-NLS President in 13 years.

The move technically brings an end to NLS’ 13 year rule of the Sydney University Students Representative Council (SRC) as SRC President David Pink is now a member of SLS.

NLS is the student wing of Young Labor Left, the socialist and social democratic youth faction of the ALP. They are the faction associated with politicians like Anthony Albanese and Tanya Plibersek. NLS was, arguably, the most powerful faction on campus, and undeniably the most powerful faction nationwide through the National Union of Students (NUS), controlling the presidency since 1987, its inaugural year.

Honi Soit has been given an exclusive and extraordinary list of grievances by SLS detailing their reasons for splitting from NLS. They include:

– The fact that NLS members at NUS National Conferences in 2011 and 2012 were asked to surrender their phones to NLS convenors to prevent them leaking information. There are also accusations that phones were broken into at the 2011 National Conference.

– The absence of meaningful preselection processes: almost every position would be appointed unopposed due to previous backdoor deals.

– A member of USYD NLS, Max Kiefel, winning preselection for the position of New South Wales NUS President, only to have his nomination forms ‘lost’ then his position dealt away.

– The admonishment of a USYD member for claiming “the Holocaust was the greatest tragedy of all time.”

– The refusal of the National Caucus to speak out against forced female genital mutilation, due to cultural relativism.

– A prominent member of the caucus, now a National Office Bearer, who believes in ‘headmates’ – other identities that occupy your body, and can claim different ethnicities or sexualities, thus allowing you to join an autonomous caucus (for instance queer or women’s) you were not otherwise entitled to join.

– A prominent member denouncing “logic,” “rationality,” and economics as tools used by males to subjugate women.

– A debate in National Caucus about dating preferences: some members stated that racial dating preferences is entirely racist, another criticised those who dated based on attractiveness, and one person even stated that dating based on the sex of the other is discriminatory.

– The judgment that the term ‘cut’ – as in, ‘cut me from the speaking list’ – was a word likely to trigger traumatic flashbacks and could not be used at all.

What the emergence of SLS means for the campus is unclear at this point. The group has indicated it will be taking a more activist approach and will work closely with the Grassroots Left.

Interestingly, a small caucus of NLS loyalists at Sydney University have refused to split from the National Caucus. What this will entail in terms of elections is ambiguous, but sources indicate that high-ranking senior Left members have given support to NLS as opposed to SLS. NLS has so far given no comment on this issue. This will certainly complicate the Labor Left-Labor Right dominance on campus – watch this space for updates on the situation.

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