The NatCon policy book: a literary analysis
Janek Drevikovsky and Zoe Stojanovic-Hill analyse the finer points of the NUS' NatCon agenda
The National Union of Students’ National Conference begins today, and Honi has analysed what’s on the agenda (sort of).
NatCon is notorious for being an annual shitstorm, comprised of equal parts bureaucracy and debauchery. If you are unfamiliar with NatCon, please take a moment to savour your innocence, then refer to Honi’s explainer. Or watch the epic unfold as it happens with our liveblog.
So what is all the horse-trading about? Delegates of the NUS’ member institutions spend the week deciding on two things: the national officer bearers and the NUS’ policy for the coming year. And by policy, we mean the NUS protests, letter-writing campaigns and student surveys that your SSAF dollar pays for. In 2017, the Sydney University SRC alone spent $63 000 on affiliation fees and $18 000 in conference fees.
In the lead up to the conference, the NUS releases a hotchpotch compilation of all the motions proposed by various factions, known as the Policy Book. Which motions will actually be debated is anyone’s guess: NatCon’s business committee, affectionately known as BizComm, sets the conference’s agenda along factional lines and refuses to publish the agenda until the first day of meetings.
Honi got its hands on the 2017 Policy Book and waded through its 223 pages, from ‘allow cameras’ to ‘Yiannopoulos’ (they didn’t quite get to ‘z’). We were astonished at its originality: it breaks down stuffy constraints like spelling and grammar and takes an overenthusiastic approach to exclamation marks. This wasn’t the slough of committee speak that we’d imagined – this was art.
So we thought we’d shed some fine white illuminating light on the NUS’ literary brilliance.
‘Maintaining the rage’ is a central theme of the Policy Book. Take Motion 5.2: Paying more for less / A N G R Y R E A C T S O N L Y, for instance. We hit a climax in Motion 13.1: Say it loud say it clear! Magpies are not welcome here! This motion argues that the NUS should “provide guns and other weapons to affiliated student unions to help them remove problem birds from campus.” NUS? More like NRA.
Evidently, the Policy Book is a stormy piece. Despite this, the authors have attempted to keep it light with some witty repartee. The best of the best:
- Motion 5.10: Un-fare travel allowances
- Motion 7.22: You’re (dental dam)n fiiine
- Motion 11.21: The regional students are revolting
- Motion 3.2: Interns***s
Michaelia Cash, federal Minister for Women and Minister for Employment, is a recurring character. She’s cast as the villain of the piece, specifically as “Enemy No. 1 of Working Women.” Motion 6.15: Not My Minister Michaelia Cash argues that Cash is unfit to be Minister for Women and calls for hard-hitting action, namely “communicat[ing] this position to Senator Michaelia Cash.” Solid strategy.
Motion 3.30: The Greens party members are Liberals in disguise. Wild.
The authors of the Policy Book believe that you can make witty allusions without having actually read the original text. For example, Motion 5.12: Please sir may I have some more is an allusion to Dickens’ Oliver Twist. The title of the motion is a snippet of Oliver’s dialogue, when he begs his master for more food. He is refused, fired, thrown out onto the street, and then turns to a life of petty crime. We have great expectations for this motion.
A return to simplicity can be for the best. For instance, Motion 2.16: Minutes should actually say what’s happening is a brave embrace of the basics – y’know, like, accountability. Motion 2.14 is a slightly (genuinely) concerning variety on the same theme: It’s our money, no need to hide it calls on the NUS to share their annual financial audit online.
Pièce de résistance
The pièce de résistance is Motion 5.47: Stop putting pineapple on pizza. The motion argues that Hawaiian pizza is “a blight on all the things pizza represents.” It calls on the NUS to recognise “the vital threat pineapple on pizza has to pizza culture everywhere” and to respond by banning the pineapplisation of pizza.
Good to know that your SSAF dollar is taking down the system, one pineapple pizza at a time.
 Censored in the original, coz swearing’s rude.