Editors Pranay Jha and Liam Thorne are not involved in the 2019 coverage of the Honi Soit, NUS and SRC elections.
The 2019 SRC Electoral Officer, Casper Lu, has suspended his own ruling in which he disallowed the name of a Left Action (SAlt) ticket, ‘Left Action Against the Libs’ because the name benefited from the infamy of the Liberal party. This outcome comes after more than 24 hours of back-and-forth between Left Action and Lu as to the viability of the original ruling.
In an email seen by Honi explaining the ruling — made around midday on Monday — Lu informed Jack Mansell, who is managing the Left Action campaign, that “the ticket name in question uses its status as a political organisation, and voters that see the ticket name for the first time in the polling booth, although not confused, may find themselves swayed towards voting on the basis that they dislike the Liberal Party. In this way the ticket will have gained votes through the status of the Liberal Party.”
Lu’s initial ruling was made with reference to part eight, section 7(g)(iv) of the SRC Regulations, which states that the Electoral Officer may reject a ticket name on the grounds that it unfairly takes advantage of the “celebrity status” of an existing brand.
Lu interpreted the ordinary words of the regulation to mean the precise opposite, alleging that the Liberals held a “dis-celebrity” status on campus and that the ticket in question sought to take unfair advantage of this “dis-celebrity” status.
In a separate ruling made this afternoon, Lu backed away from this assertion, admitting that it was incorrect to construe “celebrity” as also meaning its opposite.
In his initial ruling, Lu put forward that the ticket names ‘Liberal Students for SRC’ and ‘Liberals for Free Speech’ would also be disallowed not only for their use of the word ‘liberal’, but for reasons including “legal and financial issues for the SRC”, “the potential for infighting [among campus Liberal factions]”, and the circumstances of Senator David Leyonhjelm’s election to the Federal Senate under the Liberal Democrat party – as, according to Lu, his election was owed to voters confusing the Liberal Democrats with the Liberal National Party. It appears likely that these tickets, which fall within the ordinary meaning of the relevant regulation, will likely still be disallowed.
In one paragraph of his original ruling, Lu either did not complete, neglected to expand on, or self-censored some of his reasoning, with the placeholder ‘xxx’ inserted in the middle of a sentence.
According to Mansell, Lu also failed to consider the application of his ruling to other tickets including ‘Ban the Socialist Alternative’, which is running for the second consecutive year this year.
Mansell alleges that Lu was not aware of their candidacy this year until it was pointed out to him.
“When I raised the precedent of “Ban the Socialist Alternative” running last year and this, Lu claimed that he would not have allowed them to run [on that name] in the 2019 SRC elections,” Mansell said.
“When I asked whether Ban the Socialist Alternative were running this year, Lu claimed that ‘it was not submitted as a ticket name’.”
This marks the first major upset in Lu’s tenure as Electoral Officer, which began in controversy. During a meeting of the SRC in July, numerous councillors were quick to point out the fact that Lu appeared on a right-leaning Vision council ticket in 2017 with current Vice President Dane Luo, raising questions about whether Lu was capable of exercising the impartiality required of an Electoral Officer. Luo was uninvolved in the selection committee which ultimately recommended Lu’s appointment.
Councillors also questioned whether Lu had the requisite qualifications and experience necessary to be Electoral Officer. Lu is a third year student, where traditionally the role of Electoral Officer has been awarded to candidates with familiarity towards the electoral processes of student organisations.
Lu’s recent gaffes have also drawn some to question his attention to detail, particularly following the revelation that his Linkedin profile currently states his position at the SRC as ‘Electrical Officer’.