Note: since Honi’s interview with Prudence Wilkens-Wheat was conducted, Himath Siriniwasa has stepped down as her campaign manager.
Slogan: ‘Pru for USU’.
Faction: Switch and Grassroots.
Quiz score: 81%.
Housewives tagline: ‘Don’t mess with the Prudence, because you might get fired!’
Switchroots-backed Prudence Wilkins-Wheat is the candidate with the most USU experience, having held several executive positions, in addition to a paid staff role within the organisation. Wilkins-Wheat told Honi that she had spent the past year learning the ins and outs of the organisation in order to better prepare herself for her run.
Her policy document goes further than other candidates in providing clear, defined examples of her policies and how she means to enact them. A platform dedicated to support for student culture, with promises including increased funding for revues and C&S, is sure to please the performing arts set. Her environmental platform goes beyond the greenwashing sustainability measures that the USU typically favours, instead promising to lobby the University to divest from fossil fuels and achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
Though generally thorough, some policy proposals feel unfinished. The platforms “Student Services” and “Progressive Union” are half the length of the others. Wilkins-Wheat suggests changing the name of the Wentworth building to “something decolonial”, though noted in her interview this could be viewed as tokenistic. Measures to increase USU transparency — big ticket items for other candidates — are afforded only two lines that vaguely gesture to the USU practice of going in camera, as well as posting budgets and motions online. Aside from a brief nod in her environmental platform, COVID-19 barely rates a mention. This is a strange oversight from a candidate that ought to know better — as the SRC Environment Officer, Wilkins-Wheat has experience in transitioning student activity online.
Despite having a year to prepare (she began a quickly aborted USU campaign last year) Wilkins-Wheat has not yet resolved the ideological inconsistencies within her campaign. When asked who her favourite candidate was, she mentioned centrist Vikki Qin, justifying this by saying,“anyone who is a centrist is someone who responds to the best argument in terms of politics.” This seemingly hints at a preference deal, however, previous Switchroots candidates have usually mentioned those who they see as the next most left-wing after themselves, typically the NLS candidate.
On the recent USU staff layoffs, Wilkins-Wheat said that she supported the decision, because “all these difficult decisions and austerity measures are about precipitating the life of the USU.” These are curious positions for a left-wing activist candidate to hold, and Wilkins-Wheat seems unaware of how they contradict her radical branding. She raised USU support of union-organised car convoys, as well as lobbying the government, as ways of supporting workers, but wouldn’t budge on her support of the staff cuts.
Wilkins-Wheat would certainly make a competent board director, but it’s doubtful that she would bring the radical left-wing shake up that she’s proclaiming.
A link to the full transcript of the interview can be found here.