After a year of generally benign Students’ Representative Council meetings, tonight’s September Council was an “old school” event, enlivened by shouting matches and a walk out over the decision not to endorse a Socialist Alternative (SAlt) motion calling for a ‘Lockdown to Zero’ campaign.
Lockdown motion chaos
The commotion began when SRC Welfare Officer Lia Perkins (Grassroots) moved a motion calling for the SRC to support the #PayPeopletoStayHome campaign. While the motion was eventually passed, SAlt Councillors took issue with the “key question” of the motion. SAlt posited that improvements to welfare would not alleviate the health situation, and a “harsher lockdown” was needed as well.
SAlt moved a motion to endorse their ‘Lockdown to Zero’ campaign, calling on the SRC to “demand a proper lockdown” and oppose the plan to “live with the virus.” The motion was, helpfully, accompanied by 2000 words of preamble.
The discussion quickly devolved into a slanging match, with Grassroots and NLS councillors accusing SAlt of supporting greater policing measures.
SAlt argued that “more restrictions on bosses” were required to stop workers being infected with COVID, but, much to the chagrin of Oscar Chaffey (Grassroots), failed to explain how exactly the virus would be eliminated. When it was pointed out that no respiratory virus in history had ever been completely eradicated, Owen Marsden-Readford (SAlt) said that the issue was “capitalism” and “politics.”
SAlt used the chat to plug polls by The Guardian which supposedly showed public support for a hardening of lockdowns and a zero-COVID policy. However, they were unable to convince the Council, with all members voting against the motion except for SAlt and Education Officer Tom Williams (ex-Grassroots).
As the result of the vote became clear, the meeting descended further into chaos, with some distasteful personal remarks made by Lily Campbell (SAlt), while Marsden-Readford told Chaffey that they “wouldn’t know class politics if it hit them in the head.”
Ater the motion failed, the SRC adjourned, and SAlt councillors failed to return, exiting the zoom en masse after the failed vote.
ACNC changes a “crackdown on student protestors”
Besides the pitiful, but rather entertaining, spectacle of the lockdown debate, some important matters were raised in Council.
According to a motion brought by Presidential candidate Lauren Lancaster, proposed changes to governance standard 3 of the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission Regulation (ACNC), “would dramatically expand the reasons for which an Australian charity can be registered.”
Low-level summary offences, such as unlawful entry and vandalism — which are occasionally incurred at SRC-supported actions — could theoretically place the SRC at risk of deregistration.
Recent reviews of ACNC legislation did not find issue with standard 3, and the motion, which passed unanimously, described the changes as “a government crackdown on activist organisations.”
Special Considerations changes
In his report, President Swapnik Sanagavarapu pointed to the development of a new special considerations system, which will see a ‘case-management system’ replace the current “simple triage approach.” Sanagavarapu said the changes will “hopefully drastically improve outcomes.”
The changes will be trialled before they are adopted.
A recent report in Honi reported a doubling of waiting times for special considerations applications.
USyd Student Unity throws La Trobe under the bus
Another motion brought by Lancaster sought to condemn the attacks on student unionism at La Trobe University, and Student Unity’s complicity in the founding of a new ‘apolitical’ student association at La Trobe.
When pressed on the matter, Grace Hu (Unity) said: “We condemn their actions.”
The SRC also passed motions condemning the Liberal-controlled Macquarie Uni SRC for locking out left-wing students, committed to campaign for fee-waivers for refugee students in University accommodation, and called for the University to double its general bursary to $2000.