Following two relatively uneventful Students’ Representative Council meetings, yesterday’s March Council saw plenty of impassioned expletives and rancour over a number of motions where members of the Young Liberals defended the state and federal Coalition governments.
Chaos over train lockout, Ukraine and Federal Election motions
Drama began to simmer when SRC General Secretary Grace Lagan (Unity) moved a motion supporting the RTBU and condemning NSW Transport Minister David Elliot’s controversial comments on last week’s train lockout.
Despite the motion’s success, SASS Ethnocultural Officer and Young Liberal member Ben Jorgensen (Lib) drew widespread condemnation from the floor when he defended the Perrottet Government by arguing that the Coalition was following “due process” and acting in the interests of “transport safety”.
In response, SRC Education Officer Deaglan Godwin (SAlt) compared Jorgensen’s rhetoric to “Margaret Thatcher” and Vice President Mikaela Pappou (NLS) questioned Jorgensen’s motive for attending the meeting.
“Why do you come here while doing nothing while not furthering the cause of student unionism?” Pappou said.
A number of impassioned speeches came upon a motion expressing solidarity with Ukraine with speakers denouncing Russia. SAlt councillors Lydia Elias and Owen Marsden-Redford expressed strong opposition to western sanctions, believing their impact will not be felt by Putin or the Russian oligarchy but by the working class, and being of little deterrence.
SAlt Councillors also opposed attempts to characterise NATO and the US as defenders against imperialism, believing they were not “any better than Russia” but rather “an aggressive military alliance that has never had any care for the self-determination of any peoples”.
SRC President Lauren Lancaster echoed the framing of the war as one between imperialist powers, chiding the US for “being adamant in escalating the conflict under the pretense of Ukrainian sovereignty and international law”.
Julian Alley (SLS) also took issue with the Morrison government’s use of the conflict to stoke fears about China, stating “sinophobia is a dangerous election tactic”.
Later, Pappou roused the room when she labelled Jorgensen a “p*ece of sh*t” when Jorgensen attempted to defend the Morrison Government’s handling of Russia’s invasion. SRC General Secretary Alana Ramshaw (Switch) then reluctantly censored Pappou citing regulations.
Heated debate was also witnessed when a motion on political endorsement in the lead-up to the Federal Election was considered. The room was divided into two contingents: Labor campaigners and Switch/Grassroots/Socialist Alternative and Solidarity. The former argued that other factions were naive and ignored Australia’s two-party system whilst the latter make political support conditional on supporting free education amongst other demands.
“We live in a world where there are two choices: Labor or the Liberals. I know who I would like to elect for government.” Lagan said, echoing other Labor-aligned students such as Pappou and Alley.
Characterising his Labor counterparts as “dead-eyed hacks”, Marsden-Readford (SAlt) retorted that the party “offers no hope for students” and argued that political support must be withheld from parties that do not support free education.
A noted dissenter, Jorgensen submitted objections to a total of four motions over the night.
Departmental budgets, constitutional review and a flood-damaged SRC
SRC President Lauren Lancaster gave an update on her duties which included work on the University’s onerous special consideration system and USyd’s lack of a sound disability framework. Lancaster also noted that the SRC is in talks with the USU and USyd over potential new offices following concerns over its dilapidated state and water damage in WoCo’s Office.
Departmental budgets were released for Office Bearers and Collectives following a slight increase in allocations by the Executives to $63,000. Some collectives, such as Environment, saw a small decline in their budget whilst others, such as Honi, experienced a minor increase.
In response to a question posed by Honi over an unprecedented $1,100 allocated to the Executives, Lancaster said that the money is set for speedy approval of “miscellaneous activist projects” such as a $400 donation to Adelaide University SRC.
Of note was Lancaster’s review of the SRC Constitution following 2021 Electoral Officer Riki Scanlan’s recommendations. Easily missed by the ordinary eye, Scanlan’s 41-page report contains significant and sweeping recommendations for the regulations. For instance, Scanlan found that Standing Legal Committee Member Cooper Gannon’s “election was invalid from the outset”. In response, Gannon has been removed from the post and Stephanie Zhang has been elected unopposed in that position.
Other recommendations include a ban on political endorsements from USU Clubs and SRC Collectives following the EO’s concerns surrounding potential breaches related to these organisations. Should these be implemented, the campaigning landscape will look very different come September.
The SRC concluded the night with a motion to recognise Mardi Gras’ historic roots and activist nature in lieu of its corporate counterpart set to be held in Sydney Cricket Grounds. The Council condemned conglomerates such as ANZ and Qantas for supporting deportation policies and depoliticising the historic march.
Update: A change has been made to reflect Cooper Gannon’s status and Stephanie Zhang’s election in that position.