“A wild-eyed Trotskyist snatches and swallows your ballot paper. A rat-moustached Labor hack is going on a rant about Honi Soit. Sneering student politicians are blocking all the doors. This isn’t a nightmare, this is NatCon — but we’re still trying to figure out the difference.”
– Luke Mesterovic, 2022
First up was a procedural motion from Student Unity asking to be granted their inalienable right to BeReal. Generally, there is a ban on photography during the conference – which ostensibly posed a challenge for the chronically-online of our delegates. The motion passed. Everyone switched their phones off silent.
Debate began on issues of trade unionism.
Trade union values and history
Gerard Buttgieg (NLS) moved a motion condemning youth wages, labelling them “wage theft” and “a crime”. He called for the adoption of a program which ensures wage equity for all workers, regardless of age.
Seconder Bailey Riley (NLS) denoted this as a “deadshit easy motion to support” and denounced the use of age as an excuse to further exploit workers. Ending on “slay besties”, Riley puts the motion to a vote. It passes.
Jordy Duffey (NLS, NUS Queer/LGBTQIA+ Officer) moved a fairly arbitrary motion to slightly amend the NUS’ policy platform for trade union principles to be adopted into its activism. SAlt agreed, announcing “politics is about what you do, not what you say”.
Seconder Gerard Buttgieg shut down dissent; “if you speak against this motion, you’re a scab”. SAlt spoke against the motion. Scabs. Alas, it passed unanimously.
It’s time to BeReal
Honi wonders, whither the traditional Luke Mesterovic high-angle BeReal? Low angles and adherence to pictorial norms does not a Luke Mesterovic BeReal make. Perhaps the result of a factional deal? @viceprezgreeksociety fans despair.
Moved and seconded by delegates from MU, a motion was brought forward to endorse the NUS siding with left-wing trade unionists in favour of right-wing, claiming “where conservative strategies win out, it undermines the strength and fighting spirit of all workers”.
NLS claimed such a motion will take away the autonomy of workers.
SAlt asked, “what do you exist for if not to push forward the left-wing prerogative of the movement? Do you think unions should be like the SDA?”
“Yes,” said Unity.
Solidarity with industrial action
NUS Education Officer Luc Velez (Groots), supported by Hannah Horten (Groots) on behalf of Ishbel Dunsmore (Groots), moved a motion to remove qualifying labels such as ‘legitimate’ and ‘genuine’ in reference to industrial action and unions, noting that differentiating ‘legitimate’ unions from others is a “dangerous” and “politically unsound” distinction.
“We are seeing language used to push militant fighting unions out of multi-enterprise bargaining agreements” said Velez, also calling out “corrupt right-wing organisations” and name-dropping the SDA.
The motion passed, with everyone except Unity voting in favour.
Following a brief motion to streamline the policy platform (duplicate clause get rekt), conversations turned to issues of wages and inflation.
Employment and wage rights
Brought forward by Erin Milne (SAlt), the next motion called for the NUS to reject the claim that wage rises drive inflation. Generally, the notion that raising workers’ wages would exacerbate the cost of living crisis is farcical. The motion was seconded by Jack Mansell (SAlt) and passed unanimously.
Next moved was a quid-pro-quo procedural which agreed to extend speakers’ time by 30 seconds as long as members remained in their chairs. Sounds fair.
A motion moved by Ella Marchionda (SAlt) aimed to recognise the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT) as a mechanism for defending wages and conditions. SAlt and NLS agreed that the NUS should support BOOT and criticise Labor’s ‘Secure Jobs, Better Pay’ Bill. The motion is seconded by USyd’s own Maddie Clark (SAlt).
Unity is a fan of the Bill and spoke to its justifications, even going so far as to say it is the “only way for workers’ wages to rise.”
Unity wrapped up with an exclamation of “how good is the SDA”, to heckles from every other faction.
The right to strike
Debate was set to remain focused on the ‘Secure Jobs, Better Pay’ Bill with a SAlt-led motion rejecting its anti-strike provisions. However, a motion was brought and passed to move this motion to urgency.
Honi notes that, ironically, motions passed to ‘urgency’ are discussed at the end of NatCon rather than immediately.
Unity voted against a motion stating that privatisation puts profit over people.
“This is shocking!” said nobody. The motion passed anyway.
Nominations for the Business Committee saw Dylan Bottica, Azraa Hussain (NLS), Caleb Watts (Unity), Maddie Clark (SAlt), Yasmine Johnson (SAlt), Lana Goodman-Tomsett and Rafael Aquino elected unopposed. The share is three Unity, two SAlt, two NLS.
On to issues of student unionism.
The National Union of Students
A motion moved by Georgie Beatty (La Trobe) and seconded by Eric Seychell (also La Trobe) called for a stand against “scab unions”, claiming that “scab unionism is at an all-time high”.
To no one’s surprise, this inevitably reignited the age-old police union debate.
Unity powerbroker Guleid Abdullahi of Deakin University (home ground advantage?) had their first foray into the day’s debate, announcing that Unity would abstain from voting on this motion.
Abdullahi talked about the “20 hour shifts” some police worked during the pandemic. “Police need a union to protect them (it’s giving copaganda). “This policy just alienates workers and pushes people from Labor to the Liberals, and that’s just embarrassing”.
With Unity’s abstention, and wide support from the room, the motion passed.
Hannah Horton and Jeremy Groh of UNSW moved for the decentralisation of campaigns and a focus on campus-led initiatives.
After passing a procedural motion to allow for two speakers for and against the motion, the room heard support from SAlt and dissent from others.
“This is a pretty fucking stupid motion. I’m sorry (softens the blow). Vote it down” said one NLS speaker.
Manifesting. The motion failed.
The remainder of the day was filled with more motions on student unionism and a session on education – complete with hot takes, heckles from all sides and some arbitrary (and some not-so-arbitrary) procedurals.
Come back tomorrow for the rundown of Day Two’s shenanigans!