It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; this was the story of the year’s first SRC Council meeting. While most other USyd students were in bed — or at the very least not in ABS — the 96th SRC’s 37 councillors came together to debate, discuss and digress a variety of topics central to the world of student politics. Significantly less hellish than NatCon, but equally futile in beating the insanity allegations, February Council was certainly one to remember.
The meeting was declared quorate at approximately 6:25pm with an Acknowledgement of Country from 2024 SRC President Harrison Brennan (Grassroots). While there was no election for incoming Refugee Rights Officer, Jasmine Donnelly (NLS) was nominated from the floor and elected uncontested as the final member of the Executive Committee after her sister’s, Rose Donnelly (NLS), strategic resignation.
After all resignations were moved en bloc, a procedural motion was passed to hear Q1: Motion to Appoint Angus McGregor and Victoria Gillespie as Editors of Honi Soit and Q10: SRC Endorsement of the February 29 National Student Strike for Palestine. Our very own Editors Simone Maddison (Grassroots) and Sandra Kallarakkal spoke to Q1, which was supported by every faction except the Liberals — another win for left-wing student journalism.
Q10 sparked a clash between Socialist Alternative (SAlt) and National Labor Students (NLS) over the value of running other campaigns while a genocide is taking place in Gaza, an argument that would continue for most of the night. While SAlt speakers Shovan Bhattarai, Maddie Clark and Yasmine Johnson condemned NLS for supporting a “pro-Israel” Labor Party and “trying other strategies” rather than putting pressure on our government, Rose Donnelly (NLS) re-emphasised her factions commitment to improving mobilisation and support of Palestine Action Group’s initiatives.
SRC Vice-President Deaglan Godwin (SAlt) shifted the conversation to remind councillors that “what will help the fight for Palestine in the long-run is engaging ordinary people”, to which Gerard Buttigieg (NLS) responded that “being in the Labor Party allows us to reach the working class in ways people in this room will never be able to.”
To no surprise, SAlt members comically pulled down their face masks to yell and heckle over any NLS member who took to the lectern, making both the purpose of mature democratic debate and the hygiene of masks redundant.
Grassroots also weighed in, with Jordan Anderson imploring us as activists to “oppose Labor at every turn”, making reference to the crisis in Yemen and the federal government’s inertia. After much shouting, but nonetheless worthwhile political debate, Q10 was passed unanimously and we moved onto reports.
Despite Brennan requesting reports be discussions, rather than retellings, to move on more swiftly to motions (since everyone is meant to have read all the reports before Council – keywords there being ‘meant to’ and ‘before’), the discussions quickly devolved into yelling and majority of the Council was, perhaps unsurprisingly, spent on reports.
In his first President’s Report for the year, Brennan spoke to the SRC’s support of, and assistance in, the Invasion Day rally, preparations for Welcome Week, and reiterated the importance of prioritising and mobilising for Palestine.
Running through the reports highlights reel (otherwise we will be here for a while), Education Officers Shovan Bhattarai (SAlt) and Grace Street (Grassroots) spoke to recent course cuts in the Arts and the fight for free education; Women’s Officers Eliza Crossley (Switchroots) and Rand Khatib (Grassroots) highlighted the work WoCo has been doing for the ‘Abolish the Colleges’ campaign over the summer; and First Nations’ Officer Ethan Floyd (Grassroots) noted partnerships between the First Nations Collective and the Blak Caucus in the lead up to Welcome Week — as well preparations for the first full edition of Indigenous Honi later this semester.
Littered amongst these updates were SAlt’s interjections about NLS’ incapacity to “do both” Palestinian activism and run other campaigns. While Julius Whitforth (SAlt) called Labor’s Legalise It campaign “shameful in the current context”, Daniel Holland (NLS) defended his faction’s efforts by arguing that “neoliberalism is complex”, and that these issues will not be solved “through social media posts.” Perhaps the highlight of this debate was Deaglan Godwin (SAlt) telling Holland that he “sounds like Tony Blair.”
Following the end of reports, SAlt decided to pull quorum, disregard the processes of democracy, and head off to bed early (Honi does not have this luxury). As the booing and cries of ‘shame!’ subsided, everyone came together for some brief moments in the second show of solidarity to condemn the faction’s departure before discussing a motion addressing SAlt and Unity’s blatant displays of transphobia at NatCon.
Responding to Unity’s support of a motion to limit speakers during the Women’s Chapter at NatCon, NUS Welfare Officer Sabrine Yassine (Unity) argued “this was moved to protect Unity women being heckled on the floor.” NUS Women’s Officer Ela Akyol (NLS) countered that “we needed everyone in the room to be allies.” What is more distressing are allegations of deliberate misgendering and public outings caused by this motion, which Jacklyn Scanlan (NLS) hopes “does not happen again.”
Queer Officers Tim Duff and Esther Whitehead took back the microphone to move Q2: Motion to Endorse Mardi Gras Street Rally 2024 and Q3: TJ Hickey — 20 Years, No Justice. Speaking for the latter motion, Duff reminded councillors that “cops aren’t here for any queer or Indigenous communities… the police have zero accountability.” Both Q2 and Q3 passed, with fellow Queer Officer Jamie Bridge moving Q4: No Tolerance For Union Transphobia with a strong statement: “you cannot have a left-wing student union without having a pro-queer student union.”
Having passed Q2, Q3 and Q4 unanimously, councillors moved onto Q5, Q6 and Q7 to discuss other campaigns around housing, drug legalisation and international students. Every motion except Q6 passed, with Jordan Anderson quipping that Grassroots abstained from voting because the ALP “will do fuck all for drug reform.”
Q8: Don’t Ban Drag saw a condemnation of the Hills Shire’s decision to stop supporting drag storytimes across the electorate in a 10-2 vote in favour of Liberal councillor Jerome Cox. Queer Officer Esther Whitehead, who attended this LGA meeting on Monday night, stated that “this is a community… that is succumbing to the far-right.” Matched with agreement from all factions left in the room, Q8 passed successfully.
The night ended with Q11: Abolish The Colleges. In response to SAlt’s claims that Palestine should be the SRC’s only focus, Women’s Officer Eliza Crossley (Switchroots) stated that “if SAlt actually cared about other campaigns, they would know that they bolster each other. Putting campaigns on hold will weaken them.” Her sentiment was echoed by co-officer Rand Khatib earlier in the night who, speaking to Q3, said that “as a Palestinian, I am here to say do not stop fighting for First Nations justice, because we are on stolen land.”
See you next month!