Who are the candidates?
Ben Yates from Grassroots ANUSA.
Josh Polak from Back on Track.
Blake Iafeta from Do Better! With Blake Iafeta.
How do you intend to remain accountable?
Yates believes that his proposed reforms to the Dispute Committee, which focus on transparency, will help make the role of General Secretary more accountable to students. He also believes that this intention to create working relationships with each of the Department officers will further hold him accountable. Lastly, by retaining the Governance Committee, Yates believes he will be held accountable because it dilutes the General-Secretary’s “monopoly on governance.”
Polak’s response begins with “Accountability is key to the role of General Secretary” and that “the Gen-Sec is one the most accountable positions on the SRC.” More specifically, Polak states that “…my policy of enshrining a Governance Committee will mean that many decisions I make will go through that body.” and that the proceedings of this Committee will be publicly available.
Iafeta’s plan to remain accountable is to be “impartial and transparent”. They intend to do this by “…being open and encouraging questions from all ANU students, online or in-person.” Additionally, Blake believes that by interpreting the Constitution in an objective as possible manner, they will make unbiased decisions. They also plan to declutter and reorganise ANUSA’s record-keeping system, because it “…is unreasonably complicated to try and find some information relating to ANUSA.”
How do you intend to increase engagement in meetings and working groups?
Yates thinks that “Ultimately, engagement comes from students being interested in the substance of what is being discussed at meetings.” and that, by running on an activist ticket, he’s ensuring that ANUSA meetings will be engaging for students. He also feels that a lack of engagement can come from meetings being “unsafe spaces, especially for those from marginalised backgrounds…” To address this Yates wants to avoid putting the burden on Department Officers to defend and stand up for their communities and members. Additionally, Yates believes that multimodal meetings are more accessible and, if elected General-Secretary, he will continue these meetings regardless of a Covid-19 lockdown.
More broadly, Yates has two ideas for increasing engagement. He wants to popularise “Special General Meetings as a political organising tool.” and he has proposed SRC ‘Team Meetings’ that, by focusing on collaboration, he hopes will foster a more cooperative environment. Lastly, Yates wants to poll students through the ANUSA Newsletter and Universal Lunch Hour because he doesn’t “…believe that you should have to come to a meeting late at night to have your say about how ANUSA operates.”
Admitting that there is no silver bullet to increasing engagement with ANUSA, Polak believes that “…what a Gen-Sec needs to do is make that choice to engage as easy as possible” To do this, Polak intends to, if elected, conduct ‘ANUSA Governance and Meetings during O-Week to better introduce people to ANUSA. Another plan includes improved advertising of ANUSA-related events and, if lockdown persists, mass emails and livestreams.
Iafeta’s plan to increase engagement is to declutter ANUSA’s record system, to train for ITS to ensure that there are no issues using programs such as Zoom, to provide students with training for the meeting process, such as an explanatory session detailing the terminology and proceedings of ANUSA’s meetings. They also want to livestream meetings and to encourage input and consultation from all members.
How will you balance the interests of different tickets and members of ANUSA?
Yates doesn’t think “…tickets play a particularly significant role after the end of elections” and that they don’t function like parties. To him, the more interesting question is “…how I will resolve conflicts between members”. Elaborating, Yates thinks that when the General-Secretary is in a conflict resolution role, it is addressing an issue of interpretation when chairing meetings. His view of ANUSA’s constitution is that it is “…underpinned by an effort to produce an activist and anti-bureaucratic union”. But, Yates adds, accountability is key to solving conflict and he thinks that in making the Disputes Committee and, by extension, his own decision, more transparent, he will help solve conflicts around governance. When it comes to meetings, Yates’ approach will be to “…balance conflicting members as equally as possible without sacrificing the safety of members at the meeting.”
Polak believes that “being the only one on my ticket running for an Executive position means there should be no accusation of favouritism…because I will owe an allegiance to no one”. Moreover, he states that “Charing a meeting demands impartiality” and the ability to separate one’s partisan side from the role of General-Secretary, “Like the Speaker of the House of Representatives” Polak also plans to set early expectations with others and to treat them with respect regardless of their political stance.
Iafeta’s plan for impartiality and objectivity is to encourage objectivity and impartiality. They do not see this is an issue, but allege that “most of the candidates on the big tickets would prefer a General Secretary who shows leniency and preference towards them” Because Blake aims to represent the students, they feel that “…the interests of different tickets are practically irrelevant to me.”
What do you hope to bring to the role of Gen-Sec?
Yates frames himself as well-versed in governing within activist organisations. He points to his role as co-convenor of the Environment Collective as showing that he will not be “…an apolitical bureaucrat in the role of General-Secretary.” Furthermore, he argues that his role as a member of the Governance Review Working Group and as a marshall for several protests add to his ability to be an activist General-Secretary.
Polak characterises himself as bringing his “…skills, experience and passion for all things for governance” to the role of Gen-Sec, and that wants to be Gen-Sec because he enjoys the role and all that it entails. Additionally, Polak notes that ANUSA’s governance is not perfect, and he hopes to “ensure that Association’s Governance is run in a way that ensures ANUSA can do what it was set up to do, which is to represent the voices of students…”
Iafeta plans to bring objectivity and impartiality to the role of General-Secretary, as well as supporting reform for Clubs Council, and developing a fair and more honest system, “working to fairly represent the views of ANU students”.