Woroni’s Comprehensive Guide to the 2020 ANUSA Executive Candidates: Treasurer

Juliette Baxter was a Deputy Women's Officer in 2018

Louis Gordon: ‘Refocus Your ANUSA’, Current General Representative.

Rafe Lucas Harrison Murray: ‘YOU! For ANUSA’, 

Siang Jin Law: ‘Brighter Together’, Current Women’s Officer.

Stefan Thottunkal: ‘Proud! For ANUSA’

 

Primary policies: 

Gordon’s platform centres around securing the financial longevity of ANUSA through alternative revenue streams while also fighting funding cuts.

Harrison-Murray plans to increase practical services, improve student interaction with mental health services and reduce executive expenditure.

Law’s platform emphasises student welfare and hopes to use ANUSA’s finances to benefit marginalised groups.

Thottunkal aims to increase ANUSA’s self-sufficiency through diversified funding and improve student experience.

 

On reducing ANUSA’s reliance on SSAF (Student Services and Amenities Fee) funding: 

Thottunkal hopes to establish an alternative revenue stream for ANUSA in order to establish financial security to keep providing services. He criticises ANUSA’s 2020 sponsor JWLand as being unethical. As Treasurer, he would create a sponsorship committee to evaluate the ethics of sponsors, with the additional function of locating and contacting sponsors.

Law also wants to identify ethical sponsors, potentially stores in Braddon and sees big ticket events as a good source of income beyond SSAF. She is also considering the option of a storefront,  acknowledges  there are risks, but believes it is crucial to explore it as a venture. She explains that the longer ANUSA waits to diversify its income, the weaker it will get, and that this is important now more than ever.

Harrison-Murray agrees that sponsors should be ethical and sees them as a good way to diversify sources of funding. However, he suggests setting KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) could also help to stretch the SSAF budget. He is against the idea of a shopfront, citing that 60% of businesses fail within three years of opening, but would look for other funding options beyond sponsorship and the SSAF budget, potentially selling merchandise or increasing student participation with ANUSA. 

Gordon also views sponsorship as a good way to fund ANUSA, but that ANUSA’s choice of sponsorships should align with student values. He believes JWLand was not a suitable sponsor. He is wary of the risks associated with a shopfront or any other venture. 

 

On ethical sponsorship: 

Thottunkal clarifies that his idea of a sponsorship committee would build upon the Ethical Sponsorship Working Group created this year in light of the disapproval of the JWLand sponsorship agreement. His committee would increase the size of the group from 5 to 10, representing diverse interests and ethics, but would only include members of the SRC, as they are legally bound to confidentiality. He has consulted current Treasurer Maddy Wang on this policy. 

Law contends that all businesses are somewhat unethical, and that it can be hard to draw the line. The working group would prevent large missteps. She agrees that legality-wise it is hard to go beyond the SRC in its membership, but considers public consultation on the ethics of a business to be helpful. 

Harrison-Murray agrees with Thottunkal that five members of the working group is too small, and that it should be more diverse. But, he doesn’t believe it should include the entire SRC because that would be too bureaucratic. 

Gordon wants to build upon the work of the working group, but sees issues in terms of legality in regards to its membership. He wants to more broadly discuss ethical sponsors and determine what values ANUSA and the student body hold. 

 

On feasible election promises related to the budget: 

Gordon anticipates that this year’s SSAF bid will be tricky due to drastically reduced enrolment, which in turn will reduce the size of the SSAF pool. Thus, he sees prioritising spending as important. He sees scope to include an affordable meals business in the bid. He also points out that ANUSA has significant reserves which could be tapped into for long term projects. 

Harrison-Murray agrees with Gordon, expecting SSAF cuts, and foresees a need to squeeze the budget and identify excess spending, such as interstate leadership retreats. Nevertheless, he would hope to expand spending on areas relevant to students. 

Law is in agreement that SSAF will be cut. She proposes combining the social committee and mental health committee to streamline the budget, as well as conducting inventory of ANUSA’s supplies to avoid unnecessary spending on O-Week. 

Thottunkal, too, highlights the flow-on effect of dropping student enrollments on the SSAF budget for ANUSA next year. He would focus on more efficiency within the budget, but not on minimising costs, stating that he doesn’t want to cut anything. He illustrates how important ANUSA services are, with the example of 1 in 10 students receiving a financial grant this year. He suggests dipping into reserves to invest in student experience and wellbeing and to establish an ANUSA Cafe.

 

On whether they have consulted current Treasurer about policy and responsibilities: 

Gordon has spoken to Maddy Wang about challenges she has faced this year and those expected next year. 

Harrison-Murray has not consulted with Maddy but has spoken to other members of the SRC, including one person who has evaluated the ANUSA budget and identified inefficiencies.

Law has discussed her plans with Maddy, who is supportive of the idea of financial workshops, one of which would teach women to negotiate for pay raises. 

Thottunkal has gone through all of his policies with Maddy, who gave insight. He has since made some changes to improve the visibility and value of his policies. 

 

On the role of Treasurer, in regards to ANUSA’s full time Financial Comptroller: 

Harrison-Murray considers the goal of the Treasurer as one of setting direction and controlling purse strings, to ensure some things are funded well and others extremely well. He even considers combining the roles of General Secretary and Treasurer to be plausible. 

Law envisions the role as being more welfare oriented. She maintains that money has power and the Treasurer should set the direction for ANUSA’s money. She would seek to better support committees, clubs and departments. She differentiates the Treasurer’s role from the Financial Comptroller, as one to empower students, rather than practical control of money. 

Thottunkal offers that the role of the Treasurer depends on the path the individual takes; some will not put in much effort while others will commit to the role full time (fact check: the ANUSA Treasurer is not a full time position; their stipend accounts for an estimated average of 14 hours of work per week). He suggests that the Treasurer role has room for advocacy, seeing the Treasurer as the bridge between students and university administration. He considers finance as a mechanism to empower or marginalise groups. Disagreeing with Harrison Murray, he doesn’t believe the role should be combined with the General Secretary role.  

Gordon explains that the Financial Controller carries out day-to-day tasks, whereas the Treasurer should have a strategic vision for ANUSA’s finances and ensure long term financial security, especially important when SSAF funding is decreased. He believes next year’s Treasurer should think about how to secure future funding for ANUSA. 

 

On a hypothetical SSAF increase: 

Law would purchase a new ANUSA bus, because clubs use it all the time. She would also work to improve the Brian Kenyon Student Space, which is currently quite cluttered, perhaps through adding a mural. Additionally, she would like to direct more money towards committees, citing Sex and Consent Week as an example. 

Harrison-Murray raises that though SSAF funding could hypothetically increase, it would also drop at some point. He would start by investing in alternative streams of revenue, create a futures fund for ANUSA due to its reliance on SSAF, and develop a mental health resources app, something he sees as a priority. He believes it would be better to have a guaranteed income.

Gordon would view a windfall as being fantastic; in that situation he would expand student services widely to things that could not be funded before, but only after community consultation. 

Thottunkal, with his public health background, would prioritise fixing ANU Counselling, stating that it does not have enough resources to meet the need currently. He would double the number of counsellors working. For a fun answer, he would fund an ANU Coachella.

 

On actually securing alternative sources of income, in comparison to other years:

Gordon argues that alternative streams of income are needed due to the lack of guarantee of SSAF funding, as it is a discretionary grant from the ANU. He acknowledges that it was difficult this year for the executive to secure alternative funding due to COVID but points out that the reserve funding has not been tapped into. He believes ANUSA needs a treasurer who would be confident to do so and to look for alternative funding.

Harrison-Murray poses that the situation this year is different; alternative income is needed now more than ever, describing it as a ‘necessary condition not a fairy tale project’ for ANUSA to continue to do their work.

Law believes that previous treasurers have stepped into the role with a lack of institutional knowledge and a lack of understanding how SSAF works. However, she argues that as someone who has been involved in ANUSA for three years she could actually secure alternative funding. 

Thottunkal claims that previous treasurers haven’t been as qualified, but his experience as

Treasurer of the Ethnocultural Department and as a management consultant for 180 Degrees positions him well for the job. He has also contends that previous candidates have not proposed using reserves before, whereas he proposes to go into them straight away to invest in projects, due to current low interest rates.

 

On ANUSA’s accountability: 

Harrison Murray wants to make the ANUSA website reflect transparency, as he claims it currently only displays the SSAF bid and the financial statement. He believes every financial document that can go up should go up so that people can access them. 

Gordon disagrees that everything should go on the website, instead offering that more easily accessible and interpretable reports should be created. These reports should synthesise information into smaller documents to explain ANUSA’s financial goals and position to students; he explains that Maddy Wang has already started working on this.

Thottunkal calls for increased transparency around decision making. He argues that the lack of understanding amongst students about where ANUSA’s money goes is the main impediment to transparency. He believes that the Treasurer should be on Schmidtposting, and identifies a current lack of student consultation as a problem. He would use the ANU Consulting Society to assist with consulting. 

Law, meanwhile, suggests that a lack of documents is not the problem, but that there is an issue with advertising where the information is. She would make the AGM, OGM and SRC more publicly accessible so that people can ask questions of the Treasurer; she claims no one currently asks Maddy any questions.  

 

On tapping into ANUSA’s reserves and responding to another crisis: 

Thottunkal claims he would take a responsible approach. His proposed ventures, the ANUSA cafe venture and a farmer’s market, would fill empty spaces in Kambri. He explains that ANU has already consented to rent these spaces out at a reduced rate, which he hopes to bring down to 50% off the rent to increase the viability of the venture. He believes these ventures would improve student experience and intends for them to put students first, aiming to break even rather than making a profit like other Kambri businesses.

Law suggests that it is a balance for any treasurer; they need to prepare for a rainy day but also pursue smart investment. Her idea is to run a big ticket event to make money, which she believes is feasible with the strong team she is running with. She proposes using only 30% of the reserves and is confident her team would spend the money responsibly.

Harrison-Murray believes that the money from the reserves should be carefully chosen; it can’t be put into Afterpay stocks. He would also pull money from waste in the budget, such as sending SRC to interstate leadership camps, “why not have it on [the ACT] campus?”

Gordon proposes an affordable meals business in Kambri, and would seek external professional advice about any student initiative for any venture he would enter into.