Three major tickets have been formed to run in the upcoming ANU Students’ Association (ANUSA) elections happening later this month. ANUSA is one of the most highly funded student organisations on campus, with an annual budget in excess of $1.5 million, and is responsible for the welfare of all ANU undergraduate students. Voting for the elections is scheduled for the 24th-27th August.
ANUSA is comprised of nearly 40 student representatives: six members of the Executive (President, Vice-President, General Secretary, Social Officer, and Education Officer, and Treasurer); two College Representatives from each ANU faculty; fourteen General Representatives; and six Department Officers representing underrepresented groups of the ANU community (Disabilities, Environment, Indigenous, International Students’, Queer* and Women’s).
Traditionally, the election for these executive office-bearers of the Association is highly contested, given that these positions are both prestigious and open to any undergraduate student who decides to nominate (with the exception of the role of Treasurer, which requires the completion of two entry-level accounting courses). Students can choose to run independently, or as part of a registered ticket.
One of the tickets, Let’s ANUSA, is being spearheaded by incumbent President Ben Gill, who is seeking another year term as head of the Association. This decision is a highly irregular one – this has only happened one other time in the last 40 years. In 2014, Gill ran on the successful Connect ticket platform, which relied on the support of ANUSA Departments as a voting bloc. At the time, Gill was the 2014 Queer* Officer.
However, his grip on this substantial voting base seems to have slipped with the establishment of a Department-centric ticket Open – your invite to ANUSA, whose Executive team is entirely comprised of current department officers, with Elsa Merrick as President.
It is unclear as to whether the formation of this ticket was a result of fallout with Gill. However, Gill maintained that his relationship with the Officers is still an amicable one.
“I am friends with and have a strong working relationship with all the Department Officers and I think it’s great that they are running for ANUSA based on their experiences this year and that they are wanting to make elections accessible to all students,” he said.
When asked for comment, Merrick did not respond directly on the reasons for running a Department ticket against Gill, instead citing issues of advocacy and marginalisation.
“Open was formed due to the need for a more advocacy-oriented and representative ANUSA,” Merrick said.
“In our experience as Department Officers, we found we were fighting for ANUSA to be an active lobbying body for the political and social issues affecting students on campus…”
“Rather than being a barrier to representation, ANUSA should be a megaphone to ensure student voices are heard.”
“We should prioritise advocating for students whose voices are often sidelined, such as women, international students, LGBTIQ* students, students with disabilities, Indigenous students and people of colour.”
Although only a minor segment of the undergraduate population, members of these various Departments are traditionally highly engaged in the electoral process. In the previous election, approximately 2000 undergraduates voted on the position of President of the Association – a fifth of the ANU’s undergraduate pool.
Another significant minority voting bloc is student Labor support – a body that is highly pervasive within the major student associations on campus. With an equally high level of engagement in ANU politics, candidates backed by student Labor groups have often claimed high profile positions across the ANU campus. In recent years, they have been elected within the ANU Union, which is responsible for the services provided inside the Union Refectory Building, ANU Sport, ANUSA, and Woroni.
Jack Gaudie, who is this year’s Social Officer, and Albert Patajo, who is this year’s College of Science Representative, are the frontrunners for this year’s Ready for ANUSA ticket, as the Presidential and Vice-Presidential nominees, respectively. Both candidates previously ran on 2014’s Labor-influenced ticket Fetch. However, Gaudie maintained that candidacy on the ticket was not contingent on voting behaviour.
“We don’t ask about how individuals vote; all we ask is that they support their Ready teammates, develop sound policy, and be Ready to be active members of ANUSA 2016. I think this is the important focus of a ticket,” Gaudie said.
“We have a whole team of passionate and dedicated students Ready to make a difference at ANU. I think this is evident in the policy and passion they have brought so far.”
Another contentious issue with the Ready for ANUSA ticket is the registration of co-tickets. While tickets are traditionally registered as a single entity, several tickets have been registered under the Ready umbrella for this election – Ready for Education, Ready for ANUSA, Ready for Reform, Ready for Social, and Ready for Welfare. While these five tickets are technically treated as separate, in practice, little distinction is made between them by the Ready team – this method allows for Ready to nominate more candidates across their respective tickets, have a higher funding allocation, and ostensibly, keep the flow of voter preferences within Ready.
“The co-tickets and extra gen reps is something our team decided to do in order to maximise the amount of Ready reps elected. It’s a commonly used technique across other campuses which increases our chances at the ballot box,” Gaudie said.
“Ready is serious about policy and serious about ANUSA – that’s why we’re maximising our chances through this technique.”
When asked for comment, 2015 ANUSA Election Project Manager Stephen Ireland said that although registering them as separate tickets satisfied one aspect of the ANUSA Electoral Regulations, there was still an on-going investigation into whether it fulfilled Section 2: 2.8.18* of these Regulations. However, following a meeting with the Probity Officers last Friday, Ready were not found to be in breach of any electoral regulations.
*2.8.18 – Material of any candidate and/or ticket must not significantly resemble in style or appearance the material of any other contesting candidate or ticket.