Proposed changes to the PARSA Constitution will allow the members to directly elect all Office bearer positions within PARSA as well as implement eligibility criteria for certain positions such as requiring the Indigenous Australian Officer to self- identify as a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
Following the 2014 PARSA elections, which this newspaper dubbed ‘The Postgraduate Game of Thrones’, the PARSA Postgraduate Representative Committee (PRC) established a sub-committee to provide recommendations to improve the PARSA Constitution and electoral regulations with the aim of avoiding a repeat of the events experienced during the 2014 election.
The sub-committee was led by legal counsel Michael Curtotti and consisted of College of Law lecturer Ryan Goss and two PARSA representatives, Upul Wickramasinghe and Chris Wilson. They were given a short time frame to complete their complex task such that any recommendations could be discussed and implemented prior to the 2015 PARSA elections. The sub-committee worked tirelessly over the summer to deliver an in-depth report to the PRC at the first full meeting of the PRC following O-week.
The 43 page report recommended and included an entirely new Constitution as well as separate electoral regulations, both delivered with enough time to be enacted prior to the 2015 elections, if approved by the PARSA members in a general meeting and the University Council.
The proposed Constitution, based on the ACT Government’s model Constitution, was formulated from the current PARSA Constitution, ANUSA documentation, and from other student representative bodies around the country. To assist with student consultation, the sub-committee released a survey to the Postgraduate community which received almost 700 responses, showing that interest in the mechanisms of PARSA is high from the membership.
The major changes in the proposed Constitution and the updated electoral regulations recommend the establishment of a direct election model for all positions, a General Secretary position on the PRC, and an independent Disputes Committee and appropriate procedure to deal with allegations of misconduct by PRC members, including a right and method of appeal.
The proposed Constitution also sets out methods for removing a PRC member either through through a lack of support or misconduct, and delineates an eligibility criteria for the renamed Indigenous Australian Officer and the International Student Officer. It also provides explicit procedures for the conduct of PARSA elections and lists the different types of electoral offences that ought to be enforced by the Returning Officer.
The report was presented to a full meeting of the PRC, including the recently filled vacant PARSA positions, on Friday 27th February, drawing spirited discussion from the representatives in attendance. Much of the comments and recommendations from the PRC members present centred on improving the documents provided in the report as well as further strengthening the accountability on all PRC members elected in the future.
PARSA Executive and current Treasurer Chris Wilson says “the move to directly elect all office bearers by the Postgraduate community will allow our voters for the first time to question the qualities, motives, and qualifications of every candidate in every position prior the election.”
“I believe this additional accountability is in the interest of our members and PARSA as a whole”.
The PARSA PRC has commenced an additional two week period of student consultation following the release of the sub-committee’s report. The report is now available on the PARSA website where it is open for written comment up to Wednesday 18th of March 2015. An Ordinary General Meeting to vote on the new Constitution is scheduled for Tuesday 24th of March as advertised on the PARSA website, parsa.anu.edu.au, with all Postgraduate students encouraged to attend.
For additional details, please contact the PARSA President at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Communications Officer via email@example.com.
Ben Niles is the current President of PARSA.