The Independent candidate running for ANUSA President, General and National Union of Students (NUS) representative, James Donnelly (he/him) has announced his policies.
He pitches the slogan line, “action rather than activism and progress rather than protest”. Arguing that his motivation to run for ANUSA and the NUS is based on his “poor experience as a working student … [and] strong view that the longstanding incumbent faction of the ANUSA leadership is out of touch with the majority of students.”
His ticket clearly banks on students wanting a new face in ANUSA or sharing the same sentiments about the incumbent ticket running this year as Together for ANUSA. However, his policy remains controversial with support for AUKUS STEM scholarships causing the greatest stir.
INDEPENDENT AND READY FOR CHANGE
Following on from his soft launch, Donnelly has shared very little new information on his policies. His main focus seems to be on the representation of working students, a claimed political independence, dedication to tolerance and diversity, and anti-extremism.
Political independence in the contexts of student politics means that the candidate is not aligned to one of the three main NUS factions: Labour (Left and Right), Socialists Alternative (SAlt) or grassroots Independents (Grindies). This means that Donnelly won’t vote with a faction at the NUS. Donnelly has claimed that his motivation to run for ANUSA, “does not come from a place of political agenda.” Although some have noted that he in the past has not been apolitical, as featured in photos on the ANU Liberal Club Facebook page.
One of the most contentious policies is Donnelly’s support for AUKUS scholarships, the blocking of which by the incumbent ticket he claims, “sidelines many of our talented STEM students and loses vital funding towards education.” AUKUS has been subject to significant debate both at ANU and nationally. In this year’s budget, the Government has pledged $127.3 million over the next four years to fund 4,000 additional Commonwealth Supported Places in STEM disciplines. ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt is a proponent of the change claiming that further funding for universities can “deliver the graduates and skills in the quantities required.” The ANU seems to be embracing the change through the development of a Nuclear Systems major and minor for the Bachelor of Engineering (Honours). ANUSA, on the other hand, opposes AUKUS and the implementation of AUKUS scholarships on campus. Current ANUSA Education Officer, Beatrice Tucker (they/them) claims that AUKUS is “driving a dangerous arms race in the region and brings us closer to a disastrous US-led war.” It is yet unclear how Donnelly’s stance on this issue will affect student voting, although the policy has already gained significant attention on facebook page ANU Confessions.
In his other policy, Donnelly has focused on the representation of working students drawing on his own “poor experience as a working student”. He has promised to demand for greater accessibility in the form of online learning options, classes outside regular working hours, and leniency with attendance grades. The ANU Disability Student Association has also been petitioning for greater online learning options this year. It is yet unclear if, or how, Donnelly plans to work alongside them towards this aim if elected.
Donnelly has also outlined that he is dedicated to ensuring tolerance and diversity on campus claiming that he aims to, “listen to you [the student body] and represent your genuine issues with integrity.” In his policy, Donnelly criticises almost all other tickets running for ANUSA. This includes criticising SAlt for, “tactics of harassment, intimidation and intolerance [that] have no place at our university,” as well as “ANU’s Labor students, [who] have joined forces with extremists to advance their own political ambitions.” Finally, he has criticised the Incumbent ticket stating that they are out of touch, and mentioning that he will not “make grand but empty promises of Night Cafes.” As an independent, Donnelly may provide a new perspective to ANUSA however, it is also unclear how he plans to work alongside the broader ANUSA executive.
Donnelly is running a campaign with very recognisable branding, in the Barbie theme, and has elicited discussion on ANU Confessions. Donnelly’s choice not to participate in the Presidential debate, but to attend nonetheless, was a bold move that has caused controversy. All in all, Donnelly is stirring engagement with his campaign, whether good or bad.
Donnelly is also distancing himself from any particular political faction (whether reflective of his real allegiance or not), and emphasises his criticism of both major tickets in the election. Donnelly draws upon his experience as a working student, which may be relatable to voters. His AUKUS stance, although controversial, may reflect the sentiment of students wishing to study in these fields.
Although Donnelly’s campaign is high-profile, it is controversial, with commentary including negative reactions to his policies and lack of participation in the debate. Just as Donnelly critiques the incumbents, he also lacks any real experience within ANUSA, which may lead voters to question his ability to fulfil the role of President.
Donnelly’s policies are particularly vague as to how he will achieve real results within the ANUSA infrastructure. By turning away from protest, Donnelly only really specifies the avenues he won’t use if elected. It is unclear which ones he would use to further goals such as increased teaching hours and online options.
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