GEELONG — The National Union of Students will not formally campaign to get a Bill Shorten Labor government elected after an amendment was withdrawn by the conference’s Business Committee this afternoon, in sessions dominated by arguments about the Labor party.
But the union will begin to develop a campaign for the next federal election after the original motion was passed without incident. The Business Committee withdrew the amendments to the motion that would have bound the NUS to campaign for Bill Shorten’s Labor.
Adelaide University’s Mark Pace (NLS), who is expected to be installed as the next NUS president later in the week, said it wasn’t the place for the NUS to campaign for a government.
“The NUS is a democratic and transparent forum for students and we can’t be doing that if we’re projecting a political persuasion in the campaign,” he told the conference.
Pace moved the original motion, but withdrew it with the amendment. The Business Committee then withdrew the amendments clearing the path for the original motion.
Unity members were outraged that the NLS would fail to support the amended motion, saying it was akin to campaigning against their own party.
The Unity WA state branch president, Lewis Whittaker, said it was “disgraceful that the NLS would campaign against their own party. Can you not read what the ‘L’ stands for on your t-shirts?”
“Cut up your cards and join the Indies in the back!” he shouted over ever increasing ambient noise in the room while wearing a cap branded with the conservative Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) logo.
A NLS speaker said: “I’m a bit fucking confused when the NUS conference turned into a Labor party conference.”
“We’re not going to waste any of our money on a campaign,” they said, saying it wasn’t the role of the NUS to do so.
University of Sydney NLS member Harry Gregg said: “There is no reference to electing the Labor party. What it simply outlines, we as a Union, outlines a manifesto, to stop the war on young people during an election.”
Scuffles also broke out close to the end of the session, after Dylan Lloyd (Grassroots) sitting on the Business Committee ate a motion that would force discussion on policy 3.30, which said the Greens are Liberals in disguise.
The motion eventually made it to discussion when the paper containing the motion physically made it to the chair, Sophie Johnston.
Gregg said the Greens were “nothing but Thatcherite, Reaganite scabs. We need to fight them at every single level.
“We need to end the Australian Greens,” he said. “They will need to be defeated at every single level.”
“If you support the Greens, you support the Liberals!” Gregg shouted over the noise.
Jill Molloy, a Unity member, condemned the Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, who she said did not pay his family’s au pair correctly. “The Greens do not know actual workers,” she said.
The national education officer, Anneke Demanuele, shouted at Molloy from the conference floor. “Can you not see the hypocrisy?”
Lloyd, who has been pictured campaigning for the Greens, condemned the Labor party for doing deals with the Liberals.
The motion passed with support from Unity, which had at first withdrawn the motion and then got it back on the agenda after a Business Committee stage scuffle.
Conference floor closed at 7.30pm.