Christopher Orchard, PARSA General Secretary, informed Woroni that OurANU had been banned from campaigning on Wednesday 17 August, 8am to 6pm, on alleged breaches of election regulations. He told Woroni that Unite! had also breached election regulations, but not to the extent that warranted a campaigning ban.
Both OurANU and Unite! are major tickets in the running for the PARSA elections, which close at 11am the same day.
According to Orchard, both he and the Returning Officer received numerous complaints from students regarding the conduct of both tickets.
He told Woroni, “To my knowledge, this is first time actions of this sort have been taken by a PARSA electoral body. They are not taken lightly and were enacted following a careful investigation, allowing both sides a right of reply. Both sides have made numerous complaints about the other.”
Based on the complaints, he stressed that OurANU especially had committed “intentional, repeated breaches of election regulations.”
There was particular concern about an email that was allegedly sent by OurANU to a large number of postgraduates, instructing the recipient on how to vote in the online elections. Woroni has obtained two versions of the same email from a number of postgraduate students.
Additionally, this email sent by OurANU is very similar to an official PARSA email sent out to all postgraduates earlier this week, informing postgraduates of the opening of the elections.
“Please click on each of the following links and select the OurANU Candidate as the number 1 preference,” the OurANU email reads. Screenshots capturing the similarity of the OurANU and PARSA emails can be seen below.
This was of concern as in PARSA’s Electoral Regulations, 13(e) under Electoral Offences states:
“Except with the authority of the Returning Officer, it is an electoral offence for any person to assist or offer to assist another person to cast their vote, whether by instructing them how to complete a vote or inviting them to vote on a device provided by or accessed in the presence of the person offering the ‘assistance’ or by other means.”
Questions were also raised regarding how OurANU was able to attain such as vast number of postgraduate emails. Orchard clarified that proof does not currently exist of the use of official postgraduate mailing lists. However, he noted it was “very likely”, as the only other way to access such a large number of email addresses would be to type thousands of names into Outlook’s “Name Search” feature.
Orchard also mentioned that OurANU had removed posters belonging to their competitors, postered inside of libraries, and used lectures to campaign for their ticket. The latter two charges appear to breach 13(f)(ix):
“It is an electoral offense to campaign in any place, whether on or off-campus, which is normally primarily a place of work or study or accommodation, including libraries, offices and laboratories (but excluding common areas of residential colleges).”
In an email chain forwarded to Woroni by Unite! members, photographs and a video embedded within appear to confirm this charge. They show OurANU members promoting their ticket in at least three different lectures.
Unite’s photographs also appear to show OurANU posters in the Law Library and Chifley Library, corroborating what Orchard had discovered from student complaints.
Unite! also accused OurANU of campaigning in Unilodge foyers, and of using a ticket name so similar to official ANU branding that it could be mistaken for University endorsement of the OurANU. However, in Woroni’s discussion with Orchard these issues were not raised.
Yet, Orchard indicated that the Unite! ticket had also committed breaches. He highlighted an instance where the initial design of the Unite! logo was deemed by the Returning Officer as using a similar colour scheme to the PARSA logo. It was ordered to be changed, and a new profile picture was uploaded using different colours.
The old colour scheme can still be viewed on the Facebook page’s past profile picture, and on Unite! logos in ticket members’ personal Facebook profiles.
Unite! was also charged with placing posters in prohibited areas. However, these instances were not considered as grounds for a campaigning ban.
Commenting on these accusations, Alyssa Shaw – Unite’s presidential candidate – told Woroni her ticket “has conducted a professional and ethical campaign, including educating every team member about the electoral regulations.”
“Unite! was approached with a complaint regarding the colours used in our logo. Although the complaint never referenced any specific electoral regulation, we worked quickly to change our logo so that this was no longer a cause for concern. We are not aware of any postering violations by Unite!”
When asked for comment on the accusations levelled against them, OurANU’s presidential candidate Isobel Smith did not address the alleged electoral violations.
Instead, she said, “As you are no doubt aware all parties are allowed a right of reply to any alleged violations of the PARSA Electoral Regulations. As such, the OurANU team is not currently banned from campaigning as we have lodged an appeal with the returning officer.”
“As you have been notified, both of the major tickets are currently barred from campaigning on the basis of identical violations,” she continued.
Orchard said that OurANU’s statements were incorrect, and it was “definitely the case that OurANU are in fact banned.”
Unite! also confirmed with Woroni that they were not issued with a ban.
Orchard spoke with Woroni this morning and clarified that all of the complaints “flooded in” last Friday, and he and the Returning Officer have had to investigate each allegation thoroughly.
He concluded, “It is extremely unfortunate that this year’s elections have been so tarnished, particularly by the two major tickets. I will be conducting a thorough review of the behaviour of both tickets following the close of polls. Indeed we are still receiving complaints even as early as this morning.”