The ANUSA ticket led by Ben Yates as a presidential candidate, has announced its formal name, Power in Community, along with its policies. The ticket is contesting all seven ANUSA positions, with six general representatives candidates.
Power in Community pitches itself as having candidates with “…clear experience and institutional knowledge of the organisation they seek to lead.” They clearly bank on students supporting incumbents as those who can affect the change they promise. However, Power in Community has said little about their work and results this year and whether they think the current ANUSA appeals to students.
The policy master document for the ticket is eighty pages long.To summarise it, we’ve broken it down into the key ideologies behind the ticket, the welfare and services underpinning side of their policies, and the activist element of their proposals.
Independent, Experienced Activist
Following on from its soft launch, Power in Community is emphasising its three main qualities: being politically independent, having candidates with experience, and promising to run an activist union.
Political independence is a more niche aspect of the ticket. Nationally, student politics tends to be defined by three main factions: Labor, Socialists Alternative (SAlt) and the grassroots independents (Grindies). To diehard fans of student politics, being politically independent means the ticket will not vote with a faction at the National Union of Students.
Probably the most contentious selling point of the ticket is experience. Incumbent executives rarely run again for ANUSA; Power in Community bucks this trend with a majority of the incumbent executive re-running. The ticket believes this places it in a better position than others, enabling it to “hit the ground running from December 1.”
However, if the ticket wants to be considered experienced, they also open themselves up to criticism of their current work. Students dissatisfied with current ANUSA policies may, rightly or wrongly, blame Power in Community.
The ticket actually appears to do this itself. Several of its candidates refer to policies which others on the ticket had the power to fix this year. Yates proposes holding consultation sessions in Marie Reay, something which he could have actioned anytime this year.
Additionally, the ticket also risks becoming inward-looking. The Welfare Officer candidate, Luke Harrison, lists student unionism, community building and accessibility as their priorities. These tangibly link to student wellbeing, but not as directly as some students may want, and reflect the frustrations that insiders can have with ANUSA, but which outside students may not relate to.
Partially addressing criticism from SAlt this year, Yates’ own policies include a “Recognition Agreement”, forcing the ANU to recognise ANUSA as the only legitimate representative of undergraduate interests, alongside other student groups like the Inter-Hall Council. This would mark a shift away from the somewhat consultative role ANUSA currently plays.
The activism that Power in Community proposes is increasingly radical; epitomised in Beatrice Tucker’s aim to use occupations, or sit-ins, as a potential protest tool.
Welfare and Services
A recurring theme of Power in Community’s policies is activism merged with services provision.
This is clearly the approach of Vice-Presidential candidate, Grace King. For example, King’s policies include bringing more mutual aid and resourcing to the BKSS, and a five day standard extension policy, without a medical certificate. Similarly, King also wants to push for the ANU to continue managing the Medical Centre, and for the ANU to employ more diverse doctors there.
Presidential candidate, Ben Yates, also focuses on sexual assault and sexual harassment (SASH), another intersection between activism and welfare. On SASH, Yates feels that “Executive members must always take the lead of the autonomous departments” and that he would assist the Womens Officer in their activism.
General Representative candidate Abirami Manikandan proposes a suite of policies concerning mental health. Notably, Manikandan proposes an extension of the current ANUSA Health Grant to cover mental health services, to be “accessible to students who do not have sufficient funds to pay for their counsellor and psychiatrist visits…”.
Combining welfare and activism seems, from the face of it, to be a compelling idea for ANU students. It mixes the activism that, as a left-leaning body, students likely support, with the material struggles that many students experience.
The ticket has also balanced its loftier goals with its more realistic ones. Convincing the ANU not to privatise the medical centre will be a challenge, while a five day standard extension policy is far more achievable; as King notes, it has happened at the University of Sydney.
Likewise, Treasurer candidate Katrina Ha has also clearly outlined how to improve financing for the departments, with a plan to push for roll-over of funds (rather than paying them back to the ANU at the end of the year). Members of departments form a key part of ANUSA’s electorate, especially as not all students vote. This policy is well-placed to secure votes.
Policies from General Representatives pertaining to welfare issues are likely to be popular, capitalising on significant issues such as mental health, student safety, and residential communities.
However, some areas of the ticket’s policies are light on details. To improve ANUSA meetings, General-Secretary Candidate Phoenix O’Neill wants three new codes of conduct. But they refrain from explaining what will be in these codes of conduct, instead leaving it up to more consultations. While this reflects the flat-decision making process of the ticket, students might dislike the lack of clear commitment.
Like other tickets, the more substantive policies put forward rely on forcing the ANU to change its policies. The ticket is clear on how it thinks this can happen; multiple candidates are emphasising how ANU now manages Kambri and that it can be pushed to lower prices. But, while protests this year have seen some success, where money is involved the ANU tends to be more intractable, as current President Christian Flynn argued at the August 1st protests.
Additionally, many policies in welfare and beyond advocated by individual candidates do not seem to have consistent accommodation throughout the entire ticket. For example, General Representative policies are not discussed in the Treasurer’s announcement, and do not seem to have detailed financial projections.
Finally, the commitment to continue or increase the amount of welfare and services provided by ANUSA will likely dominate ANUSA spending, and may signal a continuation of deficit into the future. The ticket plans to fund this using money previously devoted to PARSA. The ANU has not stated where PARSA’s funding will now go.
The ticket is, as above, running on a strong activist platform. This includes a “Reverse the Rent” campaign to reverse rent prices to 2020 levels, and supporting lowering the age of Centrelink independence while raising the amount paid.
Beatrice Tucker, the current Education Officer running for re-election, will continue their campaign against course cuts. Yates is looking to better advocate for postgraduates, and to position ANUSA less as a consultative body and more as a key decision maker when it comes to ANU policies. He also wants to continue the fossil fuel divestment campaign.
Power in Community’s proposed campaigns centre around students and hence could increase engagement and support because of their more direct material benefits.
Here, the ticket’s experience benefits it, as their campaigns identify specific pressure points to achieve their goals. Activists, like Tucker, also have a clear ideology to not only make protests successful but also to galvanise and maintain support. Students may be drawn to this, especially in an election where most tickets have promised some form of activism.
While the ticket addresses many different areas of discrimination, race is notably absent. The ticket only references First Nations people when discussing PARSA’s lack of a representative, and when one General Representative candidate discusses broader activism in the Australian community. Likewise, the ticket makes little mention of the BIPOC Department’s anti-racism campaign; Yates refers to the Follow Through ANU report but no one mentions the BIPOC Department’s racism report published last year.
Activism is also an area where students may judge the incumbent ticket harshly. ANUSA has run several campaigns this year, in particular against SASH and course cuts, and yet, little has changed. This reflects the time it takes to affect institutional change, but students may be unhappy with a perceived lack of progress – real or not – and could turn away from the ticket.
Other miscellaneous policies put forward by the candidates include:
- Make Kambri venue hire free, and give responsibility for the blackbox theatre to student theatre groups
- Bring back the shuttle bus from Daley Road to Civic
- Increase lighting on campus
- Due to a belief that “It’s extremely common for student media to misreport on what’s happening with ANUSA”, an increase in time spent briefing student reporters
- Increase student membership rates in external unions (i.e. RAFFWU)
- Women and women-identifying support networks in the Joint College of Science (JCOS)
Some of these policies, such as increasing lighting or revitalising the shuttle bus, were originally proposed in 2019, with other General Representatives failing in their promises.
Reading through Power in Community’s website and policy document, there is a clear intersectionality between candidates’ policies, and also a clear gap. Many policies lean on and complement one another, such as a focus on working closely with residents committees and SRs, or pressuring the ANU for changes to Kambri management.
However, there are salient gaps between policies, in particular on finance. Many candidates propose policies that require more money, while the Treasurer focuses almost exclusively on their own policies.
Likewise, there is also overlap with other tickets’ policies, including a proposed SR collective, fossil fuel divestment, maintaining ANU management of the ANU Medical Practice, and changing Kambri management policies. Such overlap suggests tickets this year are engaging more with students’ concerns, but also risks blurring the lines between them.
Voting for the election opens 9am Monday 26 September and closes 12pm Thursday 29 September. Come to the debate tonight to watch the candidates in real life.
The ticket is running the following candidates:
Ben Yates for President, Undergraduate Member on ANU Council and NUS Delegate
Grace King for Vice-President
Beatrice Tucker for Education Officer and NUS Delegate
Phoenix O’Neill for General Secretary
Katrina Ha for Treasurer
Charlotte Carnes for Clubs Officer
Luke Harrison for Welfare Officer and NUS Delegate
Rex Michelson for Environment Officer and NUS Delegate
Mickey Throssel for CASS Representative
Patrick Stephenson for CASS Representative
Wei Lerr for CECS Representative
Harrison Oates for CECS Representative
Will Carey for CoL Representative
Suzie Ma for CoL Representative
Isha Singhal for JCOS Representative
Yasmin Osborne for JCOS Representative
Tanya Babbar for CBE Representative
Oscar Moysey for General Representative
Abirami Manikandan for General Representative
Skye Predavec for General Representative and NUS Delegate
Kelsie Suter for General Representative
Adhyan Dhull for General Representative
Aidan Harris for General Representative
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