Simon Sheikh, former GetUp! director and current Greens Senate candidate for the ACT, is alleged to have promoted his Senatorial campaign during two lectures at the Australian National University (ANU) on 2 May.
The lectures were for two later-year courses, ‘Pressure Groups and Political Lobbying’ and ‘Leadership & Influence’. Notably, ‘Leadership & Influence’ is a course run through the Chancelry and is co-convened by Anna Rose, Mr. Sheikh’s wife, author and Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) co-founder.
The lecture on Leadership & Influence was a panel discussion, featuring Oaktree Foundation CEO, Viv Benjamin, and Skye Laris from the ALP National Secretariat.
Bachelor of Policy Studies student and attendee at the lecture on Pressure Groups and Political Lobbying, Mitchell Clout, alleged that, “After commenting on opinion polls and local politics [Mr Sheikh] said that for more information on the Greens and their policies, join his sign-up sheet, which provided us with the option to volunteer with the Greens.”
“Questions about his candidacy in the Senate election should be expected but I don’t want political recruitment and campaigning in my lectures,” said Mr. Clout.
In the 2010 Federal Election, Greens candidate Lin Hatfield Dodds needed only 25,000 more votes to attain quota and take the Senate seat from now-outgoing Liberal Party Senator for the ACT, Gary Humphries.
According to the Canberra Times, Mr Sheikh is targeting first-time voters in the ACT in a bid to gain the necessary votes needed to attain quota. In a statement from Mr. Sheikh’s office, they noted, “There are currently over 16,000 young people in Canberra who are not correctly enrolled and Simon believes it is a fundamental right for people to have their say in politics and that all young people should be correctly enrolled.”
In the past, Mr. Sheikh has organised events for students such as ‘Organising Like Obama: Lessons from US Campaigning’, ‘Grab A Beer With Simon Sheikh’ as well as giving the keynote speech at the Australian University Student Media Conference (AUSMC) held at the ANU.
In a recording obtained by Woroni, Mr. Sheikh is heard to say at the end of the Leadership & Influence lecture in reference to youth involvement in the political sphere, “Get involved, whether it’s the Liberal Party, The Greens, the Labor Party, any other political party or social movement – get involved.”
A spokesperson for Mr. Sheikh confirmed that a piece of paper and a laptop were passed around the Leadership & Influence lecture, with the e-mail addresses provided on paper used by all three panel guests to provide “a compilation of non-partisan resources and readings on leadership and social change.
One student who attended the lecture alleged that the sheet handed to her by Ms. Rose asks if the attendee would like to volunteer for Mr. Sheikh’s campaign. However, Mr. Sheikh’s office provided Woroni with a document titled, “Want more resources from Simon?” showing an extract from one of the sign-up sheets that does not appear to be soliciting potential campaign volunteers.
In a statement to Woroni, the ANU confirmed that Mr. Sheikh sought permission to distribute electoral enrollment forms, a petition and a contact form for students who wanted more information on leadership. He was granted permission to distribute contact forms and electoral enrollment forms, but not the petition.
The ANU noted that at no stage was Mr Sheikh given permission to campaign in either class, saying, “The University does not… condone any political party campaigning in the classroom.”
In light of alleged breaches of the University’s Code of Conduct, Conflict of Interest and Commitment Policy, and the Political Elections Policies, the University will now be formally investigating the matter.
Update: 04 MAR 2013 4:30pm – In an updated statement, the University indicated that the matter has now been resolved through an internal process.
Edits: 04 MAR 2013 4:30pm – In the last paragraph, where it used to read: “the University will now be formally investigating the allegations against Ms. Rose, who is a staff member of the ANU,” it now reads: “the University will now be formally investigating the matter.” This change was made after the author sought clarification on the original statement from the ANU Chancelry on the matter.