The ANUSA Treasurer is responsible for all of the Association’s finances, and monitors spending in accordance with the Association’s goals and what has been approved by its members. They have to ensure funds are spent appropriately, and must organise professional auditing for ANUSA’s finances.
Woroni sat down with Amplify Treasurer candidate Zhengxiang (Harry) Feng and Connect Treasurer candidate Ned Dale to discuss policy in the run-up to the election.
Feng told Woroni that he decided to run as Treasurer because of his experience as an accounting student, and was confident that he would do the job well. He also stressed that if he were successful, he would be the first international student to play the role, and would have institutional knowledge from his current position as International Students Officer.
Dale, who is also a CBE student, outlined his experiences as head of the Trading and Investment Collective and employee of the Canberra Business Chamber. He felt compelled to run after experiencing first-hand the difficulties in working with GAC from a Clubs and Societies perspective, and felt that being Treasurer he could help shape reform.
Woroni asked both candidates what they thought of the decision to remove the course prerequisites for the Treasurer position. Both agreed, with Dale calling it a “good idea, because there are a lot of competent students I know… who have the skills necessary but haven’t done the prerequisite courses, which were quite limited. Feng said that instead the prerequisites could be recommendations, but recognised that it ultimately barred people from the position who had sufficient experience from outside university, particularly international students.
Transparency and GAC
On transparency, Feng cited his experiences as an executive of a student club and noted a “disconnect between ANUSA, GAC, and student clubs.” He wanted to inform more students about ANUSA’s finances and do so proactively. Feng also asserted that he would like to be more approachable, especially for international students, in regards to financial transparency and information sharing.
Dale concurred that transparent operation was critical for an organisation of ANUSA’s size, especially when “85% of funding comes from SSAF.” Adding on to Feng’s idea of continuous dialogue with clubs, the Connect candidate proposed providing financial training to C&S treasurers and making budgets for major events (O-Week, Bush Week, etc) public.
Dale also mentioned the Connect (and Amplify) policy to hire a professional staffer to run GAC processing, but also highlighted Connect’s shift of GAC to the Treasurer portfolio. He rationalised this by saying the reforms would allow the Social portfolio to focus more on event management. Moving GAC to the Treasurer was a “logical step” given that GAC is fundamentally about “the dispersal of funds.”
In response, Feng recognised room for improvement in GAC. However, he felt that GAC should still remain with the Social Officer, especially given the networking challenges of connecting C&S (Clubs and Societies), especially those internationally-geared. He also referred to personal troubles with GAC, “not because [it’s] not a good system, but because the information processes are not good.”
Both candidates agreed that students should be heavily involved in GAC, but that professional staff should take the burden of bureaucratic and financial work.
Regarding ANUSA’s search for external sponsorship, Woroni asked if students would be able to have a say in which sponsors were chosen, particularly if the sponsor was deemed ethically-questionable. Feng said that he would not make any decision before consulting members of ANUSA regarding who would sponsor the Association, and stated that in the end, all sponsors would bring benefits to the student body. He referred to QPAY and Murray’s Bus services as examples.
Dale stated that he looked to the University of Sydney Union for inspiration in trying to “diversify [ANUSA’s] income stream so we’re less reliant on SSAF and have other ways of getting long-term financial stability.” External to university, he also emphasised his experiences in sponsorship negotiation, and wanted to develop “a better two-way relationship” between sponsor and student, as inspired by his discussions with current Treasurer Sean Macdonald.
Investment and Diversification
Woroni also questioned Dale’s policy goal of increasing ANUSA’s financial security, which he said could be achieved by diversification. Wanting to continue investigations by the current Treasurer, Dale stated that he would look into investing into managed funds, property, and local businesses.
“This will allow us to reinvest our surplus into these revenue streams… to create larger sums of money in the future,” he continued. The Connect candidate believed this would give a larger pool of emergency resources and could help reduce SSAF reliance to 70% in “coming few years.”
When asked on his stance on investment, Feng stated that he would “invest in projects that benefit students, like potential mental health providers.” He highlighted that since SSAF is such a large contributor to ANUSA’s funding, it would be hard to find a complete replacement for it.
Dale told Woroni that the first policy he would implement would be to pave the way for a professional GAC staffer, alongside preparing for the 2017 SSAF bid. Feng also planned to work on the SSAF bid from the onset, and would use the remainder of the year to inform C&S of changes in the coming year and would consult them for an effective beginning of term in 2017.
To conclude, Woroni asked what made each of them different from past Treasurer candidates, and both of them highlighted their C&S experience. Dale offered his skills in professional organisations and already-developed networks in the Canberra business community. Feng stressed that he would be the first international student to hold the position – if successful – and felt that his diverse background and personal experience would benefit ANUSA.