This week saw an extensive policy reveal from the Socialist Alternative (SAlt) ticket – Climate Action for ANUSA + NUS – in their bid for the upcoming ANUSA election.
The key policies call for the ANU to divest from fossil fuels, change the name of the Menzies Library, introduce food and rent caps on campus, and increase accessible healthcare. Below, we analyse some of the ticket’s biggest policies.
POLICY 1 – CLIMATE ACTION
Climate Action for ANUSA + NUS have several policies in support of climate action. This ticket argues that “ANUSA must play a role in fighting for real and immediate action on climate by organising and strengthening protests.”
The proposal is for an “activist ANUSA” that calls on the ANU to cut ties with fossil fuel companies and end the Woodside Energy graduate program. Additionally, SAlt proposes sacking the ANU’s Chancellor, Julie Bishop, due to her ongoing connection with the Mineral Council of Australia (MCA).
According to Climate Action for ANUSA + NUS “… the climate crisis cannot be solved at ANU alone” and “ANUSA must lead the fight.”
Woroni found that climate change was the number one election issue for ANU students in the 2022 Federal Election. Hence, students might support Climate Action for ANUSA on environmental grounds. The ideology and activism expressed in this ticket may provide an outlet for the anxiety many students feel about the climate crisis.
Given the ANU’s reputation and claim for creating global leaders, the idea of action for a positive climate future both at ANU and beyond may also find support among the ANU’s students.
One challenge of this ticket is the feasibility of the proposed actions, such as Chancellor Bishop’s sacking. According to the ANU, Chancellor Bishop is “one of Australia’s most impressive public figures” and it opted to extend her Chancellorship, suggesting the university thinks there is a benefit to her employment.
It is also unclear what mechanism SAlt seeks to leverage. The student body has no legal power over ANU’s Chancellor; any campaign will require constant pressure on the ANU, presumably with external actors becoming involved.
There is a vein of students who disapprove of Bishop’s Chancellorship, but this has not pushed the ANU to sack her. SAlt has not outlined what it thinks would have to change for this to happen.
POLICY 2 – Women’s and LGBTQIA+ rights
Climate Action for ANUSA + NUS claims that “the protests in solidarity with the US Roe vs Wade protesters have recently won free abortions in Canberra, but it has also exposed how utterly inaccessible it has been in Australia.” Their position is that “religious bigots” are continuing an attack on LGBTQIA+ rights through the “homophobic and transphobic religious discrimination bill,” in light of “the Labor party signal[ing] their own intent to reintroduce the bill.” The ticket believes that “student unions should be playing a leading role in campaigns around these issues.
Members of this ticket have already been highly involved in the organisation of the Equal Love Canberra protest, and a petition that outlines student’s concerns surrounding the “lack of specialists in Canberra and the fact that Calvary hospital … don’t [sic] provide abortions at all despite receiving public funding.”
By framing the issue of abortion accessability within the wider issue of the ACT’s lack of specialists and from the student healthcare perspective this ticket has successfully tapped into the concerns of a number of ANU students. Currently, there is no term limit on abortions in the ACT, but current services only extend to 16 weeks because there are no doctors able to perform the procedure. Patients must travel to NSW for abortions later than this mark.
This ticket’s extensive advocacy for Women’s and LGBTQIA+ interests could lend itself favourably to the claim of further activism.
During ANUSA’s Student Representative Council (SRC) 5, SAlt called for ANUSA to oppose Labor’s amended Religious Discrimination Bill. This motion was passed. It is unclear what further action ANUSA can take.
Nonetheless, SAlt could claim that because ANUSA passes the majority of its activist motions, their policies aim to match actions to promises.
ANUSA is a representative body for undergraduate students at the ANU. Climate Action for ANUSA + NUS have called for “combat [against] the rising confidence of the homophobic and misogynistic far-right.” It is unclear if this ticket regards a subsection of ANU students as “far-right”.
It is also unclear if Climate Action for ANUSA + NUS is focusing on nation-wide issues of homophobia and misogyny, or is looking at student life. If the latter, they haven’t put forward specific measures to address this. Other tickets have moved specific, university-based policies which may appeal more to students due to their achievability.
Activism is a strong feature of SAlt policy; however, material actions, direct relevance to students, and measures of success are less clear.
Policy 3 – Racism
Climate Action for ANUSA + NUS believes that “Australia is a country plagued by racism.” This ticket raises issues about Australia’s treatment of refugees, solidarity with Palestine, and the naming of the ANU Menzies Library. This ticket believes that the solution for these issues lies in activism. Specifically it argues that, “ANUSA should be part of the fight.”
The call for the renaming of the Menzies library is justified by the ticket’s claim that former Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies was a “White Australia Policy supporter, Nazi sympathiser and warmonger.” This ticket aims to force the ANU to “break historic ties with racist and imperialist figures.”
This ticket also calls for ANUSA to play a central role in standing in solidarity with Indigenous Australians.
Racism is an ongoing issue in Australian society. This position may show solidarity, support and commitment to ANU students experiencing racism, and those who wish to see racism tackled. In focusing on root causes, SAlt sets a very high bar, but one which students may want to engage with.
Renaming the Menzies Library is one of SAlt’s more achievable policies, especially as many other leading universities around the world have sought to acknowledge their imperialistic or racist legacies.
The new name for the Menzies Library, nor the process for identifying it, is not disclosed.
Moreover, SAlt proposed this policy as a motion last year, and was criticised for not consulting the Indigenous Department prior to proposing it. It is unclear what consultation they have done on the policy this time. Additionally, the fact that the name was not changed, and that a campaign was not launched, suggests students might be ambivalent about the issue.
POLICY 4 – Cost of Living and Education
This ticket acknowledges the rising cost of living experienced across the country. This ticket will combat this issue for ANU students by “… fighting for the introduction of a price cap on meals and rent on campus.” Specifically, a $12 price cap for food in Kambri.
This ticket criticises the actions of ANUSA’s executive, claiming it “…failed to act against the university management in the interests of the student body…” and claimed that the fight against CASS course cuts were “hamstrung from the get-go, as ANUSA continually favoured consultation over organising or promoting rallies”. This ticket argues for further activism against course cuts and will fight for free tertiary education.
Students are arguably one of the groups most affected by the rising cost of living. On top of Canberra’s reputation as Australia’s most expensive capital city for renters, increases in the price of both food and rent is likely to render Canberra unaffordable for some ANU students. With 4,501 students living on the ANU campus, it raises the question of the responsibility of ANUSA in advocating for affordability. This policy may represent the concerns of many students.
A number of students have protested against CASS course cuts with concerns surrounding the availability of courses, and the ability to complete degrees more generally. Greater movement against these cuts may help Climate Action for ANUSA win votes.
This ticket has openly criticised the 2022 ANUSA Executive in its actions against course cuts, specifically criticising its method of “consultation” over protesting. It is unclear what specific pressure point SAlt feels it would target with protests that will compel the ANU to stop cutting courses.
The $12 food cap for Kambri is likely to be incredibly popular with students. However, it would be a difficult goal to achieve. Presumably, businesses would have to be convinced or pressured into lowering their prices, and, to accommodate, the ANU would have to lower rent. It would be a protest on many fronts, to be sustained over a longer period of time, and directly targeting the ANU’s revenue.
Already, ANU students online have criticised the policy as unachievable.
In addition, when the ANU first pitched Kambri, it offered a baseline lunch price of $5, less than half SAlt’s target. Lunch for less than $12 can be bought from several stalls, such as What the Pho and the Food Co-Op, close to campus. Some students may feel $12 is not ambitious enough.
Moreover, SAlt is known for attacking ANUSA as a service provider and not a union. It is unclear if SAlt would seek to end ANUSA’s service provision.
This ticket has released an extensive list of policies, with an emphasis on student activism. However, promising to organise more protests is not just a commitment of ANUSA’s resources, but also that of the student body: someone has to attend them. Students may turn away from so much activism both because it can be fatiguing, but also because, if little is achieved, it drains morale. Conversely, the policies mentioned here are common talking points amongst students. If they were to gain traction anyway, it would be at a university.
The election will reveal student’s preferences. Voting opens 9am Monday 26 September and closes 12pm Thursday 29 September.
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