Hacktivism is in Our Interest

It’s election time! Are you excited? Has someone tried to sell you a used car, I mean a how to vote card, in Union Court? One thing that people always discuss at this time of year is how everyone running for an executive position on ANUSA is “just a hack”. Two questions: is this true? And is it a problem? I’d say the answer to both is no.

What even is a hack? I can think of a few defining features. A hack is probably affiliated with a major political party despite being barely over the drinking age, and they perhaps care a lot about making a start on their political career. Perhaps such people should worry because if you get through university without changing your values you’ve probably had a limited educational experience. Setting your values in stone from the outset doesn’t exactly set you up for success.

But should that worry us? How many of the things that ANUSA does actually come under the ideological purview of the major parties? A left wing party might want free education. That’s stupid because it’s not fiscally sustainable and it makes students seem flagrantly self-interested. A right winger might want full fee deregulation. That’s not a position any ANU student union executive has ever supported, not even the ones with a few Liberals scattered about the place. Given the absence of both these positions in recent times, I fail to see the nefarious influence of hacktivism.

Most of what ANUSA does is rather banal managerial and administrative work: principally allocating some funds here and there according to a fairly clear set of non-partisan principles and organising piss-ups. Really critical items, I’m thinking of things like facilities, mental health services and responding to SELT evaluations, are taken care of by the university. Ideology can’t enter into such procedural tasks, so someone’s party affiliation has no bearing on their competence.

What about hacks just wanting to get ahead ‒ should that worry us? I presume that getting ahead politically requires demonstrating that you are competent, so here our interests as students seem aligned with those of the hacks working in ANUSA.

Let’s go deeper and ask whether ANUSA wannabes are even hacks? Looking at the LinkedIn profiles of the last 10 odd years of presidents I see only two people who sustained a year in the role and are now clearly on political career tracks. Others have gone on to complete doctorates in law at Oxford, manage mamamia.com, graduate law jobs, not-for-profits in the education sector, education consultancy work and Boston Consulting Group. These are hardly partisan career choices.

Another ironic note: one of our hack former presidents was Tully Fletcher. His legacy at ANUSA was to give Woroni independence, arguably as a gimmick to get elected. Yet it’s one of the only major policy reforms to come out of ANUSA in the past decade and it has been excellent in practice. It was also against his interests at the time because the editors disliked him. His executive’s other contribution was the establishment of Griffin Hall. Not too shabby. So again, hacktivism seems to be in our interests.