Motion to re-debate NUS accreditation at OGM is a gross affront to democracy


Last night, the Student Representative Council (SRC) held a meeting to discuss whether the ANU Student’s Association (ANUSA) should reaccredit with the National Union of Students. Following a lively and productive discussion where arguments from both sides were heard, the motion to reaccredit failed by a vote of 12 for, and 18 against.

Since then, the General Secretary of ANUSA has received a motion (from a senior member of Student Unity, a prominent Labor Right faction) to be moved at the next OGM this upcoming Tuesday to reopen this issue for discussion. The motion is: “That ANUSA re-accredit to the National Union of Students for 2016 for the amount of $5000, and directs the President to submit a Fee Waiver for this amount to the NUS Fees Review Committee by the end of Term 2.”

As per section 8(5) of the Constitution, if any motion put to a General Meeting is voted on by eighty (80) or more members of the Association, then that motion overrides any motion passed by the SRC which is inconsistent with it. This means that if 80 people attend the OGM and this motion passes by simple majority, the motion will pass and tonight’s SRC vote will be subordinate.

I argue that this is an appalling motion, which contravenes the principles of representative democracy. This is important, because I believe representative democracy is not only the most pragmatic way to govern, but it is also the best way to govern.

Representative democracy is a system whereby the people elect representatives whose character they like, whose judgment they trust, and whose values roughly align with their own. Representative democracy ensures that the decision maker is a) informed, and b) representative of a diverse pool of students who may not have the time to personally inform themselves on all the issues, or the ability to attend an OGM in the middle of a work day.

Representative democracy means we shouldn’t have to spend every waking moment fighting for our interests (or in this instance, making sure Young Labor doesn’t hijack our student association), we should be able to sleep soundly knowing that our elected representatives are fighting on our behalf.

This motion prevents the majority of students from expressing themselves via their elected representatives (many of whom were elected because they were not factionally aligned), and instead privileges the voices of a few. This motion attempts to overturn a decision reached by a council of elected representatives, simply because it is not in the interests of a small group of vested interests, who know they can get a more favourable decision via so called ‘direct democracy’.

‘But wait!’, the pawn of the Labor Right exclaims, ‘Doesn’t an OGM mean that everyone has a chance to be heard, regardless of their political affiliation?’

However, the people who are most likely to attend the OGM are people who have something to gain from sitting through a tedious, bureaucratic process. These people are much more likely to be students who are factionally aligned, and who see the NUS as a way to rise through the ranks of their political party. These people are much less likely to be the every day student, who doesn’t care to understand the function of the NUS, and who (for good reason) don’t want anything to do with student politics.

The latter entrusted their interests and their voting power to representatives they elected at the ANUSA elections. Any attempt to take away power from these representatives is undemocratic, and should be called out as a thinly veilled attempt to take advantage of collective ignorance and apathy to advance the political careers of a handful of students.

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