With student elections rapidly approaching and tickets spruiking expression-of-interest forms (just as long as you don’t express interest in the roles they’ve already filled), now is as good a time as any to point out three things you are unlikely to hear candidates talking about during the upcoming ANUSA elections.
1. The SSAF Bid and the ANUSA budget
ANUSA derives its funding primarily through bidding alongside other groups for a pool of money collected through the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) that most students pay each semester (currently $154 per semester).
Due to the compounding factors of COVID-19, caps on student enrolment, an increase in the number of bidders and the downward trend in funding over the last three years, it is almost certain that next year’s SSAF allocation will be significantly reduced and ANUSA will see more budget cuts.
Last year’s cuts saw reductions in Clubs Council’s funding despite record growth, with no funding allocated to training or Clubs Ball. Cuts to ANUSA’s budget also resulted in the BKSS being open for reduced hours (prior to COVID), and cuts to several ANUSA committees and projects. While ANUSA is almost certain to receive even less funding next year, ANUSA staff, including paid student representatives are currently required by ANUSA’s enterprise bargaining agreement to receive a 2% increase in pay each year.
Figuring out how ANUSA can continue to provide the same level of services and support to students, or even expand its operations while salaries increase indefinitely, and overall funding decreases is a thorny puzzle.
One solution may be to diversify revenue streams. PARSA, for example, has set up a bicycle shop in Kambri, and also has taken over the assets from the ANU Union when it wound up last year. Whether such an approach is viable for ANUSA remains to be seen. Unfortunately, while ‘diversifying revenue’ may be a tag line used by candidates in the upcoming election, students are unlikely to see any substantive business proposals before polls close in Week 5.
2. The Governance Review
In 2018, ANUSA hired an external consultant to review the governance arrangements of ANUSA. This year the external consultants’ recommendations have been circulated to student reps, with a working group convened to discuss how to respond to suggestions. These include fundamentally restructuring ANUSA through changing the number of elected student representatives, changing up the roles of and duties of student reps as well as redesigning the relationship between the Clubs Council and ANUSA.
Recommendations such as removing Department Officers (e.g. the Women’s Officer) from the SRC or halving the number of College representatives are unlikely to be implemented. However, a change more likely on the cards, could be the addition of a new Clubs Officer to the executive as a paid representative of the Association.
Such a change would also fundamentally change the culture of the Association and the logistics of how big events like O-Week get organised, not to mention it would also significantly add to budgetary concerns raised above.
The public consultation for the governance review is set to precede the election period by a couple of weeks with ANUSA’s OGM in Semester2 being the key forum to pass any substantive changes to the ANUSA Constitution.
Despite the scope for significant structural change in the short lead up to the election, there is likely to be little discussion by candidates on their views regarding the review.
3. Political Alignment
You will not find any candidates or tickets openly stating that they are aligned with a political party. Regardless of whether a ticket is receiving campaign funding from the Liberal Students Club, an ANU Labor Club, the Socialist Alternative, or the Greens, political alignment will not be obvious to any student when reading the name of a ticket (e.g. Remoisturise ANUSA!) or looking at the ballot. The exception to this is if the ticket is affiliated with Nick Xenophon, in which case their campaign will be short-lived, but extremely humorous.
Similarly, if a ticket is primarily organised by members of a political faction, or is planning to send representatives to the National Union of Students specifically to bolster the voting power of a particular faction at NatCon, it is rare for such groups to make such arrangements obvious to a casual observer of a tickets campaign.
To be fair, no candidates will explicitly conceal their links to political groups if pressed. However if you don’t ask, they are unlikely to tell.
Dominic Harvey-Taylor is a former ANUSA College Representative and unsuccessfully ran on the ticket Refresh ANUSA in 2018.
Update (06/08/2020): Dominic Harvey-Taylor has announced his bid for General Secretary in the 2020 ANUSA elections.