By Jo Williams
MELBOURNE — Student union elections were held recently at Melbourne University. Around 20% of the student population voted. Left Focus, a broad coalition of left-wing activists, won all office bearer positions for the third year running.
As usual, a vast array of tickets contested the elections. Central (a Liberal student front ticket which claimed to be moderate), and Broad Left (a ticket made up mainly of ALP members), concentrated on criticising the recent occupation of a building at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and student actions in general.
Other tickets included the Bloody Feminists (an activist feminist collective), the ALP club, International Association (an organisation representing international students with both right- and left-wing factions), and More Beer, the candidates for which used sexism in an offensive attempt to win votes.
Ray Fulcher, a Resistance club member who was elected as one of the education officers for 1998, told Green left Weekly that Left Focus campaigned around issues currently facing students. "All of our candidates campaigned with petitions calling on the vice-chancellor to hold a staff and student referendum on up-front fees, like they are having at RMIT soon. Over three and a half days we collected more than 3500 signatures."
Fulcher said that one of Left Focus' biggest strengths was its close association and political alliance with the Bloody Feminists, a strong feminist group on campus.
Left Focus won by a slightly smaller margin this year because "we didn't prioritise developing our political platform", Fulcher said. "This meant that it was harder to differentiate ourselves from other groups such as Broad Left, which ran on an apolitical platform. While we talked to students about our politics during campaigning, we had nothing in printed form. The slogan that Left Focus adopted, 'Inform. Involve. Innovate.', didn't offer as many opportunities to convince students of our politics. I preferred the original slogan, which was 'Fighting Fees. Fighting Cuts. Building the Union.'."
Fulcher said that his main priority as an education officer in 1998 will be to involve as many students as possible in the ongoing campaign to defend education and student rights. "I think it's also important to link broader struggles with campus-related issues. We plan to organise actions against Melbourne University Inc. — the proposed privatised wing of Melbourne University. To do this, we will need to focus on strengthening the Education Action Group, as an open activist collective on campus."