What’s going on in the Sydney uni SRC elections?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Progressive activists are concerned about reported unprincipled deal-making in the upcoming elections for the new University of Sydney Student Representative Council.

The Sydney University student newspaper Honi Soit reported the Socialist Alternative Sydney University club had decided to support the ALP presidential candidate over the activist Grassroots presidential candidate in the upcoming elections.

Andrew Passarello’s August 4 article, “Lines drawn in the SAlt as sides pick presidential candidates”, announced that Socialist Alternative had made a deal with Labor Unity, National Labor Students (NLS), and Sydney Labor Students (SLS)“which, if successful, ”would see an NLS candidate installed as President, a Unity General-Secretary, and Salt [Socialist Alternative] most likely guaranteed the Education Officers’ portfolios”.

Progressive students believe this will prevent the election of presidential Grassroots candidate Kyol Blakeney, an activist and currently the National Union of Students (NUS) NSW Indigenous Officer and the University of Sydney’s SRC Indigenous Officer.

Blakeney has been key to increasing student support for the Redfern Tent Embassy which is protesting the lack of affordable housing for Indigenous people on the Block and in the inner city.

Last year, the Socialist Alternative club joined forces with progressive activists including the Greens, anarchists and independents in a Grassroots ticket, and won the two Education Officer positions.

This year, it seems Socialist Alternative was not so confident of securing the same positions with a similar arrangement.

Honi Soit reported on August 2 that the SLS grouping had split over which presidential candidate to support in the SRC elections. Five SLS officer bearers resigned from the Labor faction, and they said more would follow.

This, the report said, came from differences over whether or not to support a Centre Unity/National Labor Students President or Blakeney, the Grassroots Presidential candidate. In the end, the weakened SLS faction decided by one vote to support the Unity/NLS presidential candidate – Amy Knox.

An anonymous Grassroots member told Honi Soit that they were disappointed with Socialist Alternative’s decision to support the Labor factions.

“It’s frustrating that groups like SALT are working with those in power … with a view of getting positions,” they were quoted as saying.

Asked about which forces Socialist Alternative was supporting in the elections, club president Omar Hassan told Green Left Weekly that the club was “definitely not” supporting a joint ticket with the ALP.

It appears that Socialist Alternative is running its own branding and tickets – “Left Action” – and is backing the Labor Presidential candidate Amy Knox.

The only information Green Left Weekly could find about the political platform of the Labor ticket is its name: “Stand Up!”

Evan Van Zijl, a former University of Sydney member of last year’s Grassroots ticket told Green Left Weekly that he disagreed with the deal-making approach for office bearer positions.

“At Sydney University, Socialist Alternative has spurned left unity with Labor left, Greens, anarchists and Solidarity in favour of building more right-wing coalitions with the aim of securing Education Officer positions on campus and seemingly improving relations with Labor right for the upcoming NUS Conference.

“The ideological contradiction of socialists sharing a presidential campaign with Labor right (and, presumably, Liberals) at Sydney Uni is astounding,” said Van Zijl.

Green Left Weekly also sought to find out about the political aims of the Grassroots ticket, but was told it was still in the process of being finalised.

Rachel Evans, a Socialist Alliance member at the University of Sydney, believes that unprincipled deal-making in return for office bearer positions is short sighted and wrong.

She told Green Left Weekly: “Securing office bearer positions in the SRC or NUS by making unprincipled deals undermines the struggle for democratic campaigns – on and off campus – and democratic SRCs.

“The Abbott government has unleashed one of the biggest attacks on our higher education - a continuation of Labor’s approach – and student organisations and campaigns, while promising, are still relatively weak.

“Social change comes from mass involvement in campaigns. We need to be conscious of involving new activists who stay in and want to take the reins of the movement.

“Student elections are no different to elections anywhere else: they can be platforms to promote and deepen progressive campaigns, or they can help the career paths of the would-be cynical politicians”, Evans said.

Green Left Weekly sought comments from Ridah Hassan and Eleanor Morely, Socialist Alternative members and education officers at the University of Sydney, but did not get a response.

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From GLW issue 1022