“It is interesting a lot of people were congratulating me, but I have a very cynical view in the sense that I filled out a form and no one else did, therefore I win.”
Curtin Guild President Liam O’Neill is one of eleven Illuminate members already elected by default in this years’ Student Guild elections.
Nominations for the election closed on August 31, with only four positions out of 15 left up to democratic vote.
“This does raise questions about apathy and the extent to which students were even aware that the election process was underway,” O’Neill said.
“At the end of the day we could give months of notice and people might not have chosen to nominate. People don’t understand what it means and what the guild president or any of the roles elected unopposed actual do.”
Positions automatically won by Illuminate include Activities Vice President, General Secretary, Students with Disabilities Officer, Queer Officers, Women’s Officer and Indigenous Officer.
While this election is most relevant to students, participation in the actual ballot rarely makes up more than 3 percent of the campus population.
“People forget how much the guild has influence over,” O’Neill said.
“From a university perspective, we are members of nearly every university committee that deals with academic issues. Any course change, any policy change, anything that comes up through the University will be scrutinised by Guild representatives. We can stand and advocate for students on that platform.”
For a second term O’Neill will be the Guild’s chief executive, responsible for over 200 staff and a $22 million budget. An appointment democratically decided by, as he puts it, filling out a form. “We have people who enquire about positions and then when we explain, for example guild president is a full time job,” he said.
“You are expected to drop your studies for a year and take it on and deliver what you are standing for election on and that is quite a significant barrier to a lot of people.”
O’Neill said political diversity was important to the Guild Council. “There should be members of an opposition that hold me to account. Left Action didn’t stand for many council seats last year, but this year they are,” he said.
Left Action candidates are running for the Guild positions of Education Vice President and Faculty of Humanities Representative.
Eighteen candidates from Illuminate and five from Left Action are vying for 10 spots on Guild Council. Seven delegate positions for the Nation Union of Students are being contested by four candidates from Left Action and seven from Illuminate.
The only two independent candidates are running as Faculty of Science and Engineering Representative and International Student Committee President.
There is a clear lack of representation from independents and opposing parties to the incumbent Guild government – other than Left Action.
“As much as the electoral reforms introduced years ago … were focused on getting more independence and focused on getting more independents involved, at the end of the day the election process across all universities is structurally set up for a group of students to win,” O’Neill said.
Elections will be underway on September 18, with the remaining positions yet to be decided.