Prove your humanity

AW: For those of you who are blissfully unaware of the havoc currently occurring in the sweet town of Ballarat, you may remember the Guild election that happened in September—or perhaps you’ve suppressed that memory already. Anyhow, during the election around 1200 of you (out of approximately 31,000) voted to send seven lucky students to this year’s NUS National Conference; which, as you’ll see below, is already going swimmingly.

Our NUS delegates are (in no particular order): Michael Farrell (Illuminate), Hana Arai (Illuminate), Chris Hall (Illuminate), Jesse Naylor Zambrano (Illuminate), Connie Martelli (Illuminate), Erin Russell (Left Action) and Christopher Macfarlane (Left Action). Bridge Truell, our Activities Vice-President and Kat Colson (both Illuminate), are also in attendance as non-voting observers. While Bridge sent himself through his VP budget, Kat is attending as a proxy for a NUS national executive officer.

The operations of NUS are dominated by organised factions, some of which have ties to the youth wings of national political parties. While those within Illuminate are sitting with the Grassroots/Independents (aka ‘Grindies’), our Left Action delegates sit with Socialist Alternative (SAlt, ‘trots’). Curtin does not have any representatives within Student Unity (Unity), who belong to the Labor Right faction, the National Labor Students (NLS), who sit with the Labor Left, or the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation (ALSF), who are a Liberal Party faction.

Now that you’re up to speed, here is the wrap-up from yesterday:

CS: Monday brought a start to the NUS 2019 National Conference. It was an uncomfortably warm day, which was only made worse with a long registration and a confusion induced exploration for our rooms, lunch and the conference room itself. The disjointed organisation left attendees wondering when it was going to begin, but a special Welcome to Country was presented. After a long wait, conference was not going to start until all factions were present. Off to a great start, dinner was served, and we proceeded to try round two of conference beginnings around 7pm. With a little more waiting, observers and student media were allowed to enter sometime after 8.30pm. Let the games begin!

Kicking off the session was a bit of housekeeping from the NUS organisers and a warning message from Will Edwards (NLS Delegate and Grievance Officer), who urged attendees to stay cordial and be respectful to each other. Yet this may prove wishful thinking as it was not long after motions were being put forth that delegates began to whip the claws out. After some verbal warfare with factions, namely Student Unity, Socialist Alternative and NLS, a few motions managed to get passed… or not get passed. With a focus on union motions, topics such as the right to protest and wage theft were amongst the heavily debated. The motion to congratulate the merger of UWU was carried, whilst the motion for NUS to support an increase in union strikes was not. Furthermore, a motion was carried for NUS to campaign for the prevention of wage theft.

A big issue that was discussed was SSAF (student services and amenities fee) and the motion to have a nation-wide SSAF of 50 per cent as a minimum. Western Australia is currently the only state to have this minimum. 2020 CSG President, Hana Arai, championed for this motion as she spoke to how Curtin has benefitted from it. SAlt delegates Erin Russell and Christopher Macfarlane voted against the motion. Although Erin is for getting as much SSAF as possible, she doesn’t believe that the ‘Campaigning for SSAF in 2020’ motion is the best way to strengthen unions and achieve 100 per cent funding.

Predominantly, the night session was filled with shouting and profanity with very little progress in way of policy productivity. However, it was only the first day and I am sure we can expect a lot of the same in the next coming days.

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