Just when you thought the NUS National Conference couldn’t get any more chaotic, I woke yesterday morning to a fire alarm! Dragging myself out of bed and of course grabbing my phone and laptop (such a true journalist), I went into the cold morning air. Turns out someone in one of the other accommodation buildings was cooking their breakfast a bit too much—allegedly it was pancakes. Despite the rude awakening it was time to head back into the battlefield, also known as the conference room (ugh).
It proved to be a dramatic morning, as a motion was put forth that was pointed right at student media. It stated that student journalists need to uphold professional integrity and reduce the gossip posts. From a few particular factions this was pretty rich, as their ‘professional integrity’ seemed to always be left at the door. However, Skanda Panditharatne from ANU championed against the motion drawing on his past experiences as a student journalist. All factions except for Grassroots voted for the motion and so it was passed. Student media were not happy with the motion as it was hypocritical and unfounded: student publications have a responsibility to report what they see with as little bias a possible, but quite often this rubs people the wrong way. Later in the day, the student press attempted to have a motion discussed that would encourage all factions to approach media with the policies that they wanted us to focus on (since we were criticised for only reporting on ‘the tea’). Even though most factions signed the motion, Unity (who have a majority) did not, and so the motion never made it to floor.
The rest of the afternoon consisted of a very tame debate on motions that regarded women’s issues. Topics discussed were safe and free abortion, non-binary individuals to be included as victims of the patriarchy, women in leadership and representative roles, sexual assault on campuses, solidarity with women protesters across the world and free child-care. These motions were passed with no avail.
The next section of motions up for debate were about disability and accessibility. By this time, it was well into the evening and everyone was feeling quite tired. In respect to the discussion on disability, a procedural motion was passed that temporarily excluded clapping from the floor. Instead, the Australian Sign Language equivalent of clapping, waving hands in the air, was the substitute. All factions accepted this with no protest except, of course, Socialist Alternative. With a complete disregard for the motion, SAlt continued to shout and clap with the rest of the floor and the speaker trying to subdue them. Eventually some Salt members did participate, however, I heard one member say that not being able to shout and scream was “patronising”. Despite this, the disability motions were passed swiftly with many speakers from various factions speaking on personal experiences. The last thing on the agenda for the night were candidate speeches. Each candidate, whether they were running opposed or not, got to speak about the issues that they cared most about. The most notable speech came from unopposed National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Officer, Kya Branch from Grassroots, who spoke about the deep-seeded issues that exist in Indigenous communities today.
In the meantime, NLS members gave Grassroots a surprising gift; it was an image of a rat. Allegedly, before conference began NLS and Grassroots had a deal to try get the Women’s Officer position, however, due to the possibility that Grassroots would end up with no positions, this deal fell apart. Feeling betrayed, the NLS proceeded to call the Grassroots rats. The speeches went over time and into the night, however, this reporter was too tired to stick around. With most candidates running unopposed, voting today will likely be a smooth sailing affair—but the NUS conference is always full of surprises.
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