Disclaimer: Roland ran under the ACTION ticket in 2014.
Welcome to the first installment of election policy analysis, where I will dissect and evaluate the policies of the major tickets contesting the 2015 Murdoch Student Elections. As a paid staffer of the Guild in 2012, Guild President in 2014 and Education Vice President this year, I feel suitably qualified to pass judgement on how achievable policies are, with an occasional comment thrown in. Candidates have the right to leave a comment below.
Teenage Mutant Ni The Murdoch Now Team, or TMNT for short. I have had less interaction with TMNT than Action but their squad isn’t unknown to me. I have been friends with Presidential candidate Leonar Guy McDonald for several years, first meeting him through my partner, and I approached him to be General Secretary on Guild Council this year. I have worked with Bianca Talbot on Council in the past and have a lot of respect for her. I have also met Andy Hunter and had a number of polite conversations with him. The other candidates are unknown to me but I did find Tay Alers on my friends list on Facebook. I’m not sure when I added him.
Let’s go through their ten point plan and break down each point.
These are admirable goals but I’m afraid to say these are not new ideas. Since opening in 2007 there have been endless attempts at getting food into the Tavern. According to 2006 Guild President Reece Harley, the University constructed the venue without a kitchen to appease lease holders in the Refectory, scared of the competition. The Tavern is a victim of the Guild not having control over any commercial leases on campus other than their own.
They can explore options but The Guild has no control over the former Bankwest lease and a suggestion to put METIOR offices there was already flatly refused. The whole area, including senate, bookshop and refectory is earmarked for redevelopment but I expect plans will be stalled and delayed. Murdoch has a terrible track record of consulting with students over common spaces and I have only seen a reduction in common spaces since I enrolled.
These all sound like pretty fun events. Except for the Colour Run, that can get fucked. Anyone who finds excitement over corn starch shot at them after completing a 4km jog all while supporting a for-profit company that masquerades as a charity needs to get out more. Anyway, otherwise, yeah cool, events but execution is the key and I haven’t seen or heard of TMNT’s event’s officer delivering any great events before. Not like the MUEnSA or MVSA events, which go off.
Alright wow. So this is a big one and what I’m guessing will be a main point of differentiation between the main tickets. This is possible, however it is such a huge task for such minimal gain that I don’t know why they’d bother. To install a paid Treasurer onto the Guild Executive they’ll need to rewrite the Guild Regulations, the Guild Election Regulations and Statute 17 of the University Act. All three of these require approval by two-thirds of Guild Council (hard enough to two-thirds attendance to meetings) scrutinised by the University’s Legal and Governance Department, approved by the University Senate and then the Statute then has to go to the WA State Parliament for approval. This isn’t impossible, but it is an enormous, year-long task. All this, and the Guild has a professional Finance Manager. I really have to question whether this will actually offer better governance.
It is also worth pointing out that currently financial oversight responsibilities are shared between the President and the General Secretary. At the beginning of the year it was moved to the Gen Sec entirely due to the President’s study commitments. If TMNT are hinting that The Guild has issues around financial transparency, then is it the current Gen Sec, their own Presidential candidate Guy McDonald, who is responsible.
I think these are great policies, and I’d really like to congratulate Action’s Brodie Skalko and David Giang for their leadership on these issues. David initially wrote to the Guild and began circulating his petition to increase library opening hours and the size of the Library, with Brodie facilitating from the Guild side all the way. Eventually Guy and myself sat down with the interim Library Director who had heard the call and was already planning to expand Library services. Frustratingly, many of the changes will take some time to implement, due to logistical and security reasons, but the Library has already extended its hours on weekends this semester compared to last. Putting a coffee machine and microwave in the 24 Common Area could happen, but it took about 3 years for the Guild to get microwaves in the refectory.
Adjustments to club funding are all well within the remit of The Guild. Promises to double expenditure sound exciting but it’s worth remembering that the clubs themselves actually need to spend the money and this year we’ve had less funding requests from clubs than last year.
TMNT are going to have to provide more detail on their club voucher policy. I’m guessing it’s something along the lines of supplying normie students with vouchers that they can donate to a registered club who can exchange that for cash from the Guild. It could be a great idea but it might raise a few eyebrows legally as club funding comes from SSAF. There will need guidelines around who gets vouchers, how they’re redeemed, what they’re worth etc.
I confess, I am suspicious of these policies. They don’t explicitly mention METIOR, The Guild supported publication since time immemorial which is deemed so historically important that the State Library archives it. Considering that The Student Canon has effectively endorsed TMNT it feels like an attempt to supplant METIOR with its rebel cousin. I would also argue that METIOR has flourished since moving online, receiving over 100 hits a day despite being just two months old. Also, if TMNT had a few media arts students on their ticket they might know that bookable student space is available with all the facilities to produce media content.
Editors Note: An interview with TMNT notes this policy plans to involve The Student Canon, METIOR and Radio Murdoch under an umbrella of print, web and radio.
These transparency measures are all reasonable. I particularly like number 4. However, it’s worth pointing out that Guild Council meetings are now open to the public and minutes are (usually) posted on Facebook where they go largely ignored. The writing and circulation of minutes for approval is the responsibility of the General Secretary, so if TMNT are suggesting minutes aren’t published in a timely manner well…
These ideas all sound decent at first but a few things need to be considered. Lecture bashes are not an effective way of communicating with students. Many students don’t show up to lectures and those who do are often late or asleep most of the time. If a councillor lecture bashed say, 5 lectures, from 8:30 to 12:30, they might reach 600 students if they’re lucky but they’ve spent half the day doing it and are relying on students to remember with their brains what was said before they sat through a 1 to 3 hour lecture on something they’re actually interested in. As a comparison, the last post on the Guild Facebook page right now has been viewed 763 times in 5 hours and we can measure the engagement it has had. Alternatively we can mail out G-News to 12,000 students (of whom 10,000 will no doubt ignore it, but you get the idea.) I won’t deny that the Guild has an engagement and outreach problem but 20th century ideas are unlikely to solve them.
So far we’ve seen some achievable policies, often already being implemented, and some very difficult to achieve ideas. However, installing a Guild Treasurer whose duties include cooking food at the Tavern would pale in comparison to getting puppies and kittens on campus. Murdoch’s animal ethics policies are among the strictest in the country, tirelessly enforced by the vigilant Animal Ethics Committee (AEC). The AEC and vet College would flip at this. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but yeah it’s pretty much impossible. Last year I wanted to have a puppy parade on Bush Court as part of a ‘dogs against deregulation’ media stunt. I was presented with a five point plan for why it couldn’t happen. It didn’t happen.
The other three points sound fine, although I’m not sure halal microwaves are a thing. Are they a thing? The counselling and welfare map is already in progress.
First year engagement is important. As written, these policies feel like an overreach with The Guild telling clubs and societies how to run themselves. From my experience I would advise they don’t do this or at least provide more detail.
Orientation is a mess and seems to be getting worse. However, it hasn’t been Guild space since 2006 and at the moment the Guild is merely offered 5 minutes of presentation to some schools and the right to host a few activities on Bush Court. I really hope whatever candidates get elected can push improvements to orientation hard but expect resistance from the University.
Overall I think TMNT have a fairly uncontroversial suite of policies but a number of them are extremely difficult to achieve or are underway already. That isn’t unusual coming from an outsider ticket but TMNT have the current General Secretary and former Women’s Officer on board, which reeks of blatant populism. There is also a severe shortcoming in education policy. The Guild’s Education officer is elevated to the rank of Vice President, higher than sustainability or Indigenous or events, because education is absolute core of the Guild’s purpose. What is EVP candidate Dean Wicken’s position on breadth units? What does he think about the Liberal party’s proposed deregulation of fees? What about the cross subsidy of research and teaching? What about the availability of lecture recordings, of the flipped classroom, MOOCs etc. They don’t need positions on all these but TMNT need more education policy than “we will reboot Education Council.”
But then again, at least theirs is out. I look forward to TMNT elaborations on policy and Action to release theirs outside the broadsheet.