Pulp Does #RepsElect 2017
WORDS BY EDEN FAITHFUL
6.05: Welcome to the Jungle
Hey everyone (hi mum, I know you’re the only one who reads my inconsequential liveblogs) and welcome to the Pulp Media liveblog of the 2017 RepsElect! I will assume that most of you following along from home (or most of you in here with me refreshing the toolbar to see if I’ve mentioned your outfit yet - be patient) are hardened stupol hacks who are here for the glitz, the glamour, and the requisite twenty-minute SAlt speeches which eventually culminate in the speaker withdrawing from the position they nominated themselves for. Just your usual Stupol stuff. If you’re not a student politics tragic and have wandered onto this blog by accident, the rest of our REAL content is here: (http://www.usu.edu.au/News.aspx). I promise it’s much better journalism than what this recounting of post-pubescent trauma will turn out to be.
For those of you who require a bit of an explainer before we start all the “real” reporting, RepsElect, (or ‘Representatives Elect’), is an annual event during which the student councillors you elected during the SRC campaign at the beginning of this semester come together and decide how to divide the Office Bearer (OB) positions of the SRC among themselves. These include the SRC Vice Presidents, the General Secretaries, the Education Officers (who organise rallies and apply pressure to University administration throughout the year to make sure students are being treated fairly), and the Welfare Officers (who technically should organise events, rallies and agitate against University administration to ensure students’ mental and physical welfare, though unfortunately this is rarely followed through) among many other positions. Autonomous OB positions are also elected, however the nominees for these positions are, as a rule, decided before tonight by their respective collectives, such as the Wom*n’s Officers, ACAR Officers and Queer Officers.
But why all the #drama? Well, RepsElect is infamous for its theatrics due largely to the fact that it confines a diverse spectrum of student politicians - from Grassroots to the Young Liberals - in a small room for a number of hours in attempt to get them to agree with each other. This generally results in scheming, plotting and closed-door deals between factions in an attempt to win a ‘majority’ (17 councillors) so that the control falls to that bloc of students. It seems that the triumphant international student bloc, ‘Panda’, who won ten councillor positions in the SRC campaign, are the contentious swing vote in this tousle for majority, and Pulp has received reports that they are currently being courted by both the Right and the Left student blocs.
So there’s what you need to know. Who will win majority? Who has won Panda’s heart? How old is Omar Hassan, really? Sit tight and strap in, we’ll have the answers to all those questions and more throughout the course of tonight.
6.30: The Games Begin
We’re now all here in the Professorial Boardroom as councillors begin their signing in and sitting within their allocated factional blocks. So far, we can conclude that the room is exceedingly crowded and that tonight is going to be long, sticky and noisy with a record number of guests and observers. Probably the most amusing thing that we’ve seen so far is Paulene’s gold bedazzled whistle, which is very likely to become a well-worn feature throughout this meeting.
Paulene poses proudly with her golden whistle.
The first point of action for the meeting was a motion moved by Socialist Alternative’s Eleanor Morley to take a picture in solidarity with the refugees currently abandoned without food, water and power on Manus island. This was passed by every member of council except for the Liberal councillors. Nobody is surprised. As the picture was taken, the room began chanting, “Hey Turnbull we’re talking to you, close Manus Island, close Nauru”. This was swiftly followed by 2018 SRC President Imogen Grant addressing the councillors. Here we go.
6.55: Who Run the SRC? Not Girls…
In a brief scan of the room, Pulp has assessed that there is a pretty disappointing ratio of female-identifying councillors to male-identifying councillors. Observationally, we can see that the Liberals do not have a single female among them (though Sarah Cutter-Russell is sitting with them so?), Panda have in attendance a single female, NLS does not appear to have any female councillors (though Bella Pytka is sitting with them so?), and Grassroots appears to have a record three councillors in attendance, plus President-elect Imogen Grant. Caitie McMenamin is also sitting alongside Grassroots councillors Liam Thorne and Liam Donohoe, but is SLS still even a thing? Regardless, this is a pretty disappointing turnout from the ladies. Maybe it’s because SRC campaigns are co-opted by burly guys who systematically intimidate and speak over their female counterparts? I guess we’ll never know.
Quote of the night so far as been Pauline’s, “do I need to bring my whistle out this early?” She’s so damn proud of that whistle.
We’re now debating speaking time. Socialist Alternative want to make three-minute speeches for every person who nominates for a position, and Grassroots councillors have seconded this. The Labour and Liberal factions are voting for only one-minute speeches. We finally settle on one minute speeches (thank God tbh).
Nominations for Vice President come from the Liberals’ Berney Gibson, Socialist Alternative’s Holcombe and Panda’s Wu and Maimisi (I assume my spelling is horrendous and for that I apologise). Berney-Gibson has just given a pretty speedy speech on “the notion of trust” for some reason. Eleanor Morley interrupts him with “oh my god you’re so boring”. April Holcombe responds with her address concerning the state of the SRC to loud applause. Wu follows with his promise to “help cultivate the SRC”. Wu and Maimisi are elected as Co-Vice Presidents!
Okay bets on for Omar’s age: who thinks 35? I’m going for the 28-35 age bracket.
7.05: No to Streets, No to Dutton
We are now electing the General Secretary. Bishop of the Liberals, DeCosta of Socialist Alternative, and Yang (Panda) and Dillon-Britton (Grassroots) running as a pair.
While Bishop speaks, Eleanor Morley continues to interrupt him with unintelligible sounds to chuckles from the rest of the room. Bishop responds curtly with “I thank the honourable member for her interjections”. Unfortunately, the speech descends into complete lunacy as he announces “we love Streets, we love eating Cornettos”. Naturally, this elicits a massive amount of yelling and abuse from the rest of the room and chanting of “cuts, jobs losses, money for the bosses”. Paulene blows her whistle, like, a lot. Like at least ten times. It’s really, really, loud. No wonder she’s so proud of that thing. Bishop sits backs down, smugly.
DeCosta addresses the fact that the role of General Secretary should be a considerably more politicised position in the SRC, punctuated occasionally with ‘shame’ from her Socialist Alternative factional allies. I’ll give it to her, it’s a really good speech.
Yang and Dillon-Britton embrace before they come down to the floor to deliver their speech, and it's actually really sweet. Yang begins by promising to represent international students in the SRC. Dillon-Britton uses her time to tell all the councillors what Peter Dutton’s phone number is, and appeals to everyone present in the room to call him and “tell him where to shove it… but be nice to the receptionist who will answer”. That number for everyone following from home is: 62777860. We at Pulp also urge you to call Dutton and address the egregious violation of human rights that is Manus island. Yang and Dillon-Britton are elected!
7.20: Factional 'Switching' Creates Some Controversy
We are now electing the Executive Committee. These are basically the people who conduct the business of the Council between meetings. There are eight noms for five positions, and we will name each nominee as they stand to speak.
The Liberals’ George Bishop, (you will remember him from such choice #RepsElect2017 moments as “we love Streets, we love eating Cornettos”). He announces that “I study economics and law, and I hope to be able to bring some skills and knowledge to the role”. Everyone boos. George sits back down.
Sarah Cutter-Russell stands to speak amidst very loud hissing (probably because she very contentiously ran with the Grassroots-Independent coalition ‘Switch’ during the SRC campaign, yet subsequently made a deal with Liberal councillors to win an SRC position). She addresses the councillors with a lot of emotion, saying, “all I want to do is create change, and everyone has screwed me over along the way”. Eleanor Morley shouts back, “you screwed everyone else over!” to massive applause, and Paulene blows that whistle again. Amazingly (and ear-splittingly), this does very little to settle the room, and Paulene calls for a five minute break to the meeting so that everyone can “settle themselves down”. We'll be back shortly.
In the meantime, my fellow editor Joshua Wooller guesses that Omar is about 32 years old. Harry Gregg agrees. Will we ever have a definitive answer?
7.45: Everything Calms Down a Bit
We return to the meeting. During the break I had a bit of a squiz at the SRC fashion we have going on around the room. Initial points definitely go to SRC President-elect Imogen Grant for her constantly infallible pop-art shift dresses, and also to 2016 SRC Fashion Champion Aidy Magro for their half-clipped black overalls and millennial pink baseball cap. Honourable mention also goes to Will Edwards and Isabella Brooke for their 'Yes to SSM'-inspired shirts, and Aliza Chin for her 'I Find Your Lack of Pride Disturbing' t-shirt. Wooden Spoon prize goes to literally every single Liberal councillor for their cream chinos, collared button-ups and RM Williams. @USYD Fashion Police, I'm available to freelance.
A quorum count is called, and is passed. We go back to the speeches for Executive Committee and Sarah Cutter-Russell takes the floor again. She makes clear the fact that she is and always has been an “Independent” and reinforces her desire to “change things”. Her speech is almost uninterrupted and she returns to her seat. Maya Eswaran of Grassroots takes the floor next and delivers a speech directed right at Cutter-Russell: “I was approached by the Switch team to run, and today I am still committed to them”. She is met with applause and laughs. Thomas Manousaridis of NLS then takes the floor and delivers his speech; it is pretty uncontroversial and we move on. Bella Pytka also nominated, though has waived her right to speak. Chaneg Torres from the Liberals then takes the floor and is met with shouts and boos when he bemoans the previous “feral behaviour” and “virtue signalling” from previous SRC Councils. Aaron Yi, a nominee from Panda, then introduces himself as an Engineering student, and claims that he wants more people to be involved with the SRC, particularly more international student involvement. Zixuan Wei, the only female Panda councillor and final nominee for the Executive Committee gives a short, introductory speech.
While the votes are being counted, Will Edwards from NLS parades around the room shouting “Grassroots voted for Liberals” (referring to Cutter-Russell), following a heated discussing between himself and several Grassroots councillors. We also have noticed a cute little partnership between the Pulp Media livestreamer Aliza Chin and the Honi Soit livestreamer Aidan Mollins.
This is pretty cute
This just in: Kerrod Gream confirms that Omar is on his fourth degree, and decides that he therefore must be at least 32 years old. Jacob Masina guesses “it’s a minimum of 26 or 27”. The election of Executive Committee has offically come down to affirmative action, and the succesful nominees are: Yi, Manousaridis, Pytka, Eswaran, and Wei.
8.15: Panditch … Swanda?
In case it isn’t already clear, it appears that an alliance has formed between the Grassroots-Independent coalition ‘Switch’ and Panda, giving them the majority and balance of power on the council. Every councillor that has nominated for a position from this bloc has been successful, and we expect this to continue throughout the night.
We move on to the election of Education Officer, and two nominations are received: Manning Jeffrey from the Liberals and a joint nomination between Lily Campbell (Socialist Alternative) and Lara Sonnenschein (Grassroots). Paulene mistakenly call the Campbell-Sonnenschein nomination as ‘elected’, without anyone actually voting. She apologises and allows the nominees to speak. Campbell, who is sporting a very trendy new haircut might I say, launches into an impassioned speech about the free education campaign. Her speech is followed by an incredibly loud chanting of ‘bullshit, come off it, our education is not for profit”. Sonnenschein then speaks about building a mass student movement, but is constantly interrupted by councillors from NLS. She continues, saying that “free education is not won by a Liberal or Labor government, but by the student movement”.
Manning Jeffrey then takes the floor amidst deafening boos and insults. He uses his time to defend Sarah Cutter-Russell, calling her a “strong and courageous woman”. For some reason, a fight breaks out between queer officers Will Edwards and Connor Parissis about who manned the queer stall the longest during O-Week. Paulene blows her whistle and declares another five minutes of “time out”. Lots of people are ordering UberEats and now the room smells like bolognaise and hummus. I’m getting pretty hungry. Can we go home please?
8.45: Reverse Racism Isn't Real and Regional Areas are Super Important
Okay so I just noticed Seth Dias’ t-shirt that is emblazoned with ‘Reverse Racism Isn’t Real’ and I’m completely in love; Seth you win the RepsElect Fashion Championship for 2017. There’s no prize, just my unwavering admiration and respect.
A quorum count was made and passed. We will now continue with the election of Education Officer. Manning Jeffrey is invited back down to deliver his speech for the second time, and again defends Sarah Cutter-Russell. Campbell-Sonnenschein are elected as co-Education Officers amidst a burst of chanting; “education should be free!”. Personally, I don’t disagree.
We now move on to nominate the Wom*n’s Officers, and the joint ticket of Maddy Ward and Jessica Syed is elected uncontested, meaning collective autonomy remains intact. Looks like we’re moving a little bit quicker, thank god - maybe I can order my Ubereats now? We’re moving on to the nomination of the Welfare Officers, but everyone has suddenly just run out of the room to observe an incredibly heated screaming match that has broken out between Eleanor Morley and NLS’s Adam Torres. After a few minutes, everyone returns to learn that Niamh Callinan and Rebecca Miller (Labour), Shaun Young and Seth Dias (NLS and Grassroots), and Yvette Quin (Liberal) have nominated for Welfare Officer.
Callinan-Miller says that coffee is too expensive. Young-Dias say that regional areas are important (and everyone is incredibly excited about that), and Quin says mental health treatment needs consent. Young-Dias are elected given the Switch-Labour majority alongside Callinan-Miller. I have also heard from a (hopefully) trustworthy source that speeches are going to be voted out after the election of the Welfare Officers, and so hopefully this whole charade will chug along a little bit faster from now on. Is it just me, or has the smell of bolognaise intensified? I’m still really hungry.
A fifteen minute break has been called - we’ll be back soon.
9.30: What Am I Doing With My Life
We return after a fifteen minute break, and I still haven’t ordered any UberEats. I am a fool. Eleanor Morley calls for a procedural that there be no more breaks except for those mandated by the constitution. It’s passed, and so Paulene rules that if the room becomes too rowdy she has the right to call the meeting for the night.
We are now electing the Ethnocultural Officers, and it appears that my (hopefully) trustworthy source was (in fact) not trustworthy at all. We are in fact still going through speeches. Paul Bover (Socialist Alternative) has his nomination withdrawn after giving a short speech about global racism, amidst claims that he was not preselected by the collective, meaning that should he be elected, collective autonomy would have been breached.
We now move swiftly Indigenous student officer, where one nomination was received from Karla Newman, and a joint ticket of Jackson Newell and Holly Kovak was nominated. All were elected.
We now move on to the election of International Student Officers. Two joint nominations: Yuan and Mann, and one for Li and Gai. I must say, each one of them gave a fantastic speech - it’s incredibly heartening to see an international student ticket do so incredibly well in an SRC campaign and for international student councilors to be elected to a multitude of important positions. All nominees were elected. Something vaguely interesting happens when Liam Carrigan, who had been banned from the room, re-enters and hides behind a whiteboard. Paulene does not like this one bit, and says simply, “if Liam is in the room, then I am not”.
And now to the Environment Officers: Natalie Berry (who was preselected by the Environment Collective), Byron Koster, Zachary Gillies-Palmer and Timothy Seguna. After a number of impassioned speeches about the direction of climate change in Australia, Gillies-Palmer and Berry are elected.
I’m still hungry.
10.30: This Reporter Isn’t Strong Enough To Go On
My co-Editor has abandoned me. We still have fourteen more positions to elect. We aren’t even half way through the agenda, though things are moving a little quicker. With interest and enthusiasm flagging, I’m considering making this entry our final one. People are nominating, making speeches and being elected. Congratulations to all of you (except the Libs lol), because it is an incredibly brave thing to do, not only to become involved with and be active in the Student Representative Council, but also to nominate yourself to make this council more transparent, more accountable and more - you guessed it - actually representative. A special mention must go to Disability Officer Noa Zulman for her incredibly passionate speech about the inaccessibility that so many students face throughout their academic career at this university. Also special mention to Queer Officer Jazzlyn Breen for her speech on the importance of queer activism, not only during the plebiscite, but to advocate for safe schools and to counter the horrifying statistics facing LGBT+ suicide and mental illness rates.
The most controversial event to have passed in this last hour was George Bishop claiming that the people in this room have no idea how much discrimination the Evangelical Union and Chritian students have suffered. This was met … obviously … with clamour from the Queer Officers, Ethnocultural Officers and Disability Officers, just to name a few. Sit down, please, George.
A few final remarks: once you’ve finished reading the liveblog (thanks for being here!) please consider visiting Behrouz Boochani’s twitter account to learn about what the refugees on Manus Island are going through right now while their food, water and power have been cut off, their medical needs and safety denied, and their fundamental rights and mental well-being violated on a continual basis: https://twitter.com/BehrouzBoochani. It might help put all this into some perspective.
Congratulations again to the 2018 SRC Council. (Except the Libs lol).