Claudia Long | National Conference Correspondent (@claudialongsays)
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Welcome to our first round-up of the day’s events at the National Union of Students (N.U.S) National Conference.
If you’re a bit sketchy on the details of how this thing works, take a read of this. We’ll wait.
All set? Excellent.
But only after an hour or so of waiting and credentialing. Everyone loves the waiting game yes? One person was overheard saying 2015 is still 200% more organised than any other year, make of that what you will.
Day one of the conference was declared quorate by N.U.S President Rose Steele at approx. 3:40 pm. Following that, former Mayor of the City of Moreland and candidate for preselection in the seat of Wills Lambros Tapinos delivered his report as returning officer. Tapinos is himself a member of Labor’s Centre Unity faction.
Within minutes conference passed a motion to ban recording on the conference floor. This is despite multiple student magazines calling for more transparency from the union including Catalyst. Unfortunately that means no more pictures from us.
Post-Tapinos, delegates went straight into speeches and debating. Section 5 (welfare) was expected to be up first but instead – after factional negotiations beforehand – a motion to support trade unions and condemn Daniel Andrews and Bill Shorten for allegedly not doing so was put up. In particular, the motion focused on the N.U.S supporting the CFMEU and one of it’s leaders John Setka. In case you haven’t heard of Setka before, he was arrested yesterday morning for allegedly blackmailing construction company Boral. Yep, the N.U.S passed a motion in support of this guy although they opted not to suspend conference. If you’re wondering, he’ll be fighting the charges in court.
We've reached the 6 speaker limit & motion 5.18 to campaign for changes to age of independence for Centrelink benefits is passed #nusnatcon
Conference eventually got to chapter 5, with changes to the Centrelink age of independence one of the first cabs off the rank. Due to the high volume of motions in the chapter they were all discussed on block, meaning multiple motions were being debated at once. As you can probably tell, NATCON is very accessible for those who aren’t heavily embedded in student politics such as everyday students like you and I*.
Following that, many delegates shared stories of their experiences with mental health services on campus with one NLS delegate telling the room that without such services she would not have been able to speak at conference this week. SALT delegates criticised the platform with Anneke D’Emannuele of Melbourne Uni saying its not the role of student unions to address the mental health problems with events like “petting zoos” and instead suggested universities call upon professionals.
Things got a bit salty (so to speak) when Unity locked horns with SALT and SALT heckled Unity routinely throughout the session.
UNSW's Emily Strange calls NLS+UNITY approach "despicable" due to factions not using influence to change party policy on welfare #nusnatcon
This was one of the first of many speeches from Robby Magyar of Student Unity. He, like every other speaker from the faction, is a “proud member of student unity”. We should commend every member from that faction for being brave enough to state their pride at being a member of one of the most conservative, well placed factions of the lot. Powerful stuff.
If you’re playing along at home you may have noticed Robby has made quite a few appearances during this session:
And we're on to the next block with Robby Magyar saying welfare cards are "a little bit fucked" #nusnatcon
But back to policy. Multiple motions passed, including ones supporting student cards being valid transport concession cards, condemning unpaid internships and promoting accessible childcare for students. Of course, this was only after sufficient amounts of random shouting and oddly enthusiastic cheering from whichever faction thought they’d won the argument at the time. And yes, Unity, NLS and SALT tended to vote the same way on almost all the welfare policies.
Soon it was on to the next couple of blocks including one motion proposing the N.U.S ensure safer smoking spaces for all students.
You might call it a (smoking) hot topic.
The motion was passed after a number of delegates criticised the N.U.S for focusing on something they saw as inconsequential to the majority of students. After the smoko sesh (a.k.a motion 5.17). it was on to further debates from chapter 5 including ones regarding unemployment.
Multiple SALT delegates slammed Unity and NLS for supporting capitalism generally, saying it was the root of unemployment.
SALT delegate has called for an end to capitalism as a solution to unemployment #nusnatcon
It was at this point that Unity decided it was a good time to tell everyone that the SDA (a.k.a the Shop, Distribution and Allied Employees Union) is the BEST. UNION.EVER. And if there’s one way to do that it’s by chanting “THE S – THE S – THE SDA” for a solid few minutes while the rest of the room either goes to their happy place and waits for it to be over or screams “SCAB” at the top of their lungs.
In particular Unity wanted to support Joe De Bruyn, head of the SDA. That’s right, this guy. Again, make of that what you will.
The last hour of debate descended into a shouting match with welfare concluding and conference beginning chapter 12 concerning rural and regional universities. Here’s the gist of things:
Conference concluded at 10:30 to many sighs of relief before a long night of drinking in the courtyard and/or lighting up in the gazebo. UNITY provided delegates with their fabled punch for $20 with attendees having been warned that they were not to drink on the conference floor. One delegate – none other than General Secretary Tom Nock – had already been named for doing so.