They’re ready – they’re ‘eager’ – and they’re going to win, no matter what the cost.

I wish I could say I’d never been involved in student politics. But that would be a lie. I ran multiple times and was elected twice.

Over the last few weeks, reminders that I made that decision have surged into my Facebook friend requests. Nominees requesting my ‘friendship’ despite the fact that they a) have never met me; and b) I live in Canberra now and have nothing to do with the Guild anymore. I am, however, an ex-Guild Councillor and therefore someone to be friended in time for the elections.

This has happened every year since I was elected.

I find it all rather amusing now – commenting with feigned nostalgia to friends who were candidates around the same time about how “desperate” people seem and about the “sheer unimportance” of the decisions that will be made.

The weeks around the elections become about how much stress, how many personal attacks, and how many ‘no thanks, I’ve already voted’s nominees can take before they become disenfranchised by the whole process. It becomes not about how many good policies you have, but how many voters you can get to go into the booth holding your ‘how to vote’ card. It becomes a challenge of undermining people who, in the other 11 months of the year, are your friends or classmates. It’s a show of force, not a show of skills.

The attributes we criticise on a federal level – compromising principles, lack of non-political work or life experience, the tendency to get really personal in order to win – these all begin in these elections.

I worked hard once I got elected. I weathered a bunch of criticism from all sides about what I did or didn’t do, tried to make a difference for science students, and worked really hard after the ‘Great Storm of Perth’ to help the clubs affected. But looking back – it didn’t matter. The machine moved on – and I with it.

You can be eager, you can win no matter the cost – but does it matter? Are you really making friends with the tactics at play? Or are these just people you’ll friend for a moment and forget to delete from your Facebook when it all blows over?

Will you just end up like me – observing from far away at the new rotation of hacks?

Words by Kate O’Sullivan