As I walked up to the Murdoch Lecture Theatre, I saw a friend outside. I breathed a sigh of relief; “Oh good”, I thought, “normal people will be here too”. I still possess memories of being cramped into a room, adrift in a sea of christmas colours when ballots were called. “Never again”, I whispered to no one.
Hopes of normalcy were crushed when I entered the room. “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” they hooted, with superhuman volume. They hooted at the names of the candidates, they hooted when the candidates said anything, and there were gradual crescendos of hootery whenever they anticipated their candidate was about to make a point. “WEI. WEI. WEI. WEI. WEI”, shouted launch, but STAR wasn’t quite as blessed with a candidate whose name can be condensed into a monosyllabic chant.
Sitting as far in the corner as possible, I noticed that Launch had filled up nearly 3 quarters of the room, with STAR condensed in a small section on the opposite corner. As such, Launch seemed to dominate the debate in terms of volume. Left Action wasn’t anywhere to be seen, and considering they weren’t at the ballot calling either this looks as if it’s a conscious boycott of election events. “Is anyone from Left Action here?” shouted the organisers from the Debating Union, into the din. “Are you live-tweeting this?” asked my friend. “Fuck” said I.
Pelican hasn’t always been quick to adopt Twitter, indeed when we met with the editors of other student papers in Melbourne, a few of them would flash their phones at me and say “hey! We’re following you guys on Twitter!” in that excited voice that stupress keenos put on at functions. “We have Twitter?” I would say.
Anyway, I did end up doing a live-tweeting session, the first of my life, you can view the results here.
To the credit of the Debating Union, the questions were quite balanced between those which challenged the candidates and ones which allowed them to explain aspects of their platform. The main sticking points centred on a few key areas: diversity, STAR candidates joining Launch, Launch’s inexperience, mismanagement of catering, and club funding.
On diversity, it seemed the consensus that the guild previously wasn’t representative of the number of people of colour and women in the student body. Due to this consensus, debate in this area essentially ground down to “we’re more diverse than you!” “No we are!” There wasn’t a lot of constructive discussion here, with both parties discussing their high number of POC and female candidates (not much talk about queer candidates), and the fact that both parties preselected presidential candidates from marginalised groups. Nevin Jayawardena pointed out that STAR actually has no straight white males on their ticket, to which a number of men in the Launch seats threw up their arms as if to say “why is that a good thing.” Wei Tien Sng also pointed out that Launch’s candidates for head positions are 80% female, a step forward for a previously male-dominated party.
The number of STAR candidates who have recently joined Launch was also heavily discussed, with Wei bringing it up a number of times to thunderous hooting from the Launch seats. Nevin countered this directly, saying that if STAR candidates did not agree with principles of social justice then they were welcome to leave. There was also much talk of Launch’s relative inexperience, including a question directly aimed at Wei which asked if someone who’d never attended a guild council meeting should be trusted to head a multi-million dollar organisation.
Catering was a strange issue in that, while the last question directly challenged both parties’ catering policies, neither really addressed the concerns raised. The question centred on how parties would act to protect the Guild’s catering budget amid a growing number of chain stores, food vans, and outsourcing in the Ref. Bizarrely, both parties pointed out their desire to continue these policies and bring in more outside businesses, with a nebulous insistence that they would “protect guild catering.” Wei even stated that bringing in outside businesses would somehow “save The Tav”, which Nevin countered by stating that The Tav operates at a comfortable surplus and doesn’t need saving. Presumably the reason both parties kept mentioning The Tav was that it elicited a big cheer from the (slightly pissed?) audience at every utterance.
After a few closing statements, of pretty predictable content, everyone got up to leave. As we did, someone sitting up the back passed me by. She said, “circlejerks are always fun hey.”
Words by Hayden Dalziel
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To live / re-live the debate in full (why), check UWA Debating Union‘s video coverage below.