Image Description: The band BTS featured on a grey background, with the words “UWA 2020 Presidential Debate” above them. A large red banner covers the bottom-right corner of the image, with the word “review” inside it.


By Cameron Carr & Natasha Tonga


DISCLAIMER: This work is not to be taken too seriously. As the current and immediate past UWA Debating Union Presidents, Cam and Tash are not telling you who to vote for but rather what good debating looks like. Also, Emma from STAR asked Tash for debate tips, but honestly anybody can get that if you show up to Austin Lecture Theatre at 4pm any Thursday. Follow UWA Debating Union on Facebook.


If you haven’t seen the Presidential Debate, you can watch it here.



BP = Short for British Parliamentary, a debating format which has four teams of two speakers; Opening Government (OG), Closing Government (CG), Opening Opposition (OO), and Closing Opposition (CO).

Knifing = when you contradict your opening’s material or stab them in the back, debatewise.

Framing =  Narrative created to make an audience focus and empathise with a particular perspective of the world

Impact = Benefit or harm that occurs when proposing a shift or change

Mechanism = The way you achieve a goal or outcome, ideally something tangible 

Stakeholders = Particular individuals, groups, and people who are affected

Whipping = Reminding the room of your team’s previous material and performance


Pre-debate notes


Tash: If anybody starts their intro with “Hi I’m ___ and I’m running for Guild President” marks WILL be deducted.

Cam: We know who you are David from Spark, now speak.

T: I’m already sure Left Action will be the closing team knifing everybody. OG Star, CG Spark, OO Launch, CO Left Action.

C: Left Action is the Marxist extension at CG to Star’s OG, Launch is OO as they disagree with everything Star says, Global is the extension from CO and Spark didn’t break.

T: Anything above a 71 and we are good.

C: Unfortunately, it’s BP scoring out of 90.


Candidates file in. Editor Stirling warns the candidates to be civil while her colleague Bayley appears to have a breakdown over technology. An unnamed observer mutters “I’m not biased, I hate all of them.”


T: Bayley and Stirling made me put on my white coat to disguise the fact I’m wearing denim aka blue because I forgot wearing a primary colour is illegal during this period.

C: That’s very funny.


Friendly words appear to be exchanged between Rose and Emma.


T: Wishing each other good luck? A metaphorical handshake before a knife in the back?

C: Classic opening half.


Question: Candidates make opening remarks.


C: Interesting framing from Esa.

T: I wish my Year 7s could do intros like Esa. Good starting out with the problem, characterisation work, a principle emerging. Viknash has some great gestures and eye contact, we’re looking at least a solid 31 for manner here.

C: Spoke to time, good grounding, too much personal anecdote.

T: There are a lot of personal anecdotes in this debate already, adjudicators would not vibe.

My name is Rose Scott and I’m running for-”

T: OH GOD. Nice characterisation though. Also, did Rose tell her supporters to slap the bench when she speaks? Because I make my teammates do that.

C: The mug bell is big energy.

T: David does introductions like he’s narrating an action movie trailer. Emma, long personal anecdotes are generally a bit of a no, but I’ll give you a pass because this isn’t an intervarsity debate. Great whipping.


Question: With five parties running this year, differences between them can be difficult to find. What is one flagship policy you will implement that no other party is considering?


T: Viknash I don’t know about the Guild, but if the WA Debating League let students suggest motions we would probably be in a state of hilarious chaos.

Did David read my notes on how to structure substantive? About how to ask questions then answer them? Because he’s doing it very well. Although look David, I’m going to give you some advice I give high schoolers. You’re saying funny things- have the delivery match it. Lighten up, man. What, do you think there’s a presidential position on the line or something?

C : David comes across as nervous here detracting from his point, however I think he appeals well to students.

Rose identifying and impacting stakeholder’s links really well to her SSAF policy which is portrayed at its strongest here.

Esa relies on her usual rhetoric which comes across as not taking the other candidates at their best.

Emma has some interesting points here but could use some more impacting. Like how will this affect the day to day life of students.

T: I love Rose’s material about knowing students who lost jobs and couldn’t pay rent, I’d 100% slap the bench if I was her teammate.

I think Emma’s framing about STAR having respectful relationships with the uni is more convincing as a unique point than the revitalisation thing and should have been first.

And while it’s probably fair for Esa to say Guild elections are dominated by rich kids, I don’t think it’s the most responsive thing to say here. Like we’re just heard Rose tell us about knowing people being unable to afford rent and Emma mentioned she went to a public school. This is why we don’t pre-write rebuttal, kids.


Question: Based on your own personal experiences with the Guild, why do you feel you are best equipped to handle this position?


T: Mr. Hallam laughs at the idea of being a rich private school kid and reminds us he went to a public school in Narrogin. This is a really great responsive intro.

And now I think Viknash just is a really great speaker. He has perfect gestures; I’ve seen about three different moves. Good set-up with experience in ISD.

Rose gives us good grounding as she describes how Launch has students represented from all across campus e.g. undergrads, postgrads, international, domestic students, etc.

Emma gives us a good mechanism and whips her record as Education Council president bringing COVID support, etc.

I like that Esa is doing consistently good framing and making it clear why Left Action inherently differs from the other tickets, but the rhetoric about “enemies” is kind of a lot. Most people just don’t buy that the university staff are the Death Eaters.

C: Esa at this point is standing out to me, she’s very consistent in her messaging although I agree that the borderline fear mongering can undermine the message.

I find Emma referencing her experience as a good way of supporting her argument however in the scope of the debate its very repetitive.

Rose sets up her response well and along with Viknash and David the three all appeal to different kinds of students quite effectively.


Question: This year we have seen the federal government propose drastic changes to the way HECS is structured. What is your party’s stance on these changes and what would you want to see happen?


T: I love that David and Emma put significant work into framing this issue, giving us grounding on how it affects people.

Viknash sounds very debater-y, discussing short and long term impacts.

I think Esa engages responsively when we hear students won’t be represented by Young Lib factions within Launch or be mobilised by Spark’s educational efforts, but I think we need to step through how Left Action gets benefits.

Rose does a good strategic job of framing the Guild as a place to help students and not being a political organisation, so everybody should worry about what the Guild is doing rather than the federal government. We’re getting a really good clash in the responses to this question and I like it. If I was writing an OA I’d make it a point of contention.

C: This section of the debate i think is where we get the best example of what to do. Every canddiate had unique contributions that were all effective in different ways.

My standout is Rose. The strategy of framing the guild as apolitical forces other tickets to respond (in theory) and gives Roses argument more relevance in the discussion.

I’ve found Emma and David found pretty indistinguishable in their responses, whereas Esa and Viknash focused very persuasively on good short term and long term examples.


Question: At the beginning of this year, the university announced they would be considering a PAYG parking model to replace the current parking permit system. Do you believe this is the right direction for student parking and what changes (if any) to the proposal would you suggest? 


C: Med and music students as vulnerable stakeholders from Emma.

T: Great depth in characterisation about students, good principle work about cost shouldn’t be a barrier to high education.

C: What’s Launch saying?

T: Some stuff about STAR being in for years and doing nothing. This feels like Trump going off on Biden about being in politics for forty years.

I think Esa is killing it with principle consistency but needs to go more in depth about how certain mechanisms will work.

C: Viknash coming in with a discourse extension.

T: David has some really responsive intros. I don’t know if this is spontaneous or he’s been coached. I remember when CJ used to open speeches at state squad with three carefully chosen words, that was hilarious.


Question: The Guild has 13 OGC positions on council, however, this year’s election sees 390 OGC candidates on the ballot form, which is more than any previous year. How many candidates does your party have, and do you feel this is a necessary part of these elections?


C: 390 candidates?

T: I know right.

C: Disenfranchisement!

T: Global has a good leg to stand on here.

C: Is that a harm? Are STAR and Spark both inclusive?

T: Emma is running the argument as expected, just say it gets you better policy. Good stuff about inclusion.

I like that David laughs when Esa tells him and the other candidates to crawl back to the “bureaucratic cesspools they emerge from.” Use it as a responsive intro David, you know you want to. Oh no. Oh no. Reiterating his party slogan is like having a team theme.

C: Which we know is a prerequisite for winning.

T: Rose strikes a good blow when she says she doesn’t know why you’d want to compete with over a hundred people from your party alone. Old Launch is shook.


Question: Closing statements.


T: Really good framing from David about students disenfranchised by a ‘left’ party and a ‘right’ party.

Vikash’s statement about not feeling like he stood a chance as a man of colour is moving. I really respect how Global put out a flyer with promises they didn’t manage to fulfil from last year and why.

Emma does her best performance of the debate here I think as she discusses her handling of COVID-19, that it’s easy to be cynical and make promises but that STAR can deliver. I think she could explicitly say this is a trade-off.

Esa does a great job of constructing two worlds here and painting us as living in a time for inspirational change.

Rose is classic third speaker, hits us on all of Launch’s strongest points like the similarities between Spark and STAR, calling to refund the SSAF, etc.

C: Rose gave us a very typical closing that for me felt the least responsive speech as many of her arguments went underfunded in this speech.

Emma had a very put together closing statement and from a strategic standpoint she certainly leaves a lasting impression on the audience. The discussion of her experience here came across as the most genuine part of her speeches.

Viknash does a good job of humanising himself. However, while it’s easy to empathise with him for feeling like an underdog as a closing statement, he could have pushed his policies more.

Esa creates a sense of urgency in her statement which is an effective way of framing her activist narrative which was very persuasive and clever.

David does a good job of framing the current issue of voter disenfranchisement which while necessary felt a bit out of context regarding his other speeches.


Natasha has been debating at a competitive level for over a decade and really needs to get a life.

Cameron likes arguing with people and shouting taxation is theft at freshers to increase engagement with the UWA Debating Union.



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