Image Description: Rose Scott, Viknash VM, David Hallam, Esa Chrulew and Emma Mezger in coloured circles representing their political parties (red, blue, yellow, pink and green respectively).

 

By Christine Chen and Bayley Horne

 

Another year, another attempt for the parties to convince you to vote for them. With five parties running this year, the choice can seem a little overwhelming.

To help you through this, we’ve compiled an overview of each of the parties and the platforms they are running on. We hope you find this useful in trying to discern differences in each!

 

Spark

Let’s speak on their idea for an app to track spaces in carparks in real time, because it’s symptomatic of everything this first-year ticket is attempting.

On a surface level, this app looks like a great idea. However, it all starts to crumble when you dig deeper. David stated during the Presidential Debate that he is against the PAYG parking system UWA is looking to implement. But let’s ask this question: How does he expect to acquire and install this system?

There’s no way UWA or the Guild just have this technology lying around to use, so they are going to need to approach external companies for this large and expensive undertaking. Maybe they such contact Wilson Parking? They’ve helped other unis around Perth!

Oh wait, we reported back in Semester One that UWA has an informal relationship with Wilson Parking in relation to the PAYG model.

It seems like in order to deliver on the parking app, PAYG Parking will need to be implemented, causing a dissonance in Spark’s policies. It’s like this for a lot of their flagship proposals.

Spark are thinking large scale when it comes to policy, which is absolutely needed to reshape the Guild and its image, but one must wonder if they’ve sacrificed practicality to do that.

There’s a lot they are promising to develop. A radio station, sleep pods, Centrelink/ATO on campus, ‘survival guides’ for every major, a “welcome package that includes a free membership to…a FACSOC, a club of their choice and discount vouchers for Guild outlets” (WHAT), a monthly largescale e-sport competition, a new Inter-University Games with other Perth unis, it’s all very flashy, and if implemented would absolutely change campus culture, but with major economic and logistic concerns for each of these ideas, it’s hard not to cast doubt.

However, in the policies that aren’t as glamourous and the scope is a lot smaller, they separate themselves from the other major parties. Policies such as “standardising assignment times” and “streamlining sexual abuse reporting” appear well thought-out (for the most part, the Keen Bean attendance awards seem inherently classist).

But if you vote for Spark, it’s not about these smaller ones, it’s their promise of bigger and better things, and you’d be justified in buying into the hype, but you have to question their efficacy as a new party.

 

Left Action

Left Action’s primary goals remain the same as previous years—to imbue the Guild and the National Union of Students with a progressive, activist strategy in order to “fight against the multiple injustices in society.”

 

With the outrage from proposed funding cuts to higher education still brewing, as well as the momentum generated by the protests for climate justice and the Black Lives Matter movement that have swept the nation in recent months, Left Action’s case for election is somewhat compelling. It is worth noting, however, that beyond its promises for protests and activism, many of the party’s policy proposals are both financially and practically unviable. For instance, Left Action’s Women’s policy includes the “dismantling of colleges, which are inaccessible for most students, to be replaced with accessible, publicly-owned student housing.”

 

Launch

“Refund the SSAF.” The inescapable three-word mantra that has come to define Launch’s campaign in 2020.

 

Forgoing a website to display its campaign platform in greater detail, Launch is seemingly banking on the virality of its headline policy to nab the votes of casual voters. But could it actually be done? What would be the consequences?

 

It’s certainly a bold move—Launch is not simply promising a partial refund, but a full refund of the $154 in SSAF, paid by tens of thousands of students last semester. To further its case, Launch also points to Curtin as an example of a successful SSAF refund, however, even Curtin only managed a 50% reduction in Semester 1.

 

Income from the SSAF is spent on providing a range of recreational, sporting, and educational facilities, as well as representation activities and services for the benefit of students. And while it is true that many of these services were not operating at full capacity during the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak, funds were subsequently directed to other key uses, including the COVID-19 Financial Hardship Grant, welfare packages, as well as advocacy and counselling support services. (Pelican, funded by the Guild, donated the money typically allocated to printing fees to the Grant.)

 

In terms of how Launch plans on financing the SSAF refund, it has stated vaguely on its social media pages that “a Launch Guild will communicate with the University to be cooperative and find a proper solution.” Launch has also propagated allegations that its political rivals are abusing the SSAF (“the Socialists and STAR-Spark funnel the SSAF into their own campaigns”), pledging to “Defund the Socialists”. There has been no evidence put forward to substantiate this ludicrous claim, which, if it were true, would amount to corruption, in breach of the Higher Education Support Act, as well as UWA’s own internal controls (Statute 20 of UWA Guild regulations outlines acceptable SSAF expenditure activities and mandates the submission of audited accounts). Despite not having a concrete, actionable solution in mind to guarantee a full refund, Launch remains obstinate that it will be “financially viable”.

 

So, could it actually be done? Maybe, but Launch cannot make any guarantees. The decision ultimately rests with the UWA Senate—whose austerity strategies in 2021 are unlikely to include a retrospective, multi-million-dollar payout to students.

 

If the SSAF refund were to be implemented, it is also likely that non-essential undertakings would be cut to make up for the funding shortfall. This would undoubtedly affect the Guild’s activities in 2021, including many of Launch’s own campaign promises. For instance, Launch claims that it is “the only ticket that has promised and will deliver sleeping pods.” Notwithstanding the fact that Spark has also made the same promise, the major post-COVID hygiene concerns with sharing sleeping spaces, and the fact that UWA has previously dismissed the prospect due to sleeping pods exacerbating poor sleeping habits, the cost of a single sleeping pod is anywhere between $10,000 to $20,000.

 

Finally, Launch “supports the introduction of vacation programs and internships open to international students to properly kickstart [their] careers.” Again, Launch’s plan to change the hiring practices of well-established firms, many of which will only accept Australian Citizens or Permanent Residents due to the requirements of their clients, remains unclear.

 

Global

As the newcomers to the UWA presidential race, Global’s campaign promises are composed of pragmatic and achievable goals—they have certainly taken the ‘SMART’ goal-setting framework to heart. (The ‘SMART’ acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.)

 

Global’s policies include a promise to lobby for greater access to student assistance after 5pm in libraries during exam periods, improving intra-faculty communication of work-related opportunities, and even a pledge to “lobby the University administration to emphasise the importance of referencing and the consequences of plagiarism.” Global also promises to televise major sporting competitions at the Tavern, lobby for discounted courses for female students to encourage participation rates, build bicycle-friendly infrastructure, and create opportunities within UWA to employ students.

 

There is little doubt over implementation logistics of Global’s plans if it were to assume office next year, in stark contrast to the grandiose promises of some of their political counterparts. However, one is left to wonder whether Global’s measured pragmatism will provide enough impetus and inspiration to cajole oft-reluctant students into the voting booths.

 

STAR

STAR isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel here, it’s the same “Independent. Progressive. Experienced.” campaign they’ve ran for what feels like centuries now. You know who they are, and that’s exactly what they are banking on.

The idea for this review was to give a highlight on the prominent policies each party has, but in the process of doing this, we are struggling to find anything that can be considered a ‘flagship policy’. During the Presidential Debate, when asked about what policy sets them apart, Emma responded with the vague “revitalise the Guild’s dead-zones”, which in many facets will be happening regardless of who enters power.

They are running what seems to be the exact opposite campaign to Launch. Launch are focusing on a handful of major policy shifts, whereas STAR are throwing a ton of smaller initiatives on the wall and seeing what sticks. The sheer quantity is remarkable, but the question of quality has to be examined.

That’s not to say that none of these appear achievable, but in comparison to the other parties, they just seem underwhelming (and a little vague at times). Things like their Ed Hub proposal, a Khan Academy-style platform for tutoring, night markets, expanding the women’s council, are solid ideas, but aren’t the spectacular proposals like refunding SSAF or a shiny new radio station that rally people to the booths.

Although it’s hard to argue with their impressive history of producing Presidents throughout the decades, this is the first time in a while four other major parties are actively chasing after the crown, and in this year of change, status quo politics may not be the answer.