By Luke Barber and Riley Faulds
A remarkable number of policies get bandied around in facebook DP captions at this time of year, and here at Pelican we make it our business to try our best to sort through them so that you, the tired and weary voter, don’t have to.
Because of the sheer volume of policies produced by Guild parties we wouldn’t be able to fact-check every single policy ever scrawled onto a piece of butcher’s paper at a guild party meeting. Many of the policies listed by tickets are vague to the point of being difficult to check or verify. Others still are points that appear to be broadly common ground between parties. Some key policies of each party that set them apart as tickets have been laid out below. Fact-checking is based on conversations had with Guild management and/or the election Returning Officer, depending on the policy.
Please note that many STAR OB candidates have withdrawn from actively campaigning, or from the ballot entirely. This does not remove the possibility of them having candidates elected, so we have fact-checked some of their policies nonetheless.
A new food vendor in the Refectory
Guild management confirmed that a new space will be opening up, though the exact details of this space are unconfirmed. One existing vendor is shifting location out of the Ref, meaning a new vendor will be sought. In that sense, it isn’t an additional vendor in the Ref as some people interpreted this policy, but technically is still a new one. A ratification from Council will be required following the expression of interest process. As we have interpreted it, the shift of vendor means a new vendor will be sought whether STAR are the ones enacting the policy or not.
Free coffee and tea on campus
There are challenges with this with respect to not competing against Guild vendors. While possible, Guild management suggested it would require library permission and would certainly need to run after hours, and would not be feasible during periods when Guild cafés are open late, such as Quobba during the exam period. So this is very much achievable, but might be superseded if other approaches take precedence.
Use of solar panels to achieve a carbon neutral Guild
This policy is likely to be difficult – solar panels were organised by the Guild seven years ago but resisted by campus management due to their aesthetics. Funding constraints and a requirement to get permission from the university for any solar installations are also potential barriers. Guild management indicated that this would be unachievable within a one-year term alone, but a worthy policy to pursue long term. On a side note, apparently the Guild owns solar panels on the Business School, which produce some profit for the Guild in terms of power returned to the grid. Random, right?!
Opt-in twenty-four-hour exams
STAR have promised to pursue the option for twenty-four hour exams for all students. The gist of this policy is that students would be able to select between a conventional two-hour exam and a twenty-four-hour take-home exam. Of course, this is not something the Guild Council would have control over. Instead, it would need to be lobbied for within Academic Board, and approved by that body. To achieve this, the student representatives on that Board would need to be very active and particularly persuasive. A challenging one to achieve, especially in a single year.
Cutting Pelican Magazine
The COSTA party would require a Guild Council majority to pass this, which is likely to prove difficult given the other parties’ commitment to student journalism. Guild management also stated that some sort of communication tool would be required for student messaging to replace Pelican, and, although COSTA has presented UWA Shitposting as a potential alternative, few details as to the logistical feasibility of this have been provided.
Converting Council Bays to Student Parking
Guild management has informed Pelican that while not impossible, this would require a lengthy negotiation with Council and the enthusiastic logistical and financial support of the University. The process of renting or buying spaces from the City of Perth would be very impractical and expensive.
Two study breaks each semester
UWA has previously had two study breaks a semester, and when the University initially removed the second there was significant opposition from the Guild at the time. Student protests against the change failed to alter the university’s decision then, and so it appears unlikely the Guild would be able to reverse the change now.
GLOBAL’s campaign has a large range of policies centred around education, welfare and engagement. Their focus is on international students and ensuring that this group have access to all the opportunities offered by UWA in an equal capacity to their domestic peers. They have fewer stand-alone policies that represent large-scale reforms than the other parties contesting the election, and instead are advocating for a range of priorities that centre international students’ needs. Some of these, such as running workshops with the Sports Department to promote cross-cultural exchange in sports, are relatively straightforward, with few hurdles, while others, such as lobbying for a 10% fee discount for international students, are not. As with any policy that would affect University finances, Uni management opposition to this will be difficult to overcome at the moment.
GLOBAL have the clearest approach to accountability of any ticket (except, I guess, for Left Action, who are very upfront with their approach too)! This year, they have published a flyer and a section on their website with their achievements alongside the promises they failed to deliver on from last year (their “Shortcomings”). While the wording of their “Shortcomings” still paints the ticket in a good light, tracking their own progress on promises made to the electorate is a refreshing practice.
A parking app that shows you availability of parking bays on campus OR a parking app that will tell you busy times for parking in general.
Spark’s own ideas about this aren’t entirely clear or fully developed. The current end goal as they have explained it is to have cameras set up around campus that would use some sort of machine or deep learning approach to automatically detect empty and full parking spaces. Students would then be able to use an app to know where parking is most available. Guild management has clearly stated that this is very expensive and would need significant further planning. There are also significant potential privacy concerns arising from the idea of having cameras placed in high vantage points to identify empty bays. It’s likely that Campus Security would need a fair bit of convincing on that approach; access to the camera vision would have to be tightly controlled.
A limit on candidate numbers
The Returning Officer has suggested that a cap on nominations overall may be undemocratic; however, Spark appears to be specifically proposing that a rule is brought in to ensure parties can only nominate a certain number of OGC candidates each. Any change to voting and nomination guidelines would need to be approved by the Governance Committee, Guild Council and the UWA Senate. While not impossible, limiting nominations may also have the side effect of encouraging splinter tickets to form, which function in a way that preserves the problem. Spark have also ruminated on other approaches, such as reforming the requirements for nomination rather than placing a cap on nominations. Like many policies in this election, the concrete details remain vague.
This idea has been in existence before and has previously had other names like ‘Returners Festival’. Guild management have stated that this would be possible, but that attracting a big act may be required to make it financially viable. This is not unattainable – the Guild has had the likes of Peking Duk and Tkay Maidza perform at events. COVID-19 may also provide the usual challenges to coordinating an event of this scale next year.
Night café & nighttime campus reinvigoration
Previous attempts at opening Guild vendors into later hours have been deemed financially challenging due to income loss from paying employees but having little turnover.
Certain Spark flyers have pointed out the Guild’s significant operating deficit this year, suggesting that a STAR-controlled Guild has been a poorly managed one financially. Guild management have stressed that the effects of COVID, including the reduced student numbers on campus and maintaining staff numbers despite the loss of JobKeeper, has made breaking even challenging. In that case, it seems unclear how Spark intend to reduce this deficit while delivering on the policies above, most of which would require significant additional funding. Some have pointed at the money spent on the establishment of Venture, or the free breakfasts, or the Night Markets, as areas where money could have been saved. However, swapping these programmes out for ones like those above are not going to address the overall deficit. As Guild management stated, focusing on this deficit in campaign material without a thorough explanation of the underlying factors might leave students without a full understanding of the issue.
Unlike the other tickets, Left Action does not campaign on a series of specific policies centred around the UWA student experience, but generally promotes the vision of a more activist Guild for a variety of progressive causes on campus and in the wider community and society in general. In particular, this year Left Action have been pushing an opposition to the Vice Chancellor’s education reforms and the associated cuts to courses and jobs.
A big part of this push has been asking students to vote YES in the ‘referendum’ asking whether students reject the cuts at UWA. The referendum is not binding on the University, and will increase the cost of this year’s Guild elections by between $1500 and $2000; however, Left Action argue it will increase the leverage of protestors in advocating against cuts by showing, if a YES vote is returned, a significant percentage of opposition among students. They argue that if University management ignore the results of the vote, they will be acting undemocratically and that the wider community and media organisations will be more likely to join the campaign in opposition to the cuts. Left Action are also arguing in their campaign that the Guild has not done enough to date to oppose the cuts, and that, if elected, they will work to ensure more Guild resources are committed to the anti-cuts campaign.
And there you have it, folks. A mildly comprehensive, far from exhaustive look at the policies of each ticket contesting this election. Hopefully this helps you distinguish between the brightly coloured groups of students vying for your vote this week (from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday).
If you are unsure how polling itself works, read this article. Good luck, and Godspeed.