Words by Justine Cerna
Every month the elected student body meets to discuss the business of the UWA Student Guild. This report details the happenings of the UWA Student Guild Committee meeting held on June 29th, 2022. The meeting was a vigorous exercise in the politics of the Guild, with motions prompting heated debate between conservative and progressive parties.
Talking points included interpersonal (gendered/sexual) violence, the Woodside-led Burrup Hub project, the cost of living and union engagement, Roe vs. Wade, and the economic crisis in Sri Lanka.
The meeting commenced at 6:08 pm with an acknowledgement of country by Rashdina Ramli (RR).
Tony Goodman (TG) reports on a flurry of enterprises (the university) and staff changes, with enterprise bargaining rules and budget regulations (PAC & SOC) entering the final stages of approaching approval. Group nominations for guild elections closed on the 30th of June, with a blackout on Guild announcements still in place.
Management has begun a business review of the Guild organisation within the context of significant shifts in the realms of the broader economy (including the rising cost of living and wage stagnation). The review will assess which areas of operation the Guild can adjust in order to cope.
- There will be cost increases over the next few months.
- Awards are going up – wages are expected to increase under Labor Government.
Report on the Guild Village anticipates the leasing of spaces as the market rebounds and progress on the Guild Book Shop. These will be addressed by the Council when it turns to Operations.
FINANCE REPORT (also provided by Tony Goodman)
Finance is “tracking not too badly” with a counting loss of $120 000 against a predicted $117 000. As mentioned in the Director’s report, there is hope regarding the pick-up of leases in the Refectory and Village Outlet spaces. Staffing and Tavern trade are noted as good, the latter only a few dollars behind budget.
Finance recommends attention be given to the Residential Student’s Department budget ($24 000).
The meeting moves into camera for the Outlet report at 6:23 PM. Observers re-enter the meeting at 6:57 PM.
12 MOTIONS ON NOTICE (OPERATIONS)
12.1 The 109th Guild Council endorses the rebrand of the “second-hand bookshop” to the “Guild Bookshop”
Moved by Narendra Gammanpila (NG)
Seconded by Aidan Mansfield (AM)
12.2 The 109th Guild Council approved the new social media and the publications and promotions policy.
Moved by Amitabh Jeganathan (AJ)
Seconded by Aidan Mansfield (AM)
MOTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE (REPRESENTATION)
15.1 The 109th Guild Council:
15.1.1 Rejects all forms of misogyny and abuse, recognising the gendered dynamics of sexual and domestic violence, with Mission Australia showing that one in six women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner, while for men, it is one in sixteen.
15.1.2 Understands that wealthy men from elite backgrounds are socialised to dehumanise women as an exercise of their power, which was exposed during the #metoo movement and its aftermath, most notably in Australia with the allegations against UWA graduate Christian Porter
15.1.3 Recognises that the Depp/Heard trial sets a precedent that undermines women’s confidence to speak out against sexual violence, which is a direct backlash to #metoo in order to reassert the misogynistic silencing of women who are abused whilst protecting powerful men
15.1.4 Stands in solidarity with survivors of abuse and commends those who seek to hold people in positions of power accountable, whether they be in parliament, boardrooms, or Hollywood films, in the face of immense structural barriers like loss of employment opportunities and media vilification
15.1.5 Directs the Guild to post on social media affirming its ongoing support of #metoo and provide information for students to report abuse who may be discouraged after witnessing the treatment of Heard throughout this trial
Moved by Nichole McEwen (NM) (proxied by Pheobe Burrage (PB))
Seconded by Melani De Alwis (MDA)
MDA underscores the content of 15.1.3 and explains the social ramifications of such an event amongst the common people.
Question time (which inadvertently became debate):
- Chloe Bryant (CB) asks which department will be responsible for actioning the motion and what is the timeline, as the Women’s Department has already posted on this issue?
(PB) suggests content go through the main Guild profiles, which are much more visible.
- Narendra Gammanpila (NG): queries point 15.1.3 – “Is the trial being mentioned because of the public backlash against the court case, or that a man (Depp) won the trial? Which is being referenced as detracting from the #metoo movement?”(PB): Both. “Depp did abuse Amber Heard. Also, the trial was heavily influenced by concurrent media coverage. It was not conducted properly. The trial is a representation of what is happening in society.”(NG) counters: Point 3 is not productive; “Such a strong stance on an exceptional case detracts from the broader issue and cause.”
- Sapphire Carter (SC) (Against): The motion is missing the mark. To justify 15.1.3 “the person writing and supporting the motion would need to know a lot more about the precedent relevant to this case.” Such a strong stance risks disenfranchisement. “It doesn’t matter what the verdict is. it’s better to examine the biases that influence people’s opinions on the issue.”
- Scott Harney (SH) (For) responded: “That’s a bad starting point. What you’re saying is that the Guild shouldn’t be making progressive, left-wing statements. We do need to talk about the trial because of its significance. The UK trial actually found he did abuse her. The US was a media trial.”
- (SC) (Against) rebuttal: “I’m not wanting to [approve a motion] that requires a lot of information in order to understand the trial result.”
- (PB) (For) responding to (SC): Guild passes motions on niche issues all the time. People are autonomous. It is ridiculous to say that [the Guild] will alienate people by taking this stance.
Narendra Gammanpila moves to propose an amendment to remove 15.1.2
“15.1.2 Understands that wealthy men from elite backgrounds are socialised to dehumanise women as an exercise of their power, which was exposed during the #metoo movement and its aftermath, most notably in Australia with the allegations against UWA graduate Christian Porter”.
Phoebe Burrage and Melani De Alwis state the amendment is not friendly.
Council moves to debate on the amendment.
- (NG): It is unnecessary. Points can stand the same, but mentioning names of prominent figures put the Guild and students at risk of defamation.
- Geemal Jayawickrama (GJ): Otherwise for the motion, but says: “It is not for us as the Guild to pronounce legal verdicts. The Guild should be acting in the interest of the students.” Supports the amendment to this end.
- (SH): “We have to take a stand against this. Legal threats are made all the time, stopping people from progressing one way or another. The Guild should be on the right side of this argument.”
- (PB): “This is a principle thing. We shouldn’t cower at the prospect of legal threats from these powerful men. That’s what this whole motion is about.”
The council moves to a vote.
Vote on an amendment to remove 15.1.2 fails.
Vote on the motion: Passes with a majority.
15.2 The 109th Guild Council:
15.2.1 Recognises that the Woodside-led Burrup Hub project, which includes the controversial Scarborough Gas project, would, according to the Conservation Council of WA, be the most polluting project “ever to be developed in Australia” with “estimated total emissions of over 6 billion tonnes (gigatons) of carbon pollution across its lifetime”.
15.2.2 Is appalled that federal and state Labor has steadfastly supported this project, which will blow through the ALP’s already insufficient 2030 climate target of reducing Australia’s emissions by 43% on 2005 levels.
15.2.3 Reiterates its commitment to fighting to limit warming to 1.5 degrees and calling to shut down the fossil fuel industry and rapidly transition to renewables, which includes ending UWA’s ties to the industry and the Centre for Long Subsea Tiebacks
15.2.4 Endorses the Climate Action Network campaign for UWA to divest from fossil fuels
Moved by Nichole McEwen (NM)
Seconded by Catherine Cheeseman (CC)
Sean Sceung (a proxy for NM): “The climate crisis is an important issue. As the election showed, it is very important for young people across Australia. WA is a leader in climate destruction vis-a-vis its investment in the fossil fuel industry.”
SH (proxy for CC): “It is important for us to come out against these destructive projects. Looking to our own campus – key industry players in WA have a presence and influence on campus. They need to go.”
David Hallam (DH) (comment via debate) (For): “[The project] is another nail in the coffin of belief that Labor will save Australia when they won’t.” Supports motion wholeheartedly.
15.3 The 109th Guild Council:
15.3.1 Is concerned about the ongoing cost of living crisis, with inflation at 5.1% and set to rise to 7%, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia, which is impacting the cost of food, transport, housing, power, and other necessities for students and working-class people.
15.3.2 Recognises that this crisis is occurring at a time when the wealth of Australia’s 47 billionaires has doubled to $255 billion.
15.3.3 Rejects any measures which increase the burden of the cost of living on students and workers, including the cut to real wages implemented by the fair work commission at the request of the Albanese Government.
15.3.4 Affirms that fighting for better wages and conditions is best achieved through union activity, including strike action as displayed recently by aged care workers and NSW train drivers and nurses.
15.3.5 Encourages all students to join their union by:
18.104.22.168 Making a post on social media explaining the significance of unions and providing information about how to join a union.
22.214.171.124 Providing information leaflets in the Guild office about how to join your union, targeting sectors students commonly work in, such as hospitality.
Moved by Nichole McEwen (NM) (proxied by SH)
Seconded by Catherine Cheeseman (CC) (proxied by PB)
Alevine Magila (AM) speaks: This is an important motion. 7% is significant.
Justification for 15.3.4 and 15.3.5: “FWC passed a ‘sensible’ wage rise, which we view as woefully inadequate. It doesn’t impact a majority of works that are a little above minimum wage and/or not subject to enterprise agreements. It is important [for the Guild] to support and encourage activists as part of a student-led push for universities and governments to do something about it.”
Sean Cheung (SC) (with speaking rights passed on from PB): “A lot of students are workers. The Guild has an influential role to play in informing students of their rights. On unions especially.”
(GJ): Will a list of unions be posted on the Guild website?
-(AM): Unions WA has a resource page that can be used as a tool to point students to the relevant unions.
15.4 The 109th Guild Council:
15.4.1 Rejects and condemns the overturning of the 1973 landmark Supreme Court ruling on Roe v Wade, by the undemocratic six out of nine majority judges on the United States of America (USA) Supreme Court, appointed by Republican presidents.
15.4.2 Acknowledge that in doing so, it has effectively ended the constitutional right to an abortion for millions of people in the USA.
15.4.3 Understands that forced pregnancy will further entrench existing inequalities, especially within lower socio-economic areas, ethnic communities and LGBTQIA+ communities in the USA.
15.4.4 Recognises the many countries where abortions are restricted or prohibited and the people around the world who aren’t able to take to the streets to defend their rights due to limits on public demonstrations.
15.4.5 Recognises that Australia has inconsistent abortion care, costs, and inconsistent access to abortion services, which affect Indigenous Australians disproportionately.
15.4.6 Stands in solidarity with people seeking abortions and recognises that the existing systems violate their human rights and do not offer compassionate and essential care.
15.4.7 Directs the Guild to make posts on social media making aware of available services on campus to support students who have/had an abortion or have been affected, including mental health and wellbeing services.
15.4.8 Supports the rally hosted by Defend Abortion Action Group that will be held on Saturday (2nd July) in solidarity with USA protestors.
15.4.9 Requests the 109th Guild Councillors to RSVP their attendance at this rally to the Women’s Officer by the close of day on Friday.”
Moved by Melani De Alwis (MDA)
Seconded by Chloe Bryant (CB)
(MDA): Regression [such as this] sets a terrible example for countries watching Roe vs. Wade. Reminds Council that the “lowest socio-economic classes” will be the hardest hit.
(CB): [Overturning] is to do with power, not foetuses. “We should also remember that there are countries where abortion is only justified when someone’s health is at risk, and this needs to be proven. This moment is an opportunity to bring up the conversation not only as it relates to America but to all countries, including Australia.” Encourages council members to attend the protest.
(SH) queries whether it is possible to amend the motion to include gender-diverse peoples (especially in 14.4.2 and 14.4.6). Motion is friendly (assumed).
Resoundingly For with contributions from PB, GJ, Dana Fung (DF) and SH.
- (PB): “We do not want to be silent. [Speaking to the broader right-wing movement] this is a proxy for controlling women’s bodies and forcing gender roles.
- (GJ): “This is sad to see.” Coming from a third-world country, commenting that those countries look to apparently progressive countries like the US. Important that the Guild takes a stand.
- (SH): “Overturning is significant. The right and conservative forces are gaining confidence from this and still looking to prohibit access. Sets a precedent that there is urgency in the Australian context. WA has one of the most restrictive measures to engage with the process.”
15.5 The 109th Guild Council:
15.5.1 Acknowledges the current economic instability in Sri Lanka, including inflation and shortages of necessities such as medicine and fuel.
15.5.2 Condemns the Rajapaksa government and its actions over the last two years.
15.5.3 Encourages all students affected by this crisis to seek help from Student Assist.
15.5.4 Recommends that ISD run a fundraiser to grow awareness of the issue and raise funds for Sri Lankan people in need.
Moved by Geemal Jayawickrama (GJ)
Seconded by David Hallam (DH)
(GJ) speaking: People cannot access the necessities. 22 million people are in trouble. Inflation with stagnant wages. Talk that there will be a lock-down in the country in a few weeks, keeping people at home because the country cannot afford to buy fuel. Relevant given the significant number of Sri Lankan students on campus.
(DH): Echoes Geemal and provides stats to illustrate dire situation:
“Australia 40.4 debt as GDP% vs Sri Lanka 111% (if it sold everything, it still wouldn’t have paid off its debt). Sri Lanka imported rice (insane – as it used to export. Inflation at 40%; working class getting hammered. Motion starting point for raising awareness and solidarity amongst UWA community with global issues that are removed geographically.”
MDA asked why she wasn’t consulted on this matter. GJ replied that he submitted the motion an hour before council.
Debate heard overall supportive comments from SH, MDA, AE, and Julia Aguinot (JA). Notably JA draws parallels between the Sri Lankan crisis and the political arrangement of the Philippines.
16 GENERAL BUSINESS
16.1 Productivity, accountability at councils – Chloe Bryant
(CB): Can we workshop this goal we’ve agreed upon regarding writing the motions, so they are actionable. No-ones really done this? What about accountability? On reports, and on hours, and general engagement.
Parastoo Javid (PJ): “Curtin logs hours because they get paid. We are filling a void that should be taken care of by the university. Some of us are fucking tired.”
(GJ): “We all know that this is a volunteer position. The only way student body can keep us accountable is through the reports, so should be done.”
(RR): On productivity and accountability. “We did discuss how to overcome this problem. KPI’s didn’t really work because the Guild is a volunteer body.”
(ND): There is a lot of hostility on council. People usually getting obliterated for having a different opinion. We want this to be a place where everyone wants to come and work together.
Meeting closed at 9:01PM
Next council meeting will be held Wednesday 27th July 2022 at 6:00 PM.