As it is nearly impossible to not have noticed, by-elections have been held throughout the early part of this year. In effect, this meant that students could not get between buildings or pass through the plaza without having numerous ‘how to vote’ papers thrust in their general direction. Remember that? Oh, the blissful university experiences of mere months ago! The reason for having two unexpected by-elections since the start of the year was to replace the three members of student council who have resigned, two of which after the very first meeting of the year became a fiery shouting match.
Welfare Officer, Jason Byrne of Unity (Labor Right) led the charge against the National Labor Students’ Jack Harrison (NLS/Labor Left), resulting in Harrison’s departure (for reasons described in this previous article: https://empiretimes.com.au/2016/02/24/scturmoil/) which opened up one of the three positions fought for in the last elections. Byrne’s faction mate, Jordon O’Reilly was able to take up Harrison’s vacated position in the resulting by-election. Genevieve Danenberg of NLS issued her resignation at the same time from the position of General Secretary; Byrne ran for this position but was defeated by Simone Jowett of NLS. Jowett was not previously on the 2016 Student Council, and had Byrne acquired the General Secretary position, this would have resulted in yet another position (his position of Welfare Officer) being on the table in this myriad of by-election processes.
Several reports state that General Councillor Joshua Sunman (NLS) began a vote of no confidence in Harrison at a NLS caucus prior to the meeting. Sunman then defected very shortly after. He campaigned for Unity throughout this first by-election, and when asked by Empire Times about the by-election, he labelled the departing councillors (Harrison, Danenberg, and Queer Officer Alex Chen) as incompetent. He also claimed that (non-Flinders) campaigners from the other faction were making animal sounds during the election period, and although he did not name the faction, it is clear he refers to NLS (the faction from which he defected) since they were the only faction other than his own that campaigned. He added that these individuals were ‘heavily involved in Adelaide University student elections’, and labelled their actions ‘intimidatory’ (sic).
Also up for grabs was the the Queer Officer’s position. The then brand-new ‘Drive’ faction put up a candidate for this position, who was not successful. Drive was formed by Student Council President, Caleb Pattinson, who previously had been endorsed by NLS during the 2015 election that secured him the presidency. Pattinson attempted to get his new ‘independent faction’ off the ground but ultimately failed to secure any positions.
The second by-election was necessitated by Jordon O’Reilly’s successful bid for the Education Officer role during the first by-election, which left a vacancy for his previous role of General Councillor (GC) This by-election was won by Hillary Wigg of NLS, defeating her sole opposing candidate. Unity took several opportunities on the Facebook group ‘Overheard at Flinders University’ to take hypocritical swipes at the other faction for campaigning in this election, (in which Unity themselves did not field a candidate), taking full opportunity to criticise the by-election, which they were in fact responsible for due to O’Reilly’s upgrade from the vacant GC position.
It is understood by Empire Times that NLS (who campaigned as the now disbanded faction ‘Activate’) lost their bid for Education Officer by only a small margin due to a failure to strike deals with other factions. It is not entirely unexpected that this should be the case as the council has become increasingly divided and aggressive along factional lines.
The by-election processes resulted in Unity succeeding and gaining higher positions than they previously held at the outset of the year, whereas NLS have experienced both loss and gain; despite the by-election shake up, the factions that once held power still do. When it comes to the Flinders Hub of Cards, the deck may have been shuffled, but has much actually changed?
Words by Liam McNally, Eleanor Danenberg, and Simone Corletto.