The UQU elections are happening. That two weeks of the year when regular uni students get to dodge their politically active peers. Where campaigners run around like energiser bunnies, their brightly coloured T-Shirts emblazoned with bold verbs holding some tenuous connection to the party’s ideals. Don’t worry, if you can’t figure out the link they’ll repeat it for you on the thousands of flyers that will be scattered across campus at the end of each day. Arguments about which is more necessary: cheap drinks or union accountability?
Don’t get me wrong – I think student politics is important. There has to be a system for ensuring that students are represented by people who are passionate about the same issues and innovations as the majority of the student population. I’m sure there are other ways to achieve that, and I’d certainly love it if student politics wasn’t just a playground for Young ALP and Young LNP to fight it out and stack their resumes. But overall, it is mostly successful in making sure that parties are happening, clubs and socs are funded, and the latest big cool food chain makes it onto campus.
Bandying arguments about corruption, or inability to throw a financially sustainable party is one thing. These statements are pretty harmless, and probably actually result in a better informed electorate. The thing that has made me absolutely sick about this year’s campaign is the use of the new Abilities Officer portfolio as a political ping pong ball. Individuals from both major parties have done this, while the other parties have decided that, lacking the expertise, their voices on the issue are unhelpful and unnecessary. Only one party has put up candidates and had nothing more to say on the issue.
Some Reform campaigners have noted that Reform created, or even will be creating an Abilities Collective. It has existed since 2014, and taking ownership of that victory away from the students who achieved it for a political win is pretty gross. But that was a misunderstanding of the issue by individual campaigners, while the official materials, and the candidates themselves, have been completely on the ball with their dialogue.
I was hoping the same was true of Thrive. Following more research, all I can say is that putting up a candidate for an Abilities Officer, a role designed to represent one of the most marginalised groups at university, who has no plans for what they would do in that role, is disgusting.
When I tried to find communicate via Facebook with one of Thrive’s candidates, my comments were deleted, and my messages ignored. I cannot find any reference to any policies regarding students with disabilities. Having checked their Facebook page, the unofficial compilation of policies, and their presidential statement, as well as messaging one of their candidates, I really don’t know where else to go.
I am very glad that Thrive’s candidates for that office have apparently not felt unsupported or disadvantaged by their disabilities throughout their university experience. That is absolutely fantastic to hear. But I am absolutely horrified that these students might be using their experience of disability as a political tool, rather than an opportunity to harness their position to advocate for other students with disabilities.
If Thrive really couldn’t find any students who were passionate about improving accessibility and agreed with the party’s other policies, why didn’t they just not run candidates? The other parties, not having passionate and relevant candidates, were perfectly happy to leave this to the people put up by the incumbent (people who are active within the Abilities Collective).
The only information I have received about Thrive’s candidates is that they believe the officer position, and the collective, should be abolished. As this didn’t come from them, I don’t know how true this is. But if it is true, it is deeply inappropriate for these candidates to run for a position that they don’t think should exist, without any intention to work for the students the portfolio aims to empower. It is a deliberate deception. I thought they were better than that.
Even if that information is fabricated, I don’t think I can trust a party to advocate for students with disabilities if they don’t even warrant a single policy point or Facebook graphic. If you’re not interested in the issues these students face, don’t pretend to be by putting up candidates.
Strike one up for a swing voter being 100% turned off your party.
If you have information about any of the above being incorrect, I’d love to hear it so that I can make any necessary edits to ensure that this article is as accurate as possible! Comment here, or message me on Facebook.