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How Labor Stole The Greens

Early last year, Sheldon Oski, the 2011 MSA Secretary and well-known Australian Labor Party member on campus, registered the name ‘The Greens’ as an MSA election ticket.

Oski is also a key power-broker and organiser of the ALP-dominated student political group ‘Go!’, which has successfully contested the MSA elections over the past 8 years. His registering ‘The Greens’ meant that he could prevent anybody else from using the name in the upcoming MSA elections (including students who are actually Greens party members), and to exploit the Australian Greens’ reputation in order to direct unwitting voters’ preferences to his party. He almost got away with it.

Oski pulled off what would seem an impossible feat during an MSA by-election that never really happened. The by-election was for a handful of committee positions made vacant by elected students who failed to ever turn up to committee meetings. It was a non-event. It was announced on an isolated noticeboard in the MSA, meaning that few students were aware of it, and the number of students who nominated neatly filled each vacant position, so no election was necessary.

According to the MSA Election Regulations, for every general election and every by-election, students can register ‘ticket’ or party names. At this non-existent by-election, Oski registered ‘The Greens’ without any students who were members of the Greens knowing. Therefore no-one appealed the decision of the Returning Officer (RO) to allow Oski’s election ticket name.

One month later in May, another by-election was held, and was slightly more publicised. This time, student members of the real Greens noticed Oski’s name attached to ‘The Greens’ ticket name, and immediately appealed the name to the RO – the person appointed to oversee an election – on the basis that Oski was an ALP member and that this was deceptive. The RO refused to hear the appeal, as it had not been appealed immediately following the first by-election. This decision was also appealed, but the RO held strong on her original decision. The RO was Freya Logan, another ALP member and the 2012 MSA Secretary elected on the ‘Go!’ ticket. She is now MSA President.

Logan’s decision to disallow the appeal was then re-appealed to a higher body, the Electoral Tribunal, where all appeals against RO decisions are heard.

The Electoral Tribunal upheld the RO’s decision, as the Election Regulations dictated that there is a time limit to appeal ticket names which was not met.

In the meantime, Oski began sneakily pretending that he was actually a member of the Australian Greens. He changed his Facebook profile picture to a Greens-friendly image, and changed his ‘political views’ on his Facebook profile to ‘The Australian Greens’.

The MSA’s Annual Elections happen in September each year. Votes in these elections decide which political group runs the MSA in the following year. Last year, the MSA employed ROs from outside the MSA – from the election company OGL – to run the elections. The Directors of OGL are the 1998 MSA President Gavin Ryan and the 2001 MSA President Luke Hilakari, both from the same Labor faction as the leadership of today’s Go! group. They appointed Chris McDermott as RO, who is also a former student union president from Latrobe University, and from the same Labor faction as many Go! members.

When the MSA’s Annual Elections started to get into full swing in early August, some students began to expose Oski’s deceptive antics on Facebook. Sensing that his game was up, but hoping that he might still be able to control the ‘The Greens’ name during the upcoming election, Oski transferred the registered ticket name to his friend and fellow Go! member Brendan Jellie.

Students appealed this tactical manoeuvre, but it was again denied.

McDermott’s decision to uphold his decision to allow the re-registering and transfer of Oski’s ‘The Greens’ to Jellie was also then appealed to the Electoral Tribunal. By the time McDermott organised an Electoral Tribunal, three weeks had passed, meaning that even if an appeal was to be won, it would be too late for the actual Greens to run in the election as ‘The Greens’, with enough time to organise a proper campaign.

Nevertheless, the Electoral Tribunal did finally rule against Oski and Jellie, finding in favour of the real Greens supporters on-campus. The Tribunal ruled that Oski’s ticket name was indeed “misleading” and “deceptive”, going further and stating that “the RO [McDermott] should have considered whether the re-registration of the Greens ticket was misleading and deceptive as a matter of good practice.”

So while Labor/Go! members failed to use ‘The Greens’ name to deceptively harvest votes and direct preferences towards their Labor-dominated ‘Go!’ ticket, they did manage to prevent The real Greens from running in the MSA elections last year. Welcome to democracy – Labor style.

Shocked by the trickery and dishonesty exhibited by members of the Labor party and of the student union – being dominated by the same Labor students – Greens members and supporters launched the ‘Monash Greens on Campus’ as a political club at the end of last year. In the lead up to both the Federal and student union elections, we encourage all supporters to get in contact with us on greens@monashclubs.org and become involved in the struggle for a more democratic, socially just and environmentally sustainable Monash and Australia.

Ali Majokah

The author Ali Majokah

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