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Naughty Rory moves into kamikaze mode
VUWSA Clubs and Activities Officer Rory McNamara (“Naughty Rory”) has lodged a formal complaint about the recent VUWSA referendum in which members voted to rejoin the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA).
In the referendum, which took place 22–24 September, 1251 students voted to retain VUWSA’s membership of NZUSA (72 per cent), while 476 students voted to withdraw.
Naughty Rory lodged the complaint with the Secretary and Returning Officer ten minutes before the deadline, after securing five student signatures.
He alleges that contrary to VUWSA election rules, pro-NZUSA figures—including President Rory McCourt and MPs Grant Robertson and Jan Logie—continued to post “vote to stay” messages on Facebook during the voting period, potentially tainting the results.
Naughty Rory further alleges that NZUSA, which compiled a sizeable war chest through donations from its alumni, breached the campaign spending limit of $250.
The complaint will now go through a comically convoluted adjudication process. First, the Secretary will forward the complaint to the VUWSA General Manager. The General Manager will then send the complaint to the VUWSA Elections Committee. The Elections Committee must then appoint three independent arbitrators, each with legal experience; and the arbitrators will assess the merits of the complaint, including holding a hearing if necessary.
The arbitrators must then decide whether, in light of the complaints, the result was “valid”. If they find that the result was not “valid”, the VUWSA Executive must vote on whether to accept the arbitrators’ judgement and hold a fresh election.
The process itself is riddled with holes and uncertainties. The VUWSA Constitution does not provide any definition of a “valid” or “invalid” result, and the arbitrators are not required to publish their reasons—meaning the decision could be completely arbitrary.
Moreover, it is unclear whether the election rules—in particular the spending limits—even apply to referenda, or only to elections.
Finally, it is unclear whether a finding that the result was “invalid” would mean the referendum would need to be held again, or whether in fact the entire election must be re-run. Gosh, that would be fun wouldn’t it.
VUWSA is not currently a member of NZUSA, having officially withdrawn on 23 September. It cannot re-join until the referendum result is confirmed—a process that, with Naughty Rory’s complaint outstanding, may now take several weeks.
If the complaint is upheld and the Executive vote to re-hold the referendum, VUWSA will be unable to rejoin NZUSA until March at the earliest, as any new referendum must be held during the teaching period.
New OUSA regime may rejoin
The Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA) has kicked out current President Paul Hunt and installed a new, Young Labour-influenced regime.
The move augurs well for NZUSA, which historically is closely aligned with the Labour Party. Hunt, who was running for re-election, had been notably hostile to NZUSA, and OUSA was scheduled to withdraw from the national body this November.
However, last week the “Real Change” ticket, led by President-elect Laura Harris, took out nine of the 11 positions on the 2016 OUSA Executive.
“Real Change” was backed by Labour figures including Dunedin North MP David Clark, and contains at least two members of Young Labour.
OUSA opting to rejoin NZUSA, though far from guaranteed, would be a positive development for VUWSA given the latter’s recent decision to rejoin.
Such a move would help ensure the viability of an organisation to which VUWSA is now manacled for the foreseeable future.
Harris received over 1500 votes (35 per cent of votes cast), ahead of Hunt on 1173 votes (27 per cent).