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Candidates Front Up At Forum

Laura McQuillan



A-Team elsewhere, accused of racism
Clubs, student services and allegations of racism dominated discussion at last Thursday’s candidates forum in Union Hall.
The A-Team was noticeably absent from the forum, with only their Presidential candidate, Lukas Schroeter, showing up to address the audience – which was largely made up of candidates.
A-Team Council Rep candidate Jordan Williams told Salient their candidates were busy running two barbecues to meet and greet students, and that they had made plans for their event long before the forum was announced.
The Presidential candidates were the only portfolio fully in attendance. Current Education Vice President Joel Cosgrove talked on the importance of preserving student services – along with an analogy of his own experiences with the foodbank – and said he is prepared to lobby as hard as he needs to to get free internet and printing for students.
\\However, he did concede that students may need to pay a fee at the beginning of the year for the internet and printing, which other universities charge at around $40.
Current President Geoff Hayward told the audience that he’s not happy about having a $60,000 student loan, but he is proud to pay his VUWSA levy as he knows it’s being put to good use. Hayward said he won’t make promises he can’t keep, but said he wanted to be re-elected to deliver and improve the services that students need.
Schroeter, the A-Team candidate, spoke on the A-Team’s plans to refund all students $25, which he would personally put towards paying back his grandmother for the $100 she contributed to the banner’s campaign.
Schroeter said despite the A-Team’s lack of experience in student politics, they would be “very competent” if elected due to mainstream political experience. He said the group would be apolitical, but still able to represent students.
Schroeter came under fire for referring to the A-Team as high-quality candidates, with allegations of racism and homophobia by the team arising from audience members. He also said that the A-Team would scrap VUWSA Trust funding for the Campus Hub project, as current students should not have to pay for buildings and services for future students. Schroeter acknowledged that the Student Union Building was paid for by former students, but didn’t think it should be torn down instead of utilised by current and future students.
Acting Welfare Vice President Reverend Paul Danger Brown, running for Education Vice President, politely began by asking his competitor Mike Bridge if he’d like to speak first – despite Bridge not being in attendance. Brown said the Student Guide, Class Reps and students with disabilities are his main areas of focus for the role.
Neither candidate for Welfare Vice President was in attendance.
Current Treasurer Alexander Neilson, seeking re-election, said he’s looked at “all four versions of the [A-Team’s] budget and they have some very serious problems.” Neilson says that if re-elected, he would find it difficult to help implement the A-Team’s proposed budget, and believes student services should be maintained, rather than cut. Neilson also said he’s brought VUWSA “back onto its feet” after a huge deficit last year.
Georgina Dickson was the only Women’s Rights Officer candidate to turn up, of the three candidates. Dickson believes her experience as Acting WRO earlier this year would benefit her, if elected, and said she’s keen to expand Thursdays in Black, Orientation safe spaces and harassment policy and women’s activities, as well as working with UniQ. Dickson said “I tried my best not to go over other people’s posters”, unlike A-Team candidate Aimee Sanders, who postered over a Women’s Group poster.
International Officer candidate William Wu said domestic students, such as the A-Team’s Bradley Jacques, don’t understand or experience troubles faced by international students, and therefore would not be able to represent them as well.
Mark Wright, marketing himself as ‘The Gay Team’, and current Queer Rights Officer Rachael Wright both attended as Queer Rights Officer candidates. Mark Wright said he’s been involved in queer activities from a young age, “but I won’t go into details”, whilst Rachael Wright said part of her work is “being all-round fabulous”. Both are advocating for an extensive queer mentoring system.
Gecko member and Environmental Science student Mark Newton said an area of focusfor him is efficiency on campus, particularly Vic’s ambition of becoming New Zealand’s first carbon-neutral campus. Newton also believes that “the market doesn’t solve all environmental problems”, unlike other candidates.
Sonny Thomas provided entertainment aplenty in his addresses for both General Exec and Council Rep, with numerous digs at the A-Team – including telling the audience they should vote for those candidates who bothered to show up, as they care about winning and want to “expose the true intentions of a dirty little cult”. Thomas was told off by Returning Officer Andrea Reeves numerous times for interjecting and sly attacks on other candidates. As Council Rep, Thomas says he will “fight fee increases”, as well as getting more funding for Student Health to lessen delays seeing doctors, as well as focussing on environmental issues.
Matt Davis was the only Publications Committee candidate in attendance, and said he’d bring plenty of hands-on media experience to the role, having worked for The VBC and Dominion Post, and as a freelance journalist.
Seven General Executive candidates addressed the audience, with a focus on activities and clubs in most speeches. Seamus Brady, Robert Latimer, Fiona McDonald, Katie De Roo, Chris Smith and Stefan Tyler discussed political affiliations, potato-farming, student services, being pants-less and neo-colonialism.
The event was only announced at short notice two days earlier, following difficulties booking a room, which meant a minimal audience turnout.