** UPDATE: This article was initially published online in Issue 18 of Craccum. Craccum would like to acknowledge that Oliver Murphy was not given an opportunity to respond to comments in this article. The page has been updated to include his comments; we apologise for the error **
Oliver Murphy is running for the position of AUSA Campaign Officer unopposed, after proposed changes to scrap the position were voted against in a special general meeting. Murphy is running a minimal campaign and he has not announced any policies. Instead, Murphy seems to be pinning his election hopes on the fact that there are no other candidates for students to vote for.
The Campaigns Officer is paid 10 hours a week, and is responsible for engaging students and organising the AUSA elections each year. AUSA planned to scrap the position, saying the role was effectively doubling up on another role that already existed – the Engagement Vice-President, who is also responsible for engaging students and organising the AUSA elections. They wanted to save the money and use it elsewhere in the budget.
However, when students were asked to vote on whether they wanted to scrap the role in an online Special General Meeting held this week, Murphy and Young ACT President Felix Poole, who had nominated Murphy for the role, convinced students to vote against the motion.
They said that, in their opinion as students, they believed the role was still necessary to increase engagement across campus. The motion to remove the position was subsequently defeated 69% to 31% (there must be a 75% majority for any changes to the constitution to pass).
Murphy will now be running for the paid role of AUSA Campaigns Officer unopposed. It is the only role in this year’s election which has gone unopposed.
While Murphy had set up a Facebook page to promote his candidacy, it did not outline any policies he would enact if elected. It only called for people to attend the special general meeting to support keeping the Campaigns Officer role, and endorsed Arts Students Organisation President Daniel Barraclough’s candidacy for AUSA President.
Murphy had declined to send a short candidate biography, which would have introduced himself and told students what work he would do if elected into the paid position, when asked by AUSA.
He and Poole did not state in the special general meeting that Murphy is running for the position if it was not removed.
Two students who attended the meeting were “surprised” to hear that Murphy was running for the role, and were even more surprised to hear he was running unopposed. Both students voted in favour of keeping the role, but said they would not have voted the same way if Murphy and Poole had made it clear in the meeting that Murphy was running for the position unopposed.
Another student who attended the special general meeting speculated to Craccum that Murphy had probably run for the Campaigns Officer role (and advocated for it not to be disestablished) purely so he could “cash in on an easy 10 hours a week, no work required, no job references”. “The irony of the campaigns officer not bothering to run a campaign is hilarious,” they said, “honestly, it’s so fucking cheeky”.
However, Murphy, in a statement to Craccum disputed this notion, stating that “during the SGM, not only did I argue for why I believe that the position is important and can benefit the organisation, but I also outlined what that role could do. While it is true I did not mention that I was running for the position at the SGM, it was no secret, and mentioning that I was would only have strayed from the debate from the argument that the position is important regardless of who fills that role”.
Murphy went to further state “the fact that this is the only uncontested position is not my fault, and the barriers in place that discouraged others from running only shows that I deserve the role. I took a risk running for that position and although I have not run a large campaign, I have done a lot of work talking to AUSA members to convince them that the position must be saved at the SGM. I fought to keep that important position not because it was uncontested, I chose to run for it and to save it before I knew if anyone else was running for it. This was not a grand scheme that my criticisers seem to be trying to make it out to be.”
A Facebook page calling for people to vote no confidence in the Campaigns Officer vote was created shortly after the meeting. A no confidence vote would force a re-election, during which other candidates could challenge for the role. The page said it was important students had a choice in who their Campaigns Officer was; it has since been removed.
Murphy told Craccum he is pleased to see the position remain in the executive. He believed that there is no conflict of interest for Poole to support retaining the Campaigns Officer role at the meeting.
“He [Poole] stated that he’s always considered the role to be important, as have others, and I think the fact that he thought I would be a good choice for the role doesn’t change that.”
Murphy also said he is open to the chances of facing a new electoral process.
“The position was a risk to run for, and if other people were committed to getting the position they would’ve got in and fought for it.”
“If it [a re-election] happens it happens, it’s an important position that has an opportunity to do good, regardless of who is in it.”
Poole told Craccum he also does not believe there’s a conflict of interest in him advocating to keep the role, whilst also nominating Murphy for the Campaigns Officer role. He says there is no need for there to be another election.
“They are two separate democratic processes. I support keeping Campaigns Officer and I support Ollie [Murphy] for Campaigns Officer. I see them as two separate things and I just happen to support both positions.”
“He [Murphy] essentially had to go through a Special General Meeting and publicly talk about his position and publicly try to keep the role. I think he’s got the democratic mandate to do the job.”
AUSA Acting Treasurer-Secretary George Barton said it was pleasing to see student democracy in action even though the membership didn’t vote through removing the Campaigns Officer role.
“The membership rejected the role’s removal out of a desire to increase student engagement and that has to be respected.”
“I hope the role fulfills that mission next year.”
Other proposed constitutional changes by the current AUSA executive included establishing a Postgraduate Officer on the executive, as well as disestablishing the Satellite Campuses Representative and Design Officer roles. Students voted in favour of all these changes, but voted against disestablishing the Campaigns Officer role after Murphy and Poole spoke for just short of 15 minutes on the issue.