Words by Tom Haskell, Jenny Nguyen, and Jesse Davidson
Sources within the Adelaide University Liberal Club have told On Dit about a growing disaffection amongst members. This comes after a tumultuous election campaign which saw very few office-bearing positions won, a homophobic slur from a senior member, and the resignation of an executive-level member.
The senior member (who we have decided not to name) was alleged to have remarked to a member of the ‘Unite’ Labor Right faction that they were unable to secure a significant number of votes due to their religious affiliation and sexuality. Although the senior member is currently an elected member representative of the Adelaide University Union, the member’s actions were entirely private and are in no way representative or aligned to the Adelaide University Union.
According to one of our sources, the incident was alleged to have occurred in the urinals of the UniBar on the Friday night of student elections. It is alleged that the senior AULC member approached the member of Unite stating that he was unable to secure the ‘Muslim vote’ because he was ‘gay’.
While this has caused a ripple of anger amongst members of the student political community, it has mostly imploded on the Adelaide University Liberal Club. While there were some immediate reactions of disgust from other members of the AULC on the night of the incident, most of the factional disaffection has been stewing in the days since the incident.
On Dit has received a number of comments on this matter from sources within the AULC who have asked to remain anonymous.
One such member has stated that although an apology was offered to the Labor member, this apology was a “subpar non-apology, [it] was substantially inadequate and reflects a greater malice and unremorseful nature of the senior member”. They further said that the member’s actions were “absolutely appalling and disgraceful. What was said extends further than political banter and is a disgustingly unnecessary attack on someone who is well respected amongst students at Adelaide.”
Another member has told On Dit that another senior member with the AULC had signalled intent to resign if the other senior member were to be disciplined for their actions on the Friday night. Such responses are indicative that the club is in disrepute over its key principles which dictate their responses to these incidents.
Unite, the Labor Right faction involved in the incident, has also provided a comment to On Dit:
“Unite does not tolerate racism or homophobia in any forms and we are especially repulsed by the comments made by a senior member of the Liberal Club against one of our candidates. These actions are indicative of a broader problem in the Liberal Club, and are especially disturbing within the context of the current marriage equality survey. The Liberal Club ought to strongly reconsider the direction of their club, perhaps by seeing the exit of more of its senior members. It is clear that this sort of behavior is, intentionally or not, encouraged, given the lack of decisive action by leadership.”
Another source within the AULC who also spoke to On Dit described the behaviour as “utterly disrespectful, vile, racist, and homophobic”.
“Not only does it look bad upon them and the [Adelaide University Liberal] Club but also on the AUU Board.”
The source reiterated that this behaviour is not representative of the members and believes the club ought to distance itself from what happened. In addition to the Friday event, the source also inferred that last year’s unsuccessful campaign was largely attributed to the poor leadership of its senior members.
This incident comes off the back of a fairly disappointing election which saw Swipe Right (the AULC-backed ticket) claim one position on the AUU Board, one position on the SRC, and one NUS delegate.
Despite the fact that they had managed to put up a valiant effort on their own, all other 17 candidates that ran for a position on behalf of Swipe Right were either defeated in a two-horse race, excluded in the first round of counting for three-horse races, or excluded from multi-position elections such as NUS and general councillors. This means that apart from the position on AUU Board, the AULC was unable to secure any notable office-bearing positions.
In past years, the AULC has typically fared much better; however in this year’s elections they failed to make a deal with one of the other four factions, essentially locking themselves out of the contest unless they could ensure a solid individual effort.
The President of the Adelaide University Liberal Club, Leighton McDonald-Stuart, has declined to comment to On Dit on these matters.
The senior member involved in the incident could not be reached for comment prior to publication.
The President of the AULC, Leighton McDonald-Stuart, has since issued a statement in response:
“In response to your article, I wish to make the following facts clear:
The Adelaide University Liberal Club fought a valiant effort in this year’s student elections, having recorded our highest primary vote in recent history. With 3 members elected, this eclipses the effort last year where the AULC was in a coalition with the Progress ticket.
With 35 volunteers assisting us in this year’s election, the AULC is very proud of its efforts.
This year we have totally eclipsed the primary votes of Left Action and Unite, which leaves us as the third biggest ticket in student elections. This can hardly be considered a failure. Unite’s success has only come about by riding on the coat tails of Progress.
I completely reject your unfounded assertion that the AULC is in “chaos”. Our entire club is celebrating our robust efforts and united focus. The AULC is the strongest it has been in many years with over 100 members — far more than any other political club on campus.
As you can understand, I will not be making commentary on internal matters at this time.”