On the 15th of May 2017, the Adelaide University Union Clubs Committee cancelled the membership of the Whitlam Club. This decision comes after a string of controversial policy changes enacted by AUU president, Brodie Scott.
The Whitlam Club
According to its constitution, The Whitlam Club is a political club which aims to facilitate democratic socialism amongst student activists on campus. The club’s objectives also include recruiting candidates to run in student elections, promoting progressive values and “influencing the policies of the Australian Labor Party” (which is pretty evident, given the club’s namesake).
The club was provisionally registered in November 2015 and was due to graduate to full registration after a year of being an active club. In a twisted turn of events, the club have since had their registration pulled by the Clubs Committee.
The Clubs Committee
Clubs Committee is an administrative arm of the Adelaide University Union Board that deals with the registration of clubs, approves funding for events and reports back to the AUU Board.
Member appointments are a result of a highly politicised internal election process that is scheduled in late November. Their tenure lasts for a year.
Chaired by AUU Board director Jennifer Li, the Clubs Committee consists of five voting members: the AUU President, Clubs Chair, Clubs Administrator and 2 Clubs representatives.
The two clubs representatives are Oscar Ong and Patrick Imaysay. Ong was nominated by the University of Adelaide Multicultural Society while Imaysay received his nomination from the Whitlam Club. Imaysay was among one of the only allies for the Whitlam Club on Clubs Committee; he was especially vocal in arguing against the club’s deregistration.
It is worth noting that Li, Scott and Ong ran and were elected to their current positions on the AUU Board and and Clubs Committee via the political ticket Progress.
The Whitlam Club also run in student elections under the political ticket Activate.
Normally, deregistration occurs if a club:
- has broken the rules (misuse of club funds, failed to fill out their application in due time)
- is inactive and no longer provides for its student members
On Dit approached the Clubs Administrator to ask if The Whitlam Club have engaged in improper conduct during their provisional registration period. We have learned that the Whitlam Club have operated within the AUU rules and have been active with member events since their inception.
President of the Whitlam Club, Iacovos Digenis, says the club has faced numerous “unfounded, contradictory and deeply biased accusations” from the Clubs Committee. The Whitlam Club was singled out by the Committee during last year’s re-registration period on grounds that their relationship with the Australian Labor Party does not make the club unique. The 1955 historic ideological split of the ALP means that the party is organised along factional lines; this is no different at campus level politics. The Whitlam Club can be characterised as Labor Left while the Adelaide University Labor Club is characterised as Labor Right.
Considering the fact that at the time of their registration over a year ago, there were no questions raised about the Club’s legitimacy or uniqueness, it therefore seems peculiar to question it now.
So far in, the decision to make the Whitlam Club redundant is adding up to be a carefully calculated, political move.
Intense relations between the presidents of the AUU and the SRC — which lead to President Scott blocking President Pace from filling a casual vacancy on the AUU Board-— may have influenced the decision to deregister the Whitlam club. It is worth noting that SRC President Pace was an active member of the Whitlam Club, formerly serving as the club’s treasurer.
Conflicts of Interest
Considering the fact that three of five from the voting committee is affiliated to Progress, neither Li, Scott or Ong declared their conflict of interest at the Clubs’ Committee meeting. When Scott was questioned about the meeting, he responded to On Dit with the following.
“Regarding the Whitlam Club, I am not part of any such decision regarding its registration status. I have complete trust that the Clubs Committee thoroughly deliberates on all available information when making these sorts of decisions. I also have trust that the Clubs Committee will make its decisions in the interests of the wider student body.”
This ought to worry clubs that may share some similarities with other clubs. The Clubs Committee have proven that they have got the numbers to push through the changes that they see fit.
The deregistration of a club will isolate members from accessing student union resources to build membership, run events and exist in an official capacity on campus.
On Dit looked through the AUU Clubs list to see if any other clubs share the same characteristics. Our super-scientific method includes CTRL+F to find similar buzzwords. These are our results.