For the second time the ECU Guild has not met quorum at their Annual General Meeting, thus not allowing for the rescheduled meeting to occur.
In the opening of the meeting it was revealed that for the proceedings to go ahead one more senator was required to be in attendance. The only two senators who were not in attendance and had not proxied their votes were Lewis Todman (Vice President Academic) and Kelsey Fields (Environmental Sustainability Officer).
Before the meeting could enter the mandatory 30-minute grace period, Thomas Freeman (a previous guild senator and now ECU representative for the NUS) asked to make a statement on behalf of absent Todman. The Chairman, Simon Waddilove, asked if Todman had proxied his vote to Freeman, to which Freeman answered no.
Waddilove proceeded to say that he would not accept a statement at this time. Despite this Freeman began to read Todman’s statement, “The attempt to have Lewis and Kelsey removed from the senate is a right-wing attack on student activism and democracy from Liberal-aligned students who lost the election…”
Freeman was called to order by Waddilove, who then announced that the meeting had entered a 30-minute grace period. Freeman assured the meeting that Fields and Todman were not going to attend.
Following the grace period the quorum was still not reached. Statements (such as the one Freeman wished to present on behalf of Todman) were not allowed due to quorum not being reached.
On a live feed of the meeting filmed by past guild President, Lewis Price, Chairman Waddilove expressed that, “we are entering unchartered waters if we do not hold this AGM.” He explained that in the constitution it specifically states that the senate must hold the AGM by the 30th of April.
As the guild inches closer to being in breach of the constitution the outcome of this violation is unclear. Waddilove said outcomes that can occur from this could involve the university withholding funding, as the guild is not meeting obligations to students, and/or students may call an early general election.
Since the meeting, a petition calling for a Special General Meeting has been made. The purpose of the petition being to ensure that the business, which would of occurred at the AGM can finally be underway.
Also circulating is the full statement written by Todman, which Freeman tried to speak, it reads:
“The attempt to have myself and Kelsey removed from the Senate is a right-wing attack on student activism and democracy from Liberal-aligned students who lost the election.
We have a federal government determined to squeeze every dollar they can out of students. They have tried three times to deregulate fees, meaning fees could skyrocket to as high as $100,000. In the May budget they will be raising fees by 25%. Student fees have more than tripled since 1990 (after inflation). To vulnerable students, like single parents and the poor, that much debt could deter them from going to university.
The recent cuts to penalty rates are the biggest pay cut to hospitality and retail workers since the Great Depression. Students disproportionately work in these fields, and need penalty rates to pay their way through uni.
The first duty of any student representative is to fight these attacks tooth and nail. Myself and Kelsey promised we would do that, and have done so. For the first time in years, we’ve had student representatives who care about the big issues affecting students, and crucially who support the national union of students, the only organisation we have to stand up for our rights at a national level.
Last year we won the election with an overwhelming majority, with the highest voter turnout at ECU in over a decade. The response by the losers, was to try to have the university overturn the result, to accuse me of assaulting another student in an attempt to have him expelled (helpfully disproven by CCTV) and other undemocratic attacks.
This meeting, where a handful of students has the power to overturn the vote of over 800, is just the latest undemocratic move in the series. The accusations against myself and Kelsey are so petty they don’t warrant a mention.
For these reasons, I will not be attending this farce of a meeting today.”
The events at today’s meeting have caused much upset and anger amongst students and guild interest groups.
The Facebook page, ‘ECU Student Guild Watchdog’ has expressed that the actions made today by absent senators is “an abuse of their elected positions, an abuse of the constitution they are happy to uphold when it suits them, an abuse of students’ time and an abuse of students’ money.”
The Watchdog wants to see the guild’s constitution changed so, “the quorum threshold is lowered so this cannot happen again. And there should be a provision for the membership to remove the entire Senate.”
Todman and the guild party he belongs to, Activate, have been contacted for comment on today’s failed AGM but have made no response.