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‘Democracy lives’ at UQ, but union president playing games

The right-wing president of the University of Queensland student union has refused to answer questions over why his ruling “Fresh” party secretly registered the name of a rival group and then installed his brother as a candidate for next week’s student elections.

Colin Finke, the Young LNP-linked union president drafted last year by campus Liberal powerbroker Brodie Thompson to sit atop the $16 million fiefdom, released a statement yesterday headed “Democracy alive and well at University of Queensland” in response to Crikey’s exclusive report on the fracas.

But despite inviting follow-up questions, he has dodged direct queries over why Fresh had registered the name of Pulse — the established brand of the progressive opposition. When the real Pulse submitted its ticket it was told by returning officers that the name had already been taken.

Finke’s brother is now believed to be running “against” Finke as a “Pulse” candidate.

Early this morning, the real Pulse hit back, alerting media to the fact they were unaware of the change until August 14, and by that stage the name had been snaffled.

The incumbents have simply stolen the name,” Lorelei Links, organiser of the “Democracy 4 UQU” movement, said. “When our team was rejected, we only had 48 hours to put together a totally new campaign, so our candidates decided to withdraw and no longer legitimise this corrupt process.”

Opposition councillor Flynn Rush attended the August 10 council meeting that passed the changes, but says he was physically denied access to printed copies of their text.

Voting will commence next week and dissidents have promised a wave of activism until democracy is restored.

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    Rebecca
    Posted Friday, 24 August 2012 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    There is clear evidence now that on the 10th of August, 2012, the UQ Union held an ‘emergency’ meeting in which part of section 105 of their electoral regulations was repealed. This section protected the names of political parties for 10 years - including names such as the former main opposition party ‘Pulse’. [I note that the regulations and constitution for the Union only became available on their website late yesterday afternoon.] After this protection was repealed, the name ‘Pulse’ was taken by a group of students who are closely associated with the current incumbent party ‘Fresh’. For instance, Mr Colin Finke’s (the current UQU ‘Fresh’ President) brother, Mr Kelvin Finke, is registered on the ‘Pulse’ ticket as running for the administrative committee (http://i50.tinypic.com/vxegk.jpg). Further, the UQ Skeptics have shown the close relations on Facebook between Colin Finke and Rohan Watt (the Fresh Presidential candidate for this year): http://i50.tinypic.com/110isy8.jpg.

    Notably, almost all of the members of the current ‘Pulse’ (fake) ticket attend either with Cromwell College (with Mr Finke) or St John’s College (with Mr Watt). Further, in an MX article earlier in the week (http://i48.tinypic.com/nl5z83.jpg) Mr Finke stated that he had never heard of one of the other ‘Pulse’ candidates, Mr Zac Draheim, despite Mr Draheim also attending Cromwell College and despite them both being Facebook friends and there being photos of the two together (available on Facebook). Mr Finke has refused to answer questions related to his involvement with the Pulse ticket, as reported by Crikey (http://tinyurl.com/ccc249m).

    One student, who was put down on the ticket as ‘Pulse’ Treasurer - Tristan Black of St John’s College - has said that he was tricked into signing up by a Fresh member. You can see a screenshot of his statement on Facebook here: http://i48.tinypic.com/24y91ma.jpg . It is quite clear that Pulse this year is a fake ticket created by students associated with Fresh, after they removed the electoral regulation protection of the name. This is supported by the fact that the people who are on this ticket have not come out and campaigned in the election at all.

    Fresh’ and the UQ Union are now posting a lot of spin on social media about the decision of the Electoral Tribunal (established under the UQU Constitution) on the evening of Thursday the 23rd of August which held that Fresh had not acted in breach of the regulations. This is 100% true in a legalistic sense. However, contrary to how Fresh and the UQU are portraying the ruling, this does not clear them of wrongdoing. It does not address any of the concerns which I outlined above. The Tribunal found that Fresh had not breached the electoral regulations - but that is because they set the electoral regulations to suit themselves. This does not mean that there will be a free and fair election.

    There are also serious concerns about the transparency of the review process. Currently there is no publicly accessible information as to who is on the Electoral Tribunal or how to contact them. There is no information about how one can make a complaint. And there are no details posted about when and where any hearings are held. Further, in relation to the Returning Officer for elections (currently a gym owner from Caboolture), they can be appointed with the approval of only a few of the inner cadre of party members. They are not truly independent, as they should be - given they oversee the conduct of elections.

    There are also a lot of false information flyers that have been strewn around the university. One claims to be from a 5th year student who is independent from any of the parties and merely wishes to inform students that the new Pulse ticket (despite the evidence I outlined above) is really just a factional split. The source of these flyers is not identified. There is a real concern that this - and other campaigning activities of the Union - are paid for out of university money. There are currently no publicly available audits of the Union or information as to what it’s money is being spent on. The Union’s current status as an unincorporated body means they are not subject to the same strict accounting measures.

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