The National Union of Students got $89,482 less in affiliation fees in 2015 than it did last year, as campuses like Sydney University voted to reduce the money they send the national body.

Affiliation fees have long been a controversial issue at student unions, with some campuses receiving discounts while others paid the bulk of NUS’ expenses. But a financial statement distributed to delegates yesterday and seen by Crikey shows NUS has curbed spending, posting its first net surplus ($117,020) in some years despite the lower affiliation fees, which comprise most of its income. Wages and employee entitlements were significantly curbed, though expenditure on elected office bearers remained steady, and the amount spent on office bearers’ mobile phones rose from $3925 to $9362 over the year. The body spent only $25,644 on campaign costs, down from the $32,421 it spent in 2014.

Yesterday kicked off the start of its yearly (and rowdy) national conference, where delegates from affiliated universities hone their skills in political skullduggery while fighting over paid office bearer positions, which set the body’s direction for the rest of the year. As is customary, one of the first motions passed by NUS banned all photography and video from the conference floor (narrowly passing to cries of “shame” with bloc votes from the Labor Right [Unity] and Left [National Labor Students], who comprise the bulk of votes on the conference floor). Not that there’s much shocking about that — it’s almost always one of the first motions passed at the conference. The other customary motion is to extend the conference floor to wherever people head outside to smoke — that way the conference doesn’t keep losing quorum.

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Peter Fray

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