Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 17. 19th July 1972
Democracy is Dead
Democracy is Dead
Last Tuesday's S.G.M. passed a motion to send $2,000 to the Vietnam Aid Appeal. The meeting procedure and methods of voting were, however, a shambles and a farce. Although the motion was finally passed 793 to 762 'democracy' as a viable system within the Students Association is now dead. Motions of no-confidence in both President Peter Cullen and Vice-President Mike McKinley are pending.
The motion to send the $2000 was put to the meeting amidst a chorus of chanting, jeering and angry demands from the large opposition group. A large proportion of this group then refused to participate in a democratic count until warned that if they did not vote the money would go anyway.
Henry Stubbs, the mover of the first motion at the meeting, to send no money to the appeal, denounced this group's attempts to obstruct the voting and the procedure of the meeting. He said he moved the original motion to see what the popular feeling was, at a well-publicised S.G.M. He said that because the feeling of the meeting was clearly against his motion not to send the money, he would vote for the second motion, moved by Alick Shaw, to send the $2000. He too was jeered.
The strong arm tactics of people like Mike McKinley and John Mowbray in refusing to accept the chairman's decision and the scrutineers' count after the first motion was lost, served to arouse further an already discontented crowd of supporters.
This fourth S.G.M. this year was held to ratify the decision of an earlier S.G.M. (attended by 130 people) to donate $2000 to the Vietnam Aid Appeal. Tuesday's S.G.M. was held because people thought the decision of 130 students was unrepresentative and on grounds of financial irresponsibility. Henry Stubbs and his supporters argued that student money should be used for student purposes.
At the meeting, Peter Cullen assured students that the Students Association could afford to send the $2000. An argument that this money would not get to Vietnam and would not be used for medical aid was effectively answered by Lindsay Wright a member of the organising committee to send the money.
The first motion was put to the meeting and declared lost by the Chairman, Cullen. A division was called for and Cullen asked people to move to either side of the Rankine-Brown courtyard so a count co could be taken. The scrutineers all agreed that the motion had been lost, 3-2
Mike McKinley and others vociferously disputed this decision. McKinley moved to disagree with Cullen's ruling; this motion was also declared lost by Peter Boshier who had taken the chair. At this stage the meeting nearly degenerated into utter chaos. Cullen ineptly tried to bring the meeting to order amidst chanting and jeering. He was not assisted by all the people who hung round the microphone and screamed suggestions. The losers called for a referendum but this was declared unconstitutional.
Alick Shaw was then called to move the second motion reaffirming the decision to send the $2000. Opponents of his motion jeered and screamed throughout his short speech and then tried to shout Cullen down when he attempted to put the motion Scrutineers were appointed to count and again the supporters of the first motion tried to obstruct the count. John Mowbray refused to be a scrutineer, being content to inspire his supporters to disrupt the meeting. When Cullen called for a division, a group refused to move to one side so that a count could be made. Cullen finally decided that everyone would have to file past the scrutineers and be counted that way.
But the opponents of Shaw's motion refused to be counted. In a typically fascist way they kept on demanding a vote and then refused to accept the solution offered. While the supporters of the motion moved off quietly to be counted, those against held up the count for well over twenty minutes. Vice-president Mike McKinley was one of those who seemed unable to accept defeat and he had many supporters. McKinley was one of the last to vote. Finally the motion was declared carried 793 for and 762 against. It is not clear how many people voted twice.
The most disturbing thing about the S.G.M. was the gross irresponsibility displayed by the people who were constantly defeated throughout. John Mowbray and his mates who tried to disrupt the whole proceedings deserve the contempt of every student for their ghoulish tactics. Finally every student has the right to expect that the executive of this association will assist the President in conducting meetings properly. Mike McKinley failed badly in this respect. After the PBEC demonstrations he argued that executive members had a responsibility to support the President in handling difficult situations. That was his argument in favour of a vote of no confidence in H.T.Lee. At the S.G.M. his behaviour showed him to be a hypocrite.