Wreaths 2.0

31 May 2013

A motion to lay a wreath at the Shrine of Remembrance for ANZAC Day has again been defeated in Students’ Council, with only three votes in its favour.

The motion was brought by Charlie Cartney, NOW! Councillor and Policy Officer of the Melbourne University Liberal Club (MULC) and seconded by James Duncan, also a member of MULC. Discussion around the debate lasted for about 30 minutes, at the end of which the only Student Councillors that voted in its favour were the three NOWcouncillors, all members of MULC.

Cartney said that laying a wreath would be a chance for “UMSU to become a leader for other student unions,” and that it would commemorate returned servicemen, including students of the University of Melbourne and their “contributions to the democracy that we all enjoy today”.

Eric Gardiner, one of the UMSU Arts Officers, was the first to speak to the motion in a pre-prepared speech, saying that “this and similar motions in Students’ Council pose a threat to the integrity of the Student Union”.
Gardiner accused the Liberal club of “cretinous behaviour” and bringing the motion with the aim of damaging the reputation of the Student Union.

Gardiner suggested in his speech that it would be more appropriate to donate $200 to a charity such as Legacy Australia, but warned of starting a precedent of the union donating to various charities. He asked Cartney to answer whether he was “usingANZAC Day for the purposes of base political brinkmanship”.

Left Action Councillor Patrick Alves also spoke against the motion, as did Independent Media Councillor Sarina Murray, both accusing Cartney of “disingenuous” motives in bringing the motion. Jade Eckhaus, a student observer present at the meeting said that the union should not support the motion, because ANZAC Day is a continuation of “nationalism and imperialism”.

Justin Boyd, of the Labor Right faction, said that students were already represented because the University of Melbourne lays its own wreath, and also suggested that the union make a donation instead.

In the meeting, Cartney responded to the discussion by saying he was “very offended” at the attacks on his motives, and that “My intentions are about the best interest of the student union”.

Cartney rejected the suggestion to move a motion to donate $200 to charity instead. He explained to Farrago that “the way I was treated by the councillors [in a] planned offensive attack on myself” made the amendment impossible. He also pointed out that other councillors could have moved the amendment, but chose not to. He also said that a wreath would be “more representative of students” and their wishes.

This month’s motion is yet another chapter in UMSU’s bizarre history with ANZAC Day wreaths. A similar motion was brought last year, when then UMSU President Mark Kettle said doing so would “glorify war”. The issue was taken up by the mainstream media, and MULC held a bake sale to raise funds to buy a wreath to lay on behalf of students.

It’s common practice for trade unions and student unions not to lay wreaths at the Shrine of Remembrance on ANZAC Day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *