Feeder tickets, the bane of student unions. Ever since I started being a part of student politics, I’ve always pondered over why we would ever need a system like this. I just assumed they must be of benefit to the system in some way I have not been enlightened about. But alas, now I can safely say that, in my humble opinion, they are nothing more than tools to increase the major party’s hold in the election.
The stench of bureaucracy is plastered all over feeder tickets and their ability to get votes without the groups having any on-ground campaigning at all during election week. In UQ, multiple candidates are often spread across multiple parties, also known as multi-member ballots. The union uses an above the line preferential voting system like the Australian government. However, this causes an issue where many of the votes given to feeder tickets by students often funnel back into a ‘major’ party, often without the knowledge of the student. They get students to vote for them by having names to catch your attention such as “WAP” or “Smoker’s Rights”.
This system largely undermines democracy and the voters’ honest opinion, with minor parties especially being disenfranchised due to the overwhelming number of ‘fake’ parties that exist on the poll.
Council chairman Sam Adams stated, “The whole feeder ticket episode was a messy business. I’m not opposed to combing through rules to try and find loopholes and exploits but in the end, it got kind of silly. As a minor party, I knew that unless I played the same game as the majors, I would be at a serious disadvantage. I don’t like having to fight dirty to win, but I certainly don’t regret taking advantage of perfectly legal exploits.”
Feeder tickets also result in low turnout due to discontent with the polls being too overwhelming, with last year’s election ballot being absurdly big (i.e. A1 or A2 sized). I asked current disabilities officer Alicia and she stated, on behalf of the collective, “some members of the Disability Collective found the huge ballot papers were not accessible to them. The small text created difficulty for members with low vision and the large size of the ballot papers for members with upper limb disability. Other members with anxiety issues and neurodivergency found the huge ballot papers overwhelming. These issues meant that some members elected to withdraw from or not engage with the voting process”.
During the last Union council meeting held on the 25th of May, a motion was proposed to change the rules to ensure that feeder tickets are much harder to pull off during the next election. However, this failed.
In my opinion, a minor reform will not stop feeder tickets from happening, albeit it will just make it harder for minor parties to “play dirty” together with the major parties. What we need is a complete abolishment of feeder tickets. I know people will see this as a depletion of a diversity of candidates, but I request that you look at the parties running and see how many tickets were legit.
A new motion will certainly be passed regarding this issue during the next council election and the outcome is yet to be seen. Regardless, we will need to raise awareness on this issue and just hope that all parties choose to run a fair and legitimate campaign.
Keep fighting the good fight,