Returning Officer Rulings 8/9/15
Ruling (1) of the Returning Officer
In relation to a complaint lodged by Patrick Dollard against the Left Focus ticket that the Left Focus ticket had been producing material on the VCA department printer, the Returning Officer rules as follows:
1. Following the complaint, the Returning Officer requested the IT department to conduct an audit of the VCA department printer;
2. The audit revealed that a substantial volume of recent printing was clearly identified by document names as Left Focus electoral material, in breach of Regulation 44.5.18;
3. The Returning Officer regards this as a particularly serious breach of the Regulations, given that it appears to involve elected members of the ticket abusing their position of trust for electoral advantage;
4. Accordingly the Left Focus ticket is banned from campaigning for the remainder of today, Tuesday;
5. Due to the serious nature of the matter, in accordance with Regulation 44.8. The Returning Officer has contacted the Electoral Tribunal with a view to meeting as soon as possible to consider the possibility of further penalties.
Ruling (1A) of the Returning Officer
In relation to Ruling 1 issued by the Returning Officer at 2:15pm today it was the hope of the Returning Officer that the Election Tribunal could meet as soon as possible to consider further action. It has become clear from correspondence received from two members of the election tribunal that neither was at work today and it is very unlikely that the tribunal will meet before the opening of the polls on Wednesday 9 September 2015.
In this circumstance the Returning Officer considers that penalty issued earlier today is not adequate in the light of the breaches of the Regulations and intends to issue further penalties while a meeting of the Election Tribunal is organised.
The Returning Officer rules as follows:
1. All Left Focus material that was authorised for printing is now un-authorised. Left Focus is able submit material for authorisation that is substantially similar to their original material, but it must be easily distinguishable from their original material.
2. The Ticket registrant of Left Focus has informed the Retuning officer that the printing on the VCA department printer was carried by Mr. Jamiel Sabbagh. The Returning Office does not make a finding that Mr. Sabbagh was solely responsible for the printing.
3. While Mr. Sabbagh is the ticket registrant and sole candidate for Students for Palestine he has been campaigning on behalf of Left Focus. Consequently he is prohibited from any form of campaigning for the reminder of the election and his conduct is referred to the Election Tribunal under regulation 44.8.
4. Left Focus has submitted to the Returning Officer that Mr. Sabbagh was solely responsible for the breach. However Left Focus as a collective were the benefactors of the breach and therefore must suffer some consequences as a collective.
5. Further while Left Focus contends that Mr. Sabbagh acted alone, they concede that the printing was charged to the account of Mr Van Rudd who is the incumbent VCA Campus Co-ordinator and has been provisionally elected unopposed to that position for 2016. The Ticket organiser further concedes that Mr. Rudd’s printing account is regularly accessed by multiple members of Left Focus.
6. All of the Left Focus VCA candidates have been provisionally elected unopposed. The Returning Officer regards this as an aggravating factor that resources reserved for the use of VCA students are being used by Left Focus to bolster their campaign on the university’ other campuses. As the breach occurred at the VCA, Left Focus is prohibited from campaigning at the VCA or its immediate surroundings for the remainder of the election, and all of the Left Focus candidates from the VCA – namely Teresa Hsieh, Tim Van Roon, ThienNguyen, Gaelen Dickson, Jordan White, Nicholas Kyriacou, Nicholas Pearce, James Crafti, Jessica Heath and Van Rudd – are prohibited from campaigning for the remainder of the election.
7. It has been submitted to the Returning Officer by other tickets in the election that the breach of the regulations is a serious breach of the Regulations and as such the whole of Left Focus should be prohibited from campaigning for the remainder of the election.
8. It is the opinion of the Returning Officer that to prohibit the whole Left Focus ticket from campaigning for the rest of the election at this stage of the election would so damage their electoral prospects as to amount to a disqualification of the ticket.
9. It is clear from the regulation 4 that the Returning Officer does not have the power to disqualify a person or Ticket and that only the Election Tribunal has that power under regulation 46.2.5 or 47.4. While the Returning Officer accepts that disqualification of all Left Focus candidates is in range in terms of penalty, the Returning Officer will not in effect act in manner as to exercise a power that has been received for the Election Tribunal.
10. This matter as a whole is referred to the Election Tribunal under regulation 44.8.
9.8.15, 9:15 pm