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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 18, No. 9. July 1, 1954

The Electioneering Issue

The Electioneering Issue

By far the most Important discussion at last week's Student's Association A.G.M.. concerned the electioneering issue. A constitutional amendment put forward by Peter Crowe designed to legalise electioneering in some form was defeated by 33 voten to 11. In the debate a wide measure of disagreement was revealed on the approach to this problem.

No one will deny that a problem exists. This year only some 700 of the students voted out of a total membership of 2,400 odd. This is not a satisfactory situation. It is also to be questioned whether some of those who vote use their ballot papers as well as they might. Everyone is familiar with the spectacle of the earnest student, voting papers in one hand, "blurb sheet" in the other, gazing up at the photos of candidates in a condition of complete bewilderment. How can it be said that such a student is qualified to vote? In general it may be said that many students lack sufficient knowledge of candidates background qualifications and experience to enable them to exercise their vote properly.

It was this position that Peter Crowe's amendment was designed to remedy. He wanted to put electioneering on a legal basis, and at the same time surround it with adequate safeguards. By doing this he thought that the present situation could bow basically improved. Students particularly fresher's, would gain a better appreciation of a candidates worth and thus be able to exercise their votes.

At the A.G.M. the proposal met with opposition from two directions. First, the principle of electioneering was itself attacked. Messrs. Curtin and Cruden both in their finest oratorical form assailed it violently. They thought that if it went through. Victoria would be surrendered into the hands of the demagogues, men of solid intents would be pushed aside and the flashy speaker would come to the forefront. Deplorable as is the view of Victoria students' intelligence assumed in this argument, the speakers found favour with the majority of the audience. Time Beaglehole thought that electioneering would lead to the creation of blocs within the executive, elected on promises they would be unable to carry out, and the majority also appeared to agree with this. The amendment was also attacked on the grounds that it was impractical and would be impossible to put into effect. Bernie Galvin thought that the committee that was to be set up under the amendment would be completely ineffective. Dave Mummery and Ian Free, while in favour of the general principle of electioneering, also thought that its practical working would be impossible. One could not help feeling that they were drawing too dark a picture.

The amendment was lost by a large majority, but the problem still remains, and will doubtless come up again for discussion in future years. All students should think upon it.

P. D. Gibbons.

(Editorial note—space does not permit a full reply to this article, but readers are invited to forward contributions in the form of letters to the Editor or short (300 words) articles, for publication).