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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 5 Hansard (6 April) . . Page.. 1406..


Dr Foskey (continuing):

live with. We have a problem on our hands. We are not going to solve it by making it easier for already reasonably well-off people to buy their first homes. I am very disappointed that the government is not accepting my bill.

Question resolved in the negative.

Voluntary student unionism

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (11.36): I move

That this Assembly:

(1) notes with concern the recent tabling in the Commonwealth House of Representatives of the Higher Education Support Amendment (Abolition of Compulsory Up-front Student Union Fees) Bill 2005;

(2) considers the significant negative implications of the introduction of voluntary student unionism to universities in the ACT for the student population and the broader community;

(3) recognises the provision by student unions of important representative and welfare services and the significance of student community to the provision of quality tertiary education; and

(4) expresses its commitment to the principle of student unionism.

The motion I bring before the Assembly today refers to matters that will, I believe, have a very significant effect on the university student population of our territory, both present and future. University students comprise a significant sector of the population of the ACT and the quality of our educational facilities brings students from across New South Wales, Australia and the world to study in Canberra. Student unions are a vibrant hub of activity in Canberra and provide a range of important welfare services and representative functions for our student body. This contribution to our community is a valuable one and, as with any attack on an organ of our community, attacks on student unions in the territory should be vigorously opposed by this Assembly.

On March 16 of this year, federal education minister, Brendan Nelson, introduced into federal parliament the Higher Education Support (Abolition of Compulsory Up-front Student Union Fees) Bill 2005. This bill, if enacted as legislation, will prohibit higher education providers from requiring payment upon enrolment for the provision of amenities, facilities or services that are not directly associated with academic studies. A breach of this provision will result in reducing funding to the territory institution by the commonwealth. That means a direct penalty for an institution that does not follow the Liberal doctrine.

This bill enacts voluntary student unionism but would perhaps be more appropriately titled anti-student union legislation. This is the third time since coming to office in 1996 that the Howard government has sought to introduce its ideological warhorse. In 1999, the Higher Education Funding Bill introduced by then minister for education, David Kemp, followed the same model we see here today. Then, as part of the GST deal with the Democrats, it was pulled off the table.


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