Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (21 April) . . Page.. 1109 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
the wider community by, say, the ANU sports union or the University of Canberra sports union and some of the other services on campus. Those sorts of services are available to everyone. The sporting fields at universities, the gymnasiums and the equipment that goes with those gymnasiums, and other facilities are made available at a subsidised rate to members of the community at large. If this charge is implemented that will be lost; there is no doubt about that. The universities, particularly the ANU and the University of Canberra, simply do not have the money to pick up the costs associated with the provision of those services. If this fee were implemented, we know that most people would not pay it. We also know that if this new legislation were implemented, those services would no longer be provided.
Mr Humphries interjected earlier that, if only 2 per cent of the students in Western Australia paid the fee after the introduction of the new law, what does that say about student unions. I put this question to Mr Humphries: If we made paying tax optional, how many people do you think would do it? Mr Speaker, I am sure that everyone in the community would still expect us to provide the roads, the bus services, the hospitals, the schools, the libraries, the police, the fire brigade, the counselling services and all the other things that we expect as a civilised society, but I bet it would not be the same number of people who currently pay tax because we have to. That is exactly the same argument when it comes to a charge for student services.
To suggest otherwise is nonsense. To suggest otherwise is to ignore the reality of the provision of services on campuses. We have an obligation as an Assembly to send a message to the Federal Parliament and that message should be that this legislation would detrimentally affect people in our community who attend university and use the services provided by universities. We should reject that move. We should say that it is not acceptable and we should join in a bipartisan manner, as our colleagues in the Tasmanian Parliament did, in rejecting this legislation outright.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (5.16): Mr Speaker, I think it is interesting to see how people will try to move away from the central issue in order to portray a particular concept or commodity as being terribly desirable for us all to have. I was astonished by the claim Mr Corbell made that this is not an issue about compulsion. That is nonsense; it is simply nonsense. This is about compulsion. This is about requiring people to belong to organisations in order to obtain certain facilities or services. In this case, it is a requirement that students belong to student unions, however described, in order to be able to obtain the facility at a university or college to receive a degree or other tertiary qualification. That, Mr Speaker, is compulsion. There are no ifs or buts about it; it is compulsion. You do not get that service unless you pay that fee.
Mr Speaker, I think that that is most reprehensible. As a matter of principle, I think people should not be compelled to purchase services they do not want, unless there is clearly a case based on the provision of services which they absolutely have to use and which they will use because of the nature of the service. Mr Corbell put it to me in the course of his remarks: How many people would pay taxes if they had the choice to do so? I would put it in a different way, Mr Speaker.
Mr Corbell: Yes, you would, because you can't defeat the argument.