Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (21 April) . . Page.. 1111 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
compulsion, they take the view that what they get in the way of this service is very badly managed because students are not being offered an incentive to choose to use those facilities and to belong to that organisation to get them.
There is no reason that student services need suffer if you provide a nexus between choice and the quality of service that people get. There is no reason that they need suffer, any more than you need have, say, a private health facility go under because people are not forced to belong to that health facility. Where someone builds a health facility, such as the Deakin Health Spa, in the middle of a suburb somewhere, the facility has to prove its worth to the community around it in order to survive. It has to persuade people that the services there are so good that it is worth belonging to that organisation to get those services.
Why are student services any different? In fact, student services by way of sports unions are very similar to the sort of thing I have described at Deakin. They are organisations that provide exercise facilities, gymnasia, swimming pools, training routines and so on, and a lot of people choose to get those services by belonging to those organisations. Why should people at university not be able to choose whether to belong to a sports union or association and buy the services that that sports union or association might have to offer? What conceivable reason is there? "Oh no", says Mr Corbell, "You must pay for those services irrespective of whether you use them or are likely to use them". You could have disabled students or mature age students, who have no intention of working out in the gym or doing 50 laps in the pool at any stage in their university careers, being forced to pay for this service. Talking in terms of the ANU, where I was a student, the union provides - - -
Mr Berry: And president of the association.
MR HUMPHRIES: No, I was not president of the union. I was president of the students association, which is different again to the union. The problem with this debate, of course, is that it ties in the term "student unionism" with terms such as "union" which have a different meaning on a campus; but that is a side issue, Mr Speaker.
The union at the ANU provides a range of mainly food- and drink-related services to its members. There are bars, there are restaurants and there are newsagents, drycleaners and so on and people can use those services on a subsidised basis. Mr Speaker, there is absolutely no problem whatsoever in requiring those who wish to use those services - at the subsidised rate, for example - to produce a membership card to be able to access them. I have been to a university - namely, the University of New England, where I was a student for a year - where just that system operated. If you went to the bookshop, you got a discount if you produced the card; if you did not produce the card, you did not get a discount. If you went to the cafeteria, you got a discount on your food and drink if you had the card; you did not if you did not have the card. People chose to belong because over a period of a year they knew that they would use those services so frequently that it was worth their while forking out that money.
Clearly, students who are, for example, external to the university would be able to make an objective assessment about whether they would use those services before they paid their fee. You have enormously anomalous situations all over the place at the moment.