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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (21 April) . . Page.. 1116 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

undermine them as a spirit of the university system, I think you will be doing our universities a huge disservice and you will be doing our future communities a huge disservice. The spirit and the engine room of ideas which exist in universities will be undermined as a result of the actions which are being taken by the Liberals federally.

This motion deserves the support of this Assembly. I have not been fortunate enough to go to university. If I had, maybe I would not have been doing what I am doing now. I might have been doing something more enjoyable; who knows? Some people might wish I had been to university and was not here. I can tell you this much: If I had been to university, I would have been in the thick of student unionism. I would have been in the thick of it because it is important. If you want to have any power and influence over the bureaucracy and authority, you can only do it through a collective. I think that gets to the basis of what the Liberals opposite are on about. This motion deserves support because it is about encouraging the collective voice of individuals right across our society. We should be supporting that. This is an extremely important part of it which needs our support.

Policemen, firemen, blue-collar workers and white-collar workers have the advantage of unions and they maintain their position in society with their help. Not all the members of the unions agree with everything that they do, but at the end of the day their interests are in advancing the interests of students in this case and of workers and other members of society in other cases. I support the motion. I urge members to support it.

MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education) (5.43): Mr Speaker, there was one point on which I would agree with Mr Berry. I think he hit the nail on the head when he said that the real argument here is not so much about services as it is about, as he called it, collectivism and the needs of people to be involved collectively. I think it is very much about that. It is very much about whether membership of student unions should be voluntary. I think that that is the nub of the motion and I think that that is of crucial importance here today. Mr Berry laughed when my colleague Mr Humphries read out a list of examples of waste and started talking about some of the political activities that student unions are involved in.

I do not think anyone has a problem with student unions protesting against anything they want. The question here, though, is whether university students should have to pay a fee and belong to a union or whether they should have the same rights as any person in the work force and be able to choose whether they wish to belong to a union. In fact, we amended the Discrimination Act in 1991 - I might have moved the amendment; I know that Mr Moore supported it - during the term of the second Follett Labor Government to make discrimination on the grounds of membership or nonmembership of an association or organisation of employers or employees illegal under section 7(1)(ia).

Mr Moore: I moved the amendment.

MR STEFANIAK: Mr Moore says that he moved the amendment. Certainly, we supported him. That was very much our position. I was very interested at the time Mr Moore moved it and I was pleased that he did because it is absolutely important and it is a fundamental right of anyone in this country to choose whether to belong to a union of

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