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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (21 April) . . Page.. 1118 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

One Nation package - on young people. In the Federal election campaign in 1993, the NUS spent over $100,000 campaigning against the coalition with the slogan "Put the Liberals last".

Naturally, there would be lots of students who pay money into that university union who would not like that, just like there would be lots of students who, if for some reason the university union decided to do that against the ALP, would not like that because they would not necessarily support that. Is that fairness? I do not think that it is. Mr Berry is right: The real argument here is about the political side of it. Why, when there is no compulsion for people to join any other societies, unions or associations, is there this compulsion to join a student union?

I cannot think of anything, short of professional guilds such as the Law Society for the right of practice, but that is a bit different, where you have to pay up physically to belong and you do not necessarily agree with a lot of what the money goes for. I just think that the arguments opposite tend to go against the spirit of this particular - - -

Mr Corbell: What about the Law Society, Bill?

MR STEFANIAK: I think I made that point in 1991, Mr Corbell. I mentioned it in 1991, too. It is probably one of the last great compulsory bodies that you have to belong to to practise, but maybe there are some differences there.

MR TEMPORARY DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hird): Order! The Minister will address his remarks to the Chair.

MR STEFANIAK: If you go through the Discrimination Act, it is quite clear that what Mr Corbell and Mr Berry are suggesting is very much against the spirit of that Act, if not the actuality. I cannot see any specific section in there which bans it, but it is very much against the spirit of that Act. I think that is the fundamental question here. That is why those of us on this side of the house will not be supporting Mr Corbell's motion.

MS TUCKER (5.50): I will be brief in speaking to this motion because I know that everybody wants to go. I will be supporting the motion. The attempts by the Federal Government to abolish compulsory student union membership would be, if successful, a very serious blow to students. Let us be very clear about this matter from the start. It is not about choice. It is about conservative forces attempting to silence the student lobby by undemocratic means. In a few instances, Liberal students have held control of student organisations, but mostly it is the opposite, as we have heard. There is probably good reason for that.

If it has been the desire of the Liberal Party to abolish compulsory student union membership, why did they not put that up as their platform and let the students endorse it in a democratic manner via election? We all know the answer to that is that they would not succeed. Why is that? Could it be because students understand that the funding provided by student associations provides valuable services that help students to get through university life? I believe so. It is interesting that the New South Wales Young Liberals also rejected the legislation this week.

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