Page 1172 - Week 04 - Thursday, 17 March 2005

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MR GENTLEMAN: I ask a supplementary question. Minister, can you tell the Assembly about the reaction of stakeholders to this announcement?

MS GALLAGHER: We know that one stakeholder who is trying to make herself relevant in this debate is Mrs Dunne. We know what her views are. We heard them in the house last week.

On the Western Australian situation, Dr Nelson said that services flourished. In fact, services that went include: the guild services centre, cultural events programs, women’s departments, environment departments, student emergency loans, orientation camps, sports libraries and the sexual assault referral service. I know that those opposite would support a sexual assault referral service on campus.

This appalling situation will bring Australian universities to a new low level. Everyone but the federal government is opposed to this legislation. Every single person involved in higher education is opposed to it. Last month the Chief Executive of University Sport wrote to me, to the federal minister for sport and the federal minister for health outlining its concerns. The letter states:

The direct impact of non-compulsory student amenities fees on the university sport sector is the immediate rationalisation of the provision and maintenance of funding support for athletes studying at university, provision of community facilities for organised sport—

I know that Mr Pratt is very interested in organised sport. He should listen to this—

employment, the ability of universities to promote themselves internationally and the quality of the university experience offered within our national institutions.

The Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee has stated:

This legislation, if passed, will have the potential to reduce university students’ convenient and affordable access to various support services and amenities … It’s a bit like council rates—not everybody uses all the services, but the rates in a community are compulsory.

Why, considering all the debate around compulsory education around the country in the last few weeks, particularly in relation to skills shortages, does this federal government rank as its number one priority the abolition of student unions? Why would that be the number one issue for the federal government?

I will conclude by quoting some comments by the Group of Eight, vice-chancellors from eight of Australia’s leading universities. They say:

A compulsory student fee should be seen in the same way that rates and taxes contribute to the community life of every Australian. These taxes fund the infrastructure that supports our society including the state and federal parliaments and elected politicians. So too at our universities a compulsory fee ensures that child care, health services, sporting clubs, debating societies and many other campus-based organisations can survive …

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