Page 1410 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 6 April 2005

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The importance of student unions to students, to the campus community and to our broader community is significant. Its importance will be more apparent when the federal government seeks the passage of this legislation and those student unions are destroyed. In pursuing ideological objectives, the federal government is failing to recognise the very real and important contribution that student unions make to our community. I consider that it is important that we in the Assembly do not make the same mistake.

This motion seeks to recognise the contribution of student unions to our community and to those students who live, work and study in the ACT. It recognises the severe impact passage of this bill through the federal parliament would have on our community and on the student population of Canberra. It recognises the importance of universal membership of student unions for the continued provision of quality services and effective representation to the students of the Canberra community, past, present and future. It is an expression of our commitment here in the ACT to the principle of student unionism. I urge members to support the motion.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (11.51): A member of my staff suggests I should start my remarks by saying, “More ideology from my comrades on the left.” But I have just realised that this debate is actually about ideology, and it is one of those irregular verbs: I have firmly held views. You are an ideologue. He—especially if it is Eric Abetz—is a ranter.

This motion, as usual, is misplaced. This motion is welcome, but I think that Mr Gentleman has missed the point, which is why I propose later in the debate to move some amendments. Mr Gentleman wants to condemn the federal parliament for doing something that upholds the ACT human rights legislation. On the contrary, we should be commending the federal government for tabling a piece of legislation that gives students choice. This is entirely about choice. It has been a long time coming, and I am glad that Mr Gentleman took time to actually point out just how committed the federal Liberal Party has been to the principles of freedom of choice.

Dr Kemp has attempted to do it. Dr Nelson has attempted to do it on a couple of occasions. Now, hopefully, we will be seeing this long held tenet of liberalism coming to fruition and, considering the events of yesterday, I think it is quaint that Mr Gentleman has the sheer brass neck to talk about the use and abuse of a majority.

Dr Nelson has brought forward a longstanding tenet of the Liberal party—student choice. I did not see any concern about the abuse of a majority yesterday, when the Labor Party decided that it would nobble the estimates system. Yesterday it was, “We’re upholding a longstanding tenet of the Labor Party. We’re going to nobble the estimates system.” That is an abuse of a majority. The federal legislation is the implementation of a longstanding Liberal Party tenet.

The issue is not about student unions. It is about students and their capacity for freedom. We agree that there should be student unions and trade unions and craft unions and all sorts of associations that people join for a range of reasons. While I was in a position where I could join a union, I always did. I always encourage my children to join the appropriate union for the industry in which they work, especially when they are working in low paid industries. I agree with the principle of unionism everywhere. I do not think

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