Page 1411 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 6 April 2005
there is a member in this place who does not. But I also agree with the notion expressed in the Human Rights Act—Mr Stanhope’s Human Rights Act—that everyone has the right to freedom of association.
Like the Chief Minister, we do not believe that this should be compulsory. While we may not always necessarily agree with everything that unions do, we agree that they ought to exist. Today we are looking at the merits of voluntary student unionism. This is what Mr Gentleman would prefer not to do because the NUS and their supporters never look at the other side of the issue. We are not about removing services and sending universities broke. We are about providing choice. What it really boils down to is that, if there are associations on campus that are worthy of support, students will join them. As they do now, they can join clubs and societies.
But if I choose as a student to join the Liberal students club on campus, I do not expect people who have allegiances to the Trotskyists to support my endeavours in the Liberal club and I do not expect to support them. This is what compulsory student unionism is about. It is about being able to get on the gravy train and get the funds being dispensed out of the student union. Interestingly enough, most of the time the gravy train is usually directed to those on the left, and that is a problem.
In my past experience—it is a bit long ago now—I can recall occasions when student union money, money raised by students, money coming from students, was sent to some of the most ignoble and dishonourable people in the world. The one that sticks in my mind is the Shining Path in Peru. Even the Maoists disavowed them! Money paid by Australia university students went to support Sendero Luminoso revolutionaries in Peru, and that is a matter of shame.
If these associations and unions were so good, voluntary or not, people would join them. This is what choice is about. We have to ask ourselves: why are the NUS and its advocates, like Mr Gentlemen, so scared of student choice? Why are they adamant in their determination to force students to pay these fees? Mr Gentlemen and his colleagues bleat and carp about the injustices faced by students paying HECS or paying for full fee places—and we heard it today—yet they demand that students in Australia and in the ACT endure other compulsory, upfront appropriations from their hard earned money.
This is the thing. It is like the old BLF adage—no ticket, no start. You can get away with not paying your upfront fee, but I tell you what: you cannot get your degree and you cannot get access to a whole range of academic services. For instance, people doing prac teaching or things like that cannot go to professional training unless they have paid their upfront fee to the student union. That is where things get really bad, because student activism is actually getting in the way of people making academic progress. We have actually moved on from no ticket, no start to no ticket, no finish.
This is what is wrong with compulsion. Let us just look at what we are talking about. We are not talking about small amounts of money. People are commencing university at 18. They have just finished school. They do not have a great access to funds. They have to shell out for a whole lot of things that are important, like books, and if you are doing law or engineering, some of those books are hideously expensive. On top of that, at the university of New South Wales you pay $502. At Sydney University you pay $509; at RMIT $500; University of Melbourne $392; Griffith University $306 and