Page 1413 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 6 April 2005
The Liberal party believes in freedom of association as a fundamental tenet, and that is why Dr Nelson has reintroduced this legislation. I suppose that is why Senator Abetz is accused of ranting. It goes to the core of what we are and what we believe in, and to condemn the federal government for wanting to give students choice is simply reprehensible. That is why the Fraser Liberal government formalised Australia’s commitments to the UN human rights obligations; it was the Fraser government that introduced the human rights commission.
Decades ago membership of the Australian workforce in unions pushed around 70 per cent and now it is down to around 20 per cent. I have to ask: why is that so? I think that the answer is fairly simple. Unions do not act in the best interests of their members; they act in the interests of the union organisers.
Ms MacDonald interjecting—
MRS DUNNE: Mr Speaker, if Ms MacDonald would take the time to actually listen, rather than just interject, she would have heard me say that I have always been a member of a union where there was union coverage of the organisation in which I worked and it was appropriate for me to be so. I was a member of the CPSU and its predecessors for the 17 years I was in the federal public service. I was a member of the Miscellaneous Workers Union. I was a member of a range of clerical unions when it was appropriate to do so. So if you are going to start throwing stones, Ms MacDonald, get it right.
Unions do not stand up for their workers. They stand up for the officials that work for them. I think it is a great shame because I try to encourage my children to belong to unions when they work in low paid areas. They say to me; “Why should I bother? What do these people do for me?” That is the answer. That is the real problem. This is why the NUS and their coterie do not want voluntary student unionism. If people have the choice, they will not want to sign up to tenets of the NUS. It will mean that the NUS and their coterie have to change. They would have to provide a service that is relevant and up-to-date and meaningful for students. Instead, we have all this cant about how all these services will disappear.
Ms Porter here has been a great advocate of community involvement in the provision of services. Ms Porter and you, Mr Speaker, and I are patrons of an organisation in Belconnen. If important services need to be provided on campus, it shows the way. It is a cooperative organisation of people banding together to provide services, with a small, upfront fee for those people who choose to join, not $590. The ANU medicine cooperative and counselling cooperative could come together with people who choose to use those services paying a fee on a cooperative basis and those people who actually choose to use their own doctor not having to pay those fees but going elsewhere. This is what freedom is about, and Mr Gentleman does not understand it. I move my amendments.
MR SPEAKER: Mrs Dunne, you will need leave to move the amendments, now that you have spoken.
MRS DUNNE: I seek leave to move my amendments together.