Page 1416 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 6 April 2005

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .

activities.” What do the people who are getting the money do with it? Surprise, surprise, the National Union of Students got involved in running a marginal seats campaign before the last federal election. But they say they are not political; they just do not like the Howard government.

We have to sit back and see our own children, children of members of this place, children of the ACT community, being told they have got to part with their dollars to fund a campaign to support the Labor Party’s rather pitiful attempt for the third or fourth time to secure federal government. Of course, the people of Australia sent a very clear message as to what they thought about their suitability. But the students are the ones who have got to find the money and fund these activities while we hear the Labor cause promoted.

The initiative being shown by Dr Nelson and his colleagues in pursuing this reform is commendable. I commend Senator Abetz, who has been unfairly described here today. I refer Mr Gentleman to articles from the Hobart Mercury on 19 March, where Senator Abetz has expounded further on his views on this topic. He particularly focused on the illogical and socially unjust arrangement that forces every student, irrespective of means, to pay the same compulsory upfront fee, so that wealthier people can have such things as subsidised beer and the like and to support political activities that this government wants to see pursued.

We have seen examples of the success of voluntary student unionism, particularly in Western Australia, and I know the minister for education will be champing to get up and tell us about all the critical services have been lost in Western Australia. But in fact the universities in Western Australia work remarkably well. The model over there in WA is thriving. They seem to be coping without compulsory payment of union fees. The students have not come screaming for those things to be reintroduced or volunteered to pay funds. I always have the view that, if something is viable, people will support it. But in this city, in the city of Canberra, where millions of dollars are being paid—I think students attending ANU and the University of Canberra are paying $3.13 million—there is a resounding lack of enthusiasm for what the ACT government is proposing.

Take some time over the lunch break to go across to those campuses and ask those students how many of them actually think this is a great notion, a great idea. You will find an extraordinary lack of support. You will have to move outside the Labor Club, because I think they will be pretty keen on Mr Gentleman’s motion, but basically you will find that you are not supported. If you are providing a service that nobody wants to pay for or support, then you have to question the value of that service to the community at large.

I think Mrs Dunne’s amendments are commendable. I hope that the ACT government will see the error of this original motion, that they recognise the importance of the Human Rights Act, which they have advocated so strongly, and the fact that Mr Gentleman’s motion is remarkably inconsistent with the freedoms of association enshrined in this act. We look forward to the amendments being accepted by Mr Gentleman as part of this ongoing debate.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .