Page 1419 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 6 April 2005

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recognised for the holistic approach it has traditionally taken in educating our population. In a feeble attempt to justify their neglect of student welfare, they have put up arguments relating to freedom of association and the lack of representation that not only miss the point, but also are clearly false.

The ACT government can be proud of its record on education. The reason the ACT maintains a highly educated and intellectually active community is because of the commitment of the ACT government to making education opportunities accessible to all. Unfortunately, the federal government has shown no such commitment. Student organizations are the next in line to suffer the consequences. I commend Mr Gentleman’s motion to the Assembly, and I urge the federal government to further consider the implications of its legislation.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (12.25): Whilst I see that debating both Mr Gentleman’s motion and Mrs Dunne’s amendments in this Assembly will not have much impact on the federal government, I just wanted to say that I support the motion and oppose Mrs Dunne’s amendments. I do not believe that this debate has brought out the prettier side of Liberal ideology. As somebody who has just recently come from a university, where I was both a student and a teacher, I want to emphasise the importance of the current state of affairs.

People who have benefited from the benefits of compulsory student unionism are pulling the rug out from under future students. The ACT Greens are opposed to the Australian government’s Higher Education Support Amendment (Abolition of Compulsory Up-front Student Union Fees) Bill 2005, which seeks to undermine student university organisations by introducing voluntary student unionism. This will have, we believe, a significantly detrimental effect on tertiary students in the ACT. The Greens representatives in the Senate have successfully blocked previous attempts to enact this legislation, which we believe has no policy merit and is simply part of an anti-student organisation agenda, even though a number of Liberal politicians have no doubt been fostered by this very support.

There is very little community support for this legislation. Students on the whole are opposed. University administrators and staff are also opposed. Major representative groups such as all the student unions, the group of eight vice-chancellors and the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations have all expressed opposition. The only group in favour of this legislation appears to be the Liberal Party. We can find no evidence of any other community group that supports the bill. Among their ranks are unhappy backbenchers who have spoken out about the impact of voluntary student unionism on sporting prowess and activities. I am sure that they are only speaking out because they have been pressured to do so by constituents whose views they respect.

It is very unfortunate that the Australia government’s impending majority in the Senate may allow it to proceed with uninformed and undemocratic legislation, ignoring the wishes of students and undermining their ability to provide necessary services to university students. When the Senate Employment, Workplace Relations and Education References Committee looked at this legislation in 2003, it was highly critical and recommended that the bill be withdrawn. The committee summarised the legislation thus:

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