Page 1440 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 6 April 2005

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The fact is that the services provided by student unions are extremely broad ranging and essential services on campus. Other speakers have gone through them: welfare, childcare services, helping subsidise the cost of textbooks, employment services, free legal advice, sports facilities such as gym membership, and the University Games. The head of the University Games has written to me and other education ministers, extremely concerned about this legislation and the impact it is going to have on the University Games. Basically, it is thought that it will be the end of the University Games. The services also include support for equity and antidiscrimination services; support for student clubs and societies, cultural and religious groups; entertainment and recreation; and funding for international student support. International students have been lobbying extensively against this legislation as well. As Dr Foskey pointed out, absolutely everybody, apart from the Liberal Party, is opposed to this legislation.

Mr Mulcahy mentioned that everything was all right in Western Australia; that VSU had been introduced in Western Australia and everything was all right. Obviously, Mr Mulcahy has not done his homework; he has not actually had a look at what has gone on in those universities. Everything is not okay in those universities. Since the introduction of voluntary student unionism in Western Australian universities, a number of programs have been cut. There is no environment department, no women’s department and no student emergency loans. This is across Curtin University, Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University and the University of Western Australia. Subsidised catering on campus has gone from all of the campuses. Sexual assault referral services have gone from the campuses. It is simply incorrect for the opposition to stand up here and say everything is hunky-dory in Western Australia, because it is not. These services do not exist any more.

What has been missing from the points made by the opposition in debate today is how these services are going to be provided at universities here. Let us leave the rest of Australia aside for a moment. Who is going to provide the subsidised childcare at the University of Canberra? Who will provide the health care and counselling services that are funded largely from the GSF at the University of Canberra? Who will provide the free legal advice that the ANU currently offers? And who will provide the counselling services at ANU that are done by the welfare officer? These are the questions that will arise once this legislation is passed, and I have no doubt it is going to be passed.

The opposition fail to acknowledge there are going to be significant impacts on our universities, on our students here. That is the issue that we should be concerned about, rather than just accepting that it is a good thing because John Howard and Dr Nelson say it is a good thing, when every other person involved in higher education is saying, “Hang on a minute; this will have a massive impact on our universities.” The opposition do not listen to the vice-chancellors who run the universities. They do not even listen to the new National Party senator, Barnaby Joyce, who is on the record publicly as having concerns, particularly around universities in rural areas. Mr Joyce said: “You need some sort of compulsory fee to sustain student infrastructure—like sporting infrastructure. If you make it completely optional, then no-one will pay it.”

The opposition run the line about freedom of association. If you support freedom of association, we could have freedom of association everywhere. Take our taxation dollar: our education system is funded by people who do not have children in schools. Our

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