Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 07 Hansard (Tuesday, 21 June 2005) . . Page.. 2102 ..
There is no doubt that they stand by their record of 1996 when they introduced amendments to the Workplace Relations Act. This is one step further and really does not support the arguments that they have put in place in relation to improved productivity. As I said, all the indications are that these measures can only have a negative impact on the environment within which the University of Canberra operates. The student union proposals are an aspect of these changes that will have serious implications for universities across Australia, but particularly here as we are discussing the University of Canberra.
I think that the issues that have been brought to the attention of the Assembly today are important. Ms Porter is right in raising these issues. This is an appropriate forum for discussion of them in relation to our local universities, but this matter goes further than just the universities. It is about the CIT, all our schools and all our training providers that are going to be asked to operate within the framework set by the commonwealth. It is right to bring it up quite often as we see this campaign rolled out to make sure that we are monitoring the impact of these changes and that we are constantly talking about the diversity of opinion in relation to this matter.
I know that Mrs Dunne has a very different opinion on these matters than I do, but this is a forum in which to express your views and in which to stand up for what you believe in as it relates to the Canberra community. I would argue that over the next few years there will be serious implications for workplace relations and negative implications for families in the territory as we see workplace conditions removed, protections removed and individual being pitted against individual as they fight for their right to employment without the protections that have existed. Certainly, that is not the sort of Australia in which I want to operate and it is not the workplace system in which I want my daughter to grow up. It is not the workplace system that I was given, with protections and rights. We, as elected representatives, should be arguing against that and making sure that we protect the rights of future generations to enjoy the benefits that we have had as workers as we have come through the system.
MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (4.02): The consequences to universities in the ACT of the federal government’s policies, particularly the University of Canberra, should not be considered in isolation. Just some of the policy changes being brought about as of 1 July 2005 are to ban universal student unionism and to encourage AWAs. The main point I want to talk about today as part of Ms Porter’s matter of public importance is the federal government’s introduction of voluntary student unionism, or VSU.
The amendment to the Higher Education Act comprises yet another attack on higher education. Originally part of the post-budget amendments to higher education and arising out of the crossroads review, the amendments introduced in 2003 form the backbone of these attacks. They operate from the principal objective that education is a commodity and that it should be paid for just as for any other provision of a service.
I recognise that there is a fundamental disagreement in this chamber about this proposition and that this debate is unlikely to change that. But it is important to consider these changes in the context of the current attack by the federal government on student unions because when education is a commodity, it follows that only those who can afford