Page 2103 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 21 June 2005

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to pay are able to access those services, and similarly with the essential services provided by student organisations across the country and in the territory.

The question the Liberals are asking is, “Why should I pay for a service I don’t want or need?” To this I would say a couple of things. First, as with the commodification of education, student organisations provide a vast variety of services, from subsidised food and drink and subsidised sporting and recreational facilities and activities to the provision of essential support services such as welfare advice, free legal advice and childcare. I would suggest that there is a service in there for everyone so that, while students may not universally access the same services in the same way, they individually are enabled to access the variety of services from which they can choose to use and in which to participate.

For some students, however, the choice to utilise these services arises not out of desire, but out of necessity. Ideally no student or staff member on campus would need to access sexual assault referral services because they would not have experienced assault. Ideally no student would be living in poverty, necessitating an application for an emergency loan. Ideally all students would have safe and secure housing and so would not need to access the housing services provided by student organisations. Unfortunately this is not the reality. These services are essential. They are needed and utilised every day on campuses here in Canberra.

The qualification to this statement is, however, the presumption that those needing these services have a place on campus. Of course this statement jars! But it jars for someone who believes in quality, accessible and affordable tertiary education, for someone who believes that education is an essential community service that requires a commitment from government, providers and the community to facilitate its process and its lifelong accessibility. The people needing these services on campus are not exclusively those who, with the increasing commodification of territory education, will otherwise be unable to access it. They also include these who would be able to pay. The proposed introduction of the federal government’s VSU legislation will not provide students with choice; it will deny them of it. When services that are essential are no longer available or not as readily available, there is no choice. You cannot choose to pay for a service that does not exist.

Another issue facing those educators and staff at universities in Canberra and around the country, as my colleague has just mentioned, is the introduction of AWAs over more employee friendly enterprise bargaining agreements. This is an issue that was raised by staff and educators at the University of Canberra. The outcomes of the EBAs that were encouraged at the university in the early 1990s have seen the university grow and become the thriving educational facility that we see today. The federal government’s introduction of AWAs across the workforce in the ACT will discourage those who come to study at the University of Canberra from some 80 countries around the world. The impact this will have in the territory will be significant. It will also impact strongly on educators and staff at UC having to sign AWAs and will discourage a safe and friendly atmosphere for students and staff alike.

Finally, with the story today coming out in the Canberra Times stating that the University of Canberra is considering a rise in fees for HECS places by another 5 per cent, there is another problem facing students. With the absence of full government

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