Page 2104 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 21 June 2005

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grants, most public universities have been forced to raise their fees by the full 25 per cent agreed to by the ACU. It is stated by the president of the UC’s student association that a further hike in fees will reduce enrolments at the university by approximately 18.5 per cent. All these issues facing our universities are a follow-on effect of the federal Liberal government’s changes to education policies across the board. They are seeking to undermine this important contribution on the premise that to preserve choice we must limit options. I would like to thank Ms Porter for raising this important issue today and for encouraging this insight into universities in the ACT.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (4.08): It is certainly well known that the Greens have strenuously opposed the federal government’s attempts to impose harsh new industrial conditions on workers at vocational colleges and universities. We believe that the government’s plan to force education workers on to individual agreements and deregulate casual employment will lead to poorer educational outcomes for students and undermine the quality of higher education. We generally oppose the federal government’s anti-union industrial relations agenda and we are particularly concerned that the government is using nationally funded programs and sectors to implement changes.

It is our understanding that there is little or no support in the sector itself for the government’s changes, not from teachers, staff, management, vice-chancellors, state governments, territory governments or students. My colleagues in the Senate will vote against any legislation that seeks to blackmail the post-secondary education sector into undermining staff working conditions. As a party we will support industrial action brought in defence of working conditions and the quality of Australia’s education system.

We are also opposed to the Australian government’s plan to abolish compulsory student unionism. We believe that this will have a significantly detrimental effect on tertiary students in the ACT, including those at the University of Canberra. The Greens representatives in the Australian Senate have voted with the opposition and the Democrats to successfully block previous attempts to enact this legislation, which we believe has no policy merit and is simply part of the coalition government’s anti-student worker organisation agenda.

There is very little community support for the legalisation. Students are, on the whole, opposed except, I suppose, for those members of the Young Liberals. University administrators and staff are also opposed. Major representative groups, such as all the student unions, the Group of Eight, the 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 Australian Liberal Party. We can find no evidence of any other community group that supports the bill.

It is very unfortunate in this case, then, that the Australian government’s impending majority in the Senate will 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. The potential impact of this legislation is particularly significant for the ACT because Canberra is a student town, 16.6 per cent of our population being aged between 15 and 25 years, substantially higher than the

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