Senate debates

Monday, 17 August 2009

Higher Education Legislation Amendment (Student Services and Amenities, and Other Measures) Bill 2009

In Committee

9:36 pm

Photo of Sarah Hanson-YoungSarah Hanson-Young (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I move Greens amendment (1) on sheet 5736:

(1)    Schedule 1, item 6, page 6 (lines 14 to 16), omit subsection 19-67(3).

This amendment goes right to the heart of the Greens’ concerns around this legislation. We do not believe that if a student is going to be charged $250 they should not have the right to advocate as to how that money should be spent. We believe that student services should be run and funded by student organisations. That is the crux of this issue. We believe that in order to have true representation on university campuses there needs to be a return to effective, well-resourced advocacy and representation structures to handle the essential student services. We need to make sure that the money that is collected from each individual student around the country on an annual basis is put towards the services and the representation that students want, and that they have control of it. If students are going to be paying for it they should have a say in how it will be spent.

Since VSU was introduced in 2005, funding has been slashed from crisis support, child care, counselling, sport, advocacy and lots more services. Student fees were used to pay for student facilities, services, welfare and a host of other programs that made university a richer and more diverse experience. Since the VSU legislation has been in place we have seen the detrimental effects it has had on those services and facilities. We have just spent the last 40 minutes talking about the run-down of sporting facilities. We know that some of the money would need to go towards that, if that is what the student groups actually wanted to spend the money on. We have talked about other types of services and activities that students may want to fund through their student services fees.

Ultimately, if we want students to advocate for themselves and have a voice, that voice needs to be independent. They cannot be under the thumb of their university administration or management or under the thumb of their parliaments, where they do not feel that they have the ability, or the right, or the access or the resources to advocate for what they need. For students to participate in the democratic process and advocate for their needs, which are specific to students—whether it be the whole student populace, or international students, or postgraduate students or first-year students wanting to get more information about how to start their university career—we need to ensure that student services that are funded by students are also run by students and that they have the ultimate say in how their money is going to be spent. We cannot simply tax students without representation. We would not accept this at a local council level and we would not accept it at a state government level so why would we accept it on a university campus. When students are being charged money simply because they are enrolled, they must have a say and through the representation of their elected members they must be able to administer how that money is spent. They should be able to decide where their money goes, how much money they should be paying and what types of services they want from it. That is simply what this amendment seeks to do.


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