Thursday, 26 November 2015
Student Services and Amenities Fee
Before asking that the motion be taken as formal, I wish to inform the Senate that Senator Lazarus will no longer be sponsoring this motion but I wish to add Senator Bernardi to the motion. I, and also on behalf of Senators Madigan, Wang, Leyonhjelm and Bernardi, I move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) over one million Australian tertiary students are forced to pay up to $286 per year as a Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF),
(ii) students at the moment have very little say in how the SSAF monies are spent by their universities and student associations, and
(iii) SSAF is levied regardless of students' need, willingness and ability to access the services and activities they are paying for; and
(b) calls on the Government to amend the Higher Education Support Act so That the SSAF can only be levied with the support of the majority of students at each university campus in a mandatory ballot conducted once an academic year.
The coalition strongly opposed Labor's repeal of the voluntary student unionism laws passed under the Howard government. For many Liberals, guaranteeing students the basic right to freely associate and ensure they are not forced to join or contribute funds to an organisation merely because they are enrolled students has been a lifelong principle.
While the motivation behind this motion is commendable, it does not reflect the key principle of ensuring freedom of association for all students at all times. This motion supports creating the illusion of voluntary student unionism through the use of campus or institution wide ballots. However, compelling all students to join and fund an organisation by a ballot of their peers is just as illegitimate on campus as if it happened in a workplace or anywhere else in our community.
Labor strongly supports effective and strong student representation and student services on university campuses. The student services and amenities fee and the SSAF help, as constituted, have enabled student services and culture to thrive on university campuses. The effect of the proposition advanced in this motion, if advanced, would be to see the defunding of student services at universities across the country, especially at regional and rural universities—an impact senators should keep in mind when voting on this matter.
The Australian Greens also oppose this motion. We are strong supporters of the student services and amenities fee. Indeed, the Greens voted against the push to bring in voluntary student unionism that the Howard gave made in 2005. I notice that this is being championed by Senator Day. Apparently putting families first means cutting their penalties and now slashing student services and representation on campus. The Greens do not support that. We are always going to stand here and advocate student services and representation on campus.