Compulsory student union fees reinstated by Labor.
Freedom of association will still be maintained, (as it ought to be) but you’ll be required to pay the fees either way.
Now, don’t be fooled into thinking, “oh, but it’s not fees for the student union… the money doesn’t go to the student union.” When I was at uni several years ago under the Howard government, before VSU was introduced, you paid a compulsory fee that was called an “Amenities and Services fee”, and it was paid to the university, not to the Student Union, and that was, in practice, your student union fee.
“Youth Minister Kate Ellis announced the moves late last night, saying the Howard government had stripped at least $170 million out of the universities by imposing voluntary student unionism on services.”
If these fees are designed to replace the money that has been “stripped out” of student unions by VSU, which is what Ellis says it is, then clearly there is no doubt that the money is intended to go to the student unions.
Of course, if you choose not to be associated with a union, then you will not be allowed to access the services that your money is paying for.
There is absolutely no way that VSU affects the economic viability of student unions – assuming that the student union is run with even a rudimentary degree of sensible economic management, and the student government is not just stealing or embezzling all the money or handing out bunches of money to
yeah-let’s-smash-capitalism extremist causes. (For the uninitiated, both those latter things can and do happen.)
It’s not terribly difficult to understand. People freely choose union association, and they pay their dues, which brings in revenue to the SU. Those SU members then have access to union services, which cost money. More members means more expenses and more revenue, and less members means less revenue and less expenses.
VSU is kind of like… abortion. If you love the student union so much, you’re absolutely free to go and join up. If you don’t like abortion… then it’s your right to choose not to have one.
Under VSU, at my university at least, there are absolutely no student union services that have been noticeably removed or cut back. None.
Under VSU, the SU has gone around spending money to spruce up certain union facilities and parts of the SU building for example, in order to make student unionism more attractive. They’ve also engaged in a massive marketing/advertising/propaganda campaign to advertise and sell the benefits of SU membership, as well as essentially turning all clubs and societies into the propaganda arm of the student union, forcing them to spam all their members to advocate student unionism, for example, and with all of this, they have spent significant money to do it.
Under VSU, the student politicians still find it appropriate to give student union money to radical political causes, and it’s still the case that anyone and everyone can get together with a small group of students and start a club or society, dedicated to just about any area of interest you please, easily become affiliated with the Student Union, and easily, routinely get the Student Union to hand out plenty of money to you to support your activities. None of this, like clubs and societies for example, has been threatened or destroyed by VSU; it’s a complete load of crap. Of course, if all the students involved are SU members, and it’s all budgeted appropriately, then such things as clubs and societies, providing SU money to benefit SU members, are perfectly sensible.
But it’s OK, they say, students will be able to pay the money with no problems, because the government will allow it to be deferred and paid later, as with HECS/HELP/FEE-HELP/Whatever the hell they’re calling it these days.
It’s the kind of stunt you expect from a car dealership, or Telstra selling kids the latest flashy phone on an expensive contract, or Harvey Norman trying to flog off plasma TVs to bogan families, not the Federal Government. Isn’t this government policy encouraging exactly the same “buy now, nothing to pay until later” mentality that has lead working families to accumulate massive amounts of credit card debt?
It’s just relying on the fact that most students remain wilfully ignorant of their HECS debt, and don’t even want to think about it, so they can be talked into adding on another thousand dollars or so for services which they probably don’t need to use, and which they should have the choice about using, and the choice about paying for, anyway.