30/08/2005 - 22:00

Joe Poprzeczny: State Scene - Slicing the salami on uni fees

30/08/2005 - 22:00


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Every John, Liz, David and Janet is getting into the act. All are opposing the best thing that’s to happen to young Australians since Otto Rohwedder developed sliced bread in 1928.

EVERY John, Liz, David and Janet is getting into the act.

All are opposing the best thing that’s to happen to young Australians since Otto Rohwedder developed sliced bread in 1928.

State Scene is referring to Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson’s upcoming move to outlaw the conscription of Australia’s 500,000 tertiary students annually into campus unions.

Anyone scanning Australia’s political horizon in search of the burning political issue of the day can be forgiven for expecting it to be our boys and girls in Iraq; the ongoing moves to fully privatise Telstra; attempts to overhaul Australia’s wage fixing system; or who Labor will eventually choose to be the leader to finally topple John Howard.

But no.

Those issues have been sidelined by the leftist establishment to focus upon the Howard Government’s decision to outlaw compulsory payments to campus unions, which costs students between $170 and $400 a year each, depending on the university.

The leftist establishment is utterly obsessed with seeking to ensure compulsory student unionism is not outlawed.

When it is, those unions will have to win members, no longer draft them, so they’ll have to operate like all other clubs, associations or workplace unions.

State Scene can proudly say it has always strongly advocated that, if campus unions want members, they should win, not draft them, as currently happens on campuses.

In other words, student union bosses should put out their shingles, like everyone else, from local butterfly collecting clubs to suburban sporting groups, whose memberships are voluntary.

Why should anyone – and particularly tertiary students – be forced to bankroll clubs and so-called services and amenities they don’t want to join or be associated with?

Press ganging students into campus unions is illiberal and wrong.

The only thing that’s amazing about the Nelson-Howard move is that it has been so long coming.

Predictably, Labor and its diverse bands of disciples have been working overtime attempting to convince Australians that compulsion is good and voluntary association bad.

Before considering some of Messrs Nelson and Howard’s vocal critics, here are some basic facts.

What this clash is about is two contradictory ideological predispo-sitions – those who cherish the principle and practice of voluntary association, like Messrs Howard and Nelson, and their parliamentary colleagues, and those who believe society should be run on compulsory lines.

What pro-compulsionists won’t say, however, is that if students object to paying union dues their enrolments won’t be accepted by campus administrations.

Applications are simply not processed until the union due is paid.

In other words, objecting students will be denied entry into courses that are largely taxpayer financed.

What do the compulsionists highlight instead?

A recent press advertisement featured quotes three carefully selected individuals.

The first was John Bell, AM OBE, someone with titles, which helps portray the compulsion as being respectable.

Mr Bell is director of a theatre company, so his inclusion hopefully helped convince culture buffs into thinking compulsion is ok.

“While no-one disputes the importance of academic achievement, university is a site for the development of creative talent, socialisation and comradeship,” he’s quoted as saying.

Those lines were supposed to convince that allowing students the right to voluntary choices on joining student unions was unacceptable.

Then there’s Liz Ellis, Australian netball captain, who also lent her name to back the conscription of students.

“As a graduate and international athlete, I recognise that campus sports programs and facilities made possible by fees [note the exclusion of the word ‘compulsory’ before the word, ‘fees’] play a vital role in the continued welfare of students and the overall health of our communities,” she said.

And finally, there was a real coup for the pro-compulsion advertise-ment’s organisers.

Somehow they got David Clarke, AO, Macquarie Bank chairman and former treasurer of the federal Liberal Party on side.

“When people actually understand what this legislation is going to do, I find there is very substantial opposition to it amongst people who would be regarded as traditional Liberal voters,” he said.

State Scene must say that it’s a bit rich – pun intended – that a bastion and major beneficiary of Australia’s free market economy propagandises that there should not be a free choice in student associations, However, inclusion of this wealthy Sydney banker is important for another reason.

What he probably hasn’t realised is that he’s been lured with an old Leftist ploy called ‘the salami tactic’.

This was most effectively used in the late 1940s across Eastern Europe when Josef Stalin visciously Bolshevised nations including Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.

Crucial in applying the salami tactic is finding people who were earlier associated with what the Stalinists designated as their class enemies.

Such chosen persons had to be gullible enough to agree to publicly criticise people, political parties or organisations they’d been previously linked with and the Stalinists hated.

By recruiting such persons to go public against former colleagues, Stalinists knew they were slowly slicing-off – like salami slices – backing from those that had been designated class enemies.

The persistent and repetitive use of the salami tactic meant that, over a very short period, targeted persons, parties or organisations were able to be portrayed as alone, isolated, and without backers.

That’s precisely what organisers of the pro-compulsory fees advertisement want.

Mr Clarke, a banker and former federal Liberal treasurer, therefore allowed himself to be used to trim a thin slice of backing from trusting Messrs Nelson and Howard’s commitment to liberty and voluntary association.

It gives the impression they are alone in this regard, that they are Robinson Crusoes.

But that’s untrue since all liberal-minded Australians – be they Liberal, Labor, National, Greens or Democrat voters – cherish liberty and the principle and practice of voluntary association.

But Mr Clarke isn’t alone in this regard, since another wealthy individual has actually resorted to using the salami tactic in her own right, that is, not within an advertisement.

That person is Perth businesswoman Janet Holmes a Court, who so passionately believes in compulsion that she wrote to a newspaper utilising the salami tactic.

“I have been amused at the accusations that student guilds and councils have been hotbeds of ‘left-wing social activism and protest’,” she wrote.

“I reflect on my days on the UWA student guild with the likes of former Howard attorney-general, Darryl Williams, former ACCC chairman, professor Allan Fels, former Fraser government minister, Fred Chaney, current president of the Liberal Party in WA, Danielle Blain, and husband Nick, political adviser to former Court government industrial relations minister Graham Kierath, and my deceased husband Robert Holmes a Court.

“And joining us around the table was former WA Liberal senator Peter Durack, then on the UWA senate.”

That’s classical salami tactic usage.

What does State Scene have to say to her?

Only this. In the 1950s, the decade she’s presumably recalling, Australia under the Liberals had a range of institutional arrangements that most Australians wouldn’t accept today.

There was, for example, a highly regulated banking sector – so no Macquarie banks, Mr Clarke; a two-airline policy that banned launching new airlines; and something called National Service, military conscription.

Surely Mrs Holmes a Court wouldn’t advocate the re-adoption of any of these, particularly the latter?

Or would she?


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