02/12/2010 - 00:00

Students cop another hit to the hip pocket

02/12/2010 - 00:00


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Labor and the Greens have moved quickly to impose an ideological agenda on universities.

DURING the federal election campaign State Scene told all who asked that Labor would win; not, I stress, because it deserved to.

I was wrong.

Neither Labor nor the coalition won.

They drew.

Although the prediction of an outright Labor win wasn’t realised, something else I predicted was.

I also claimed Labor, once in power, with Greens backing in the Senate, would expeditiously re-impose compulsory student unionism at tertiary campuses, which the Howard government outlawed.

And, sure enough, on September 29 The Australian newspaper carried an article headlined, Labor to bring back compulsory university amenities fee.

It therefore took the Gillard-Greens alliance plus the ‘rural conservatives’, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, just more than five weeks to realise that prediction.

Before outlining why predicting this was so easy, here are a few lines from that press report.

“Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans, appealed today to the new parliament to support the [compulsory student unionism] bill, saying he wanted it to be passed by Christmas to ensure it will take effect next year,” it reads.

“Senator Evans said it was important to restore a range of depleted services at universities, particularly in regional Australia, and cited sporting, health and counselling services as key areas.

“The legislation would allow students to be charged a fee of up to $250 a year for the provision of student services with Senator Evans claiming it was supported by both universities and students.

“He also took a swipe at the Howard government’s voluntary student unionism legislation which had abolished services and amenities fees for students.

“‘Under the arrangements left by the coalition government, close to $170 million has been ripped out of university funding’, he said.”

The report concluded that the bill to re-impose compulsory student unionism had “now been changed to make it more attractive and allow the $250 fee to be paid over time”.

That’s certainly a loopy way of describing this further slug on students.

Before delving into some nuts-and-bolts of these contentions, it’s important to note two things about the coming $170-plus million compulsory union dues to be extracted annually from students.

Firstly, Senator Evans deliberately perpetrates the Orwellian ploy of giving compulsory student union fees another name – ‘service and amenities fee’ – since he believes this makes it sound more palatable.

Secondly, the $170 million amount is small fry compared to the $40 plus billion earmarked for the dubious National Broadband Network and the coming devastating long-term impact upon industry of taxing carbon dioxide gas.

But it’s prompt announcement shows how crucially important it is for leftists in terms of the long-term propaganda and ideological impact in conditioning and indoctrinating young Australians.

And don’t be mistaken; it’s the long-term impact that explains why the Gillard-Greens axis moved so promptly to re-instate the ‘services and amenities fee’.

A significant part, though not all, of this $170 million – nearly a fifth of a billion dollars nationwide annually – to be harvested from tertiary students will be channelled into a range of political and quasi-political causes.

That money will markedly boost political pamphleteering and other campus publications over coming years.

It will also be used to fund interstate and international trips by student activists, will bankroll rallies, political conferences and a range of indoctrination seminars and ongoing campaigns.

And it will be used for no end of generally leftist causes and crusades, from so-called green issues to promoting other strange quests.

Overseas activists are likely to be hosted to Australia and myriad new political networks created.

Some of this pot of cash will go to the National Union of Students, successor of the Australian Union of Students that once bankrolled tours to local campuses by Palestinian Liberation Organization representatives.

Who knows who and what else NUS will bankroll in future?

Whatever it turns out to be, both NUS and individual compulsorily funded campus unions will no longer be financially strapped to fund political activities, because they’ll have ongoing access to millions of dollars annually from the compulsorily so-called ‘services and amenities fee’.

Now, it’s important to be absolutely clear on this.

State Scene isn’t simply objecting to all this wasteful propaganda around campuses (even though students would be better off without it).

That’s not the pivotal issue.

What’s being highlighted is the fact that every tertiary student will now be slugged a whopping extra $250 annually – $6 extra per academic week to attend university.

That’s $1,000 over what’s already charged under the Higher Education Contribution Scheme for a four-year degree.

What makes this even more perverse is that students refusing to pay the $250 union levy when enrolling for a degree will have their enrolment rejected by university administrators.

Whenever administrators encounter refusals, applicants are quietly taken aside and told they can instead direct their $250 to another cause since they’re conscientious objectors.

But if such objectors should refuse to bankroll any other cause, they’re application will be rejected.

The crucial question is what cause – political or otherwise – is so important that students be denied a taxpayer-funded tertiary education?

The answer is, none.

The average campus has at least 10,000 or so full- and part-time students treading its grounds.

All have cafes, canteens, plus other commercial enterprises serving what are best described as captive markets.

No campus business faces paying council rates and charges, rent, or other such costs that off-campus businesses confront.

Campus-based premises were paid for by taxpayers, so no bank borrowing was required to build required facilities.

What student unions should therefore be doing is administering these ‘services and amenities’ efficiently, with earned surpluses allocated to funding what Senator Evans chose to highlight as “sporting, health and counselling services”.

There’s absolutely no need for compulsory student union levies, under whatever name.

Any student wishing to participate in non-academic activities should do so voluntarily and meet their own costs, with some of these even subsidised from profits generated by campus businesses.

That most especially applies to not being compelled to pay for someone else’s political antics, ambitions, and crusading, including for propaganda publications.

Why is the Howard government’s principle and practice of voluntary association being scrapped by the Gillard-Green government?

For the answer we need simply look at Ms Gillard’s background and path into a highly paid political career.

It began with student activism at Adelaide University, moving to Melbourne and heading the now defunct AUS, plus becoming a Socialist Forum mover-and-shaker.

Incidentally, that’s a fairly standard ALP and, increasingly Greens, career path.

Compulsorily funded student unions as conduits for producing and distributing leftist propaganda is seen as crucial by Labor-Greens politicians.

That’s why neither could wait to re-impose conscripting of students into campus unions to bankroll those outdated entities.

But one-time union industrial officer Senator Evans isn’t smart enough to have twigged that protracted campus union propagandising was the crucial ingredient in amassing such huge cohorts of Greens members, cadres, and backers Australia-wide that now electorally threaten Labor.

Unlike the average Labor voter, most Greens backers are tertiary trained and earn well above average incomes.

What’s required is voluntarism, efficient administration of campus facilities, and lowering the cost of degrees, not conscripting students into unions and threatening expulsion of those balking at joining.



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