The Time for VSU is Now

 

11825642_480027035490598_4756637646190208338_n[1]Will Joseph addresses the need for VSU following the recent protests of Chris Pyne’s book launch by NUS and Socialist Alternative Students.

Prior to Christopher Pyne’s book launch in Melbourne starting, we saw some sickening behaviour from the National Union of Students & Socialist Alternative. These people injured police & damaged private property on our student fees; they do not care about students, all they care about is their unrepresentative socialist agenda.
These people also blocked people from going into the event; this is not their event to host. The sad reality of all of this is that every student from all three academic sectors at every campus at every TAFE & University associates with these people involuntarily. At the end of the day, the Student Services & Amenities Fee (aka the student tax) finds its way to the National Union of Students.

 

Students should feel angry about the way part of their fees are being used. Even though this is an involuntary tax, the policy specifically & strictly states that it cannot be used for political purposes. The majority of students aren’t on the extreme-left philosophies & they aren’t statists. The majority of students are simply trying to get a good education so that they can get ahead in life; students are not on campus to violently riot against politicians. These people take our money involuntarily & they still have deficits.

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A New Year, A Bigger Tax

10547978_508484902631689_4330841723284768163_o Clark Cooley argues for abolishing the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF):

As university students enter the 2015 academic year this February, new and continuing students alike are set to be taxed. This tax is not for their further education, rather for non-educational services, the spending of which is dictated largely by unrepresentative student unions.

The Student Services and Amenities Fee, or SSAF is a yearly expanding tax imposed not withstanding of a student’s income, their wish to use the services the ‘fee’ funds, or even their ability to obtain value for money.  In 2014, the average amount paid by students in SSAF equaled $280. With the increasing aspect of SSAF, new students for 2015 will pay an average amount $1300 over the lifetime of a typical 4 year degree. It’s no wonder 70% of students wish to have a university wide vote on the abolishment of the SSAF all together. (The Australian 2014)

Objections to the SSAF are not just financially motivated however, accompanying the payment of this fee is the legal requirement of compulsory membership in student unions. This requisite violates the basic rights of students to the freedom of association, the same freedom that Australian’s have advantage of in the workplace, where compulsory unionism has long been outlawed. Our university campuses however, continue to require students to join organisations that they in large have opposition too. Continue reading

VSU Is Not Dead!

Ben Riley

Ben Riley charts a new course in the fight to reintroduce Voluntary Student Unionism

Following the passing of Labor’s Higher Education Legislation Amendment (Student Services and Amenities) Act 2011 (Cth) (SSAF), many students have resigned themselves to not seeing a return to Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU) in the near future (at the least, not until the coalition next win a federal election with a Senate majority – most likely after they have graduated).

Unfortunately, and understandably, this has drawn much of the urgency and direction out of the fight for VSU, as students await a political climate more conducive to their cause. This needn’t be the case. With state Liberal/National governments now covering the eastern and western seaboards of Australia, the climate is ripe for a return to VSU: this time by the states.

At various young/student liberal conferences over the past 18 months, the suggestion of a return to VSU through state enactment has often been raised. Sadly, it has always been casually dismissed by those who instinctively, and indeed tragically, capitulate to the rule of Commonwealth supremacy.

However, if we look at the Federal statue in depth, it appears that legislative action to restore VSU can be taken by state governments, simply by prohibiting the compulsory exaction of the ‘Student Services and Amenities Fee’ within a university’s constituting act.

Let’s look at the VSU and SSAF legislation more closely.

The operative provision of the VSU Act is s19-37 (2):

(2) A higher education provider must not require a person enrolled with, or seeking to enrol with, the provider to pay to the provider or any other entity an amount for the provision to students of an amenity, facility or service that is not of an academic nature, unless the person has chosen to use the amenity, facility or service.

The SSAF Act does not seek to reverse or repeal any portion of the operative provisions of the VSU Act. Rather, it creates an exception to the prohibition placed on universities with regard to the compulsory exaction of a fee for student services and amenities of a non-academic nature. It does so by inserting 19-37 (4).

(4) Subsection (2) does not apply to a *student services and amenities fee that the higher education provider requires the person to pay.

The legislation is clear: The SSAF Act does not require any university to charge the SSAF; rather, it merely permits them to do so. As such, the SSAF Act should not be seen as reversing the VSU Act as it does not compel universities to charge the SSAF as a condition of Commonwealth funding. Rather, the exception merely provides Commonwealth consent to universities compulsorily charging an amenities fee.  Where they choose not to do so, it does not result in a mandatory loss of funding.

Almost all universities in Australia are the creation of state legislation. These constituting acts commonly set out the powers and responsibilities of a university and outline, amongst other things, the ability to charge fees. It is therefore within the power of a state legislature to amend these constituting acts, and include any prohibitions it considers appropriate – such as one against a SSAF-type fee.

Introducing VSU at a state level is not unprecedented. The best example of this was the tit-for-tat battle in Western Australia.VSU legislation was first introduced in 1977 by the late Sir Charles Court, then repealed in 1983 by Brian Burke. It was then again introduced in 1994 by Richard Court, before its most recent repeal in 2002 under Geoff Gallop.

The Voluntary Membership of Student Guilds and Associations Act 1994 (WA) (‘WA VSU Act’) effected substantially identical amendments to every one of WA’s university governing Acts. The amendments provided that:

  1.  it was not compulsory for a student to be a member of a union/guild;
  2. unless the student chose to join a union/guild or use an amenity/service, it was not compulsory for a student or prospective student to pay:

                a. a fee or subscription required by the union/guild or any amount in lieu of said fee;

                 b. an amount required by the university for an amenity/service which was not related                     to an educational course;

    3.       the university (on behalf of a union/guild) and the union/guild itself were prohibited from accepting Commonwealth grants where the intent of the grant was to overcome the WA government’s VSU policy and compensate the union/guild for the WA prohibitions.

If a university is prohibited from charging a SSAF-type fee by virtue of its governing act, a mere Commonwealth permission to do so, cannot override the university’s institutional disability. Therefore, it is not possible for mere permission per the SSAF Act to override a ban on SSAF-type fees within a university’s governing act by citing s109 of the constitution, thereby allowing for state-based VSU to be implemented

Unless there is soon a Federal Election and a coalition win of Newman/O’Farrell-esque proportions, (which is not out of the question), it will be a long wait until we hold the numbers in the Senate to reinstate VSU federally.

As political circumstances change, so too must our strategy. Liberal students and alumni ought to adjust accordingly and refocus our efforts on lobbying liberal/national state governments for a reintroduction of VSU.

Fighting for VSU has bonded liberal students for generations – this is the opportunity for the next generation to make their mark.

Ben Riley is the President of the Queensland YLNP. Ben has played a central role in the successful Fresh and Epic student election teams at the University of Queensland and Queensland University of Technology, and has served as Treasurer of the UQ Union and as a member of the UQ Senate. He acknowledges Steven Mammarella and Andrew Stirling for their detailed research in preparing this article.

A motion to urge Premiers to introduce VSU at a state level is scheduled to be debated at this weekend’s Liberal Party Federal Council.

 

Labor’s Attack On Students

John-Shipp The Carbon Tax was not Labor's only betrayal this week, it also passed a tax on students to fund compulsory unionism. ALSF President John Shipp discusses this disgrace: 

Yesterday the Government passed the Higher Education Legislation Amendment (Student Services and Amenities) Bill 2010 through the Senate. This legislation reintroduces compulsory student union fees for all students and is an affront to students’ right to freedom of association.

The bill allows universities to levy a tax of $263 (indexed to inflation) on all tertiary students regardless of their capacity to pay for or use student union services. Students studying by correspondence or distance will be charged the full amount. People working to pay their way through uni or studying at night will be charged the full amount.

Those from low socio-economic backgrounds will be required to pay the same rates as those from wealthier backgrounds. At the same time they will have less opportunity to use union services because they live further away from campus or work to pay their way through uni.

The notion that the legislation contains safeguards to prevent political expenditure is plain wrong.

The only political expenditure explicitly banned in the legislation will be the direct funding for campaigns for public office. Third party campaigns will be allowed. As will cross-subsidisation of other sources to raise money to finance campaigns for office.

Just as an example, a ‘Put the Liberals Last’ campaign using money compulsorily acquired from students would be allowed under this legislation.

While VSU meant that student unions had to be at least to some extent responsive to the needs and wants of students in order to attract members, the re-introduction of compulsory union fees will lead to even more mismanagement and cronyism at student unions across the country.

Student unions will have even more money to spend on fringe political causes.

And if you think student politicians have their snouts in the trough now, wait until they have a captive market. It will be the HSU coming to a campus near you.

Of course it is the National Union of Students who will stand to profit the most from this new tax. Prime Minister Julia Gillard, a former President of this hopeless organisation, and her government have in effect introduced a tax to take money out of the pockets of students and put it into the pockets of left-wing students.

This is a sad day in the history of freedom of association in Australia.

However, the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation will continue to fight for voluntary student unionism. We have campaigned for it for over three decades, and even if it takes another three decades, we will prevail. We will go on recruiting activists and putting the case for VSU.

You can help our cause by donating to the ALSF: details here.

John Shipp is the President of the Australian Liberal Students' Federation