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Thursday, 25 November 1999
Page: 12746


Mr LINDSAY —The Beattie state government has ridden roughshod over the autonomy and independence of the James Cook University student union, blocking an attempt by the student body to change the name to the James Cook University Student Association. I would describe as petty and arrogant the state government's attempt to override the JCU student union's decision to change their name to one that more accurately reflects an inclusive approach to student representation.

The state Minister for Education, Dean Wells, has effectively said that loyalty to his union mates comes before the wishes of James Cook University students. For that, both he and the Beattie government should be condemned. The JCU student union had earlier this year agreed to change the name to the `student association' on the basis that the word `union' alienated many students. The James Cook University council also unanimously endorsed the name change at its meeting of 1 July 1999. The peak body of the university unanimously endorsed the name change, recommending to the state government that the change be facilitated along with other reforms through an amendment to the James Cook University Act 1997. This was to be done through the Education and other Amendments Bill which is shortly due to go through the state parliament.

However, the education minister through the department has informed the student union and the university council that that bill will now proceed minus the recommended change to the name of the student union. Dean Wells has ignored the longstanding convention which says that the state government does not interfere with internal decisions of universities. Instead, he has chosen, from the comfort of his George Street office, to ride roughshod over the wishes of the James Cook University student union, the James Cook University council and JCU students in general.

The James Cook University student union ought to be praised rather than railroaded for seeking to become more inclusive and responsive to the needs of North Queensland university students. The decision by the state government to impose their will on JCU and prevent the student body from becoming a representative organisation should be condemned. It clearly shows where the Beattie government's priorities lie. Unions and unionism come first. The needs and wishes of North Queensland students come second. That is their mantra.