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Friday, 7 September 1984
Page: 680

Senator PETER BAUME(3.44) —On behalf of the Opposition, I move :

Page 4, clause 16, after paragraph (b), insert the following new paragraph:

''(ba) by inserting after 'fees' in sub-paragraph 1 (o) (ii) 'the payment of which shall be voluntary and which are';''.

That amendment is the first of the amendments the Opposition wishes to press. In speaking generally to the clause and before addressing myself specifically to the amendment, the Opposition finds proposed section 27 (1) (o) (i) to be satisfactory. We have no objection to that proposed section, nor do we wish to raise any objection to it. There is no worry about that matter. This is the first of the clauses that bring up some of the issues raised during the second reading debate. I cannot believe that the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan) is basing her argument and her case on the fact that she is seeking autonomy for tertiary institutions in Australia. Any tertiary institution hearing that would burst into laughter. This is the greatest joke of all time. Tertiary institutions need look only at the guidelines that have been issued recently to know the Government's view on autonomy. They need look only at what has been stated about the kind of admission policy they should employ, the kinds of employment policies they should pursue and the kinds of course structures they are being told to encourage and promote.

In the light of that kind of statement and the Minister's statement that the Government sees education as one means of achieving the social and philosophical goals of the Government-I think I used the Minister's words precisely-the Government cannot expect us to believe that it is just promoting autonomy on campus and autonomous behaviour by institutions. That is the case particularly when I note the words of Mr Dawkins when in Opposition, which I have quoted: 'We have methods'. He was referring to using section 96 of the Constitution to force institutions to adhere to what might be the Government's policy on student organisations. There could be nothing more inaccurate as a description of the way in which the Government is proceeding in its approach to tertiary institutions. That argument is being used because it is the argument to hand.

Clause 16 seeks to amend section 27 of the principal Act. It is one of the amendments affecting the funding of student political bodies. My amendment is to proposed section 27 (1) (o) (ii) which enforces payment to the political students' association and to the service facilities on campus-that is, to the Australian National University Union and the Australian National University Sport Union. It is the policy of my Party and, I understand, of Liberal students ' organisations to allow for complete voluntary student unionism and complete freedom of association. I have set out the reasons during the second reading debate this morning. We argue that students should not be forced to fund activities and services which, to use the words of the Act, are not of an academic nature. In the amendment we are considering, we are seeking to ensure that students are not forced to fund activities or organisations that are not of an academic nature.

There are objections to what is being proposed by the Government's amendment. The amendment appears to run counter to the concept of people being able to receive a universal free education. The educational institutions provide education free, but then require the payment of a general service fee. If the Government has its way, it will restore the capacity to impose punitive sanctions. Whether or not Senator Macklin is correct in saying, 'However, we have assurances from what appears to be a responsible council of the ANU that it will not happen,' the point is that the capacity is restored to the university to impose punitive sanctions if someone refuses to fund or belong to political bodies such as the students' association.

I remind the Committee that, although I have confidence in the present council the ANU--

Senator Peter Rae —I am glad that you do.

Senator PETER BAUME —While I am aware of the debate that was undertaken by people who were members of that council-such as Senator Peter Rae-in trying to resolve this question, I do not know the council's composition next year or five or 10 years hence. Senator Macklin knows that the argument he put up this morning was an appeal to authority based upon his assessment of the present membership. The fact that it is a good council does not, in logic, address the question of what are the proper provisions to have in this Bill. One must construct one's amendments and one's Bill in a vacuum to see what kind of effects they will produce.

We believe that what is proposed is not consistent with the widest concept of freedom of association, especially in the case of the Students Association, which is overtly political in the way in which it is structured and the way in which it operates. It is separate from the Student Union. As I said this morning , we find it difficult to say that this measure is entirely consistent with article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It appears quite incongruous to us that we have in the principal Act a declaration and preservation of freedom of religion-it is explicitly provided for-but we have no preservation of freedom of association or, as the United Nations declaration provides, freedom of non-association. I think that the words we propose to add regarding the voluntary payment of fees would make it necessary for those organisations wishing to receive the fees to be responsive to the students from whom the fees are being collected. Although the money is collected under compulsion there is no need for them to be responsive except insofar as an annual election goes. In terms of the organisations' day to day operation they do not have to meet the needs or requirements of students provided that once a year they can have the confidence of students at an election. That is the only answerability they have at present.

I have moved an amendment which provides that the payment of fees shall be voluntary. This would have the effect of introducing a choice for the students. If the student associations and the student unions were worth supporting they would be supported; if they were not worth supporting they would not be supported. There is some merit in supporting this amendment and I commend it to the Committee.