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Wednesday, 12 September 1984
Page: 865

Senator TEAGUE(10.51) —Senator Harradine and Senator Peter Baume have spoken strongly and well on the strengths of the amendment which the Opposition wishes to make to the Government's proposal. We wish to retain freedom of association in universities and colleges in Australia with regard to student associations, and indeed a national association, which have social policies and undertake political activities which are controversial. Within our higher education institutions there ought to be the provision of facilities, apart from lecture theatres and libraries, to encourage educational discussion: Facilities for dining, sport and other activities which lead students to discuss with one another, to meet one another and to share in the wider and broader purposes for which universities and colleges have always existed.

We are not opposed to the existence of student organisations at the national and local levels, but we insist that they be not compulsorily laid upon every student in a university or college. We say that not only for the reasons so well set out by Senator Baume and Senator Harradine-that is, to guarantee freedom of association in universities and these associations and to enable those who do not wish conscientiously to be identified with the purposes of one or other of these student organisations to keep their consciences and to keep apart from activities they do not support-but also because those student associations will be the stronger for being based on a voluntary principle. If by going into the local university student body they can win members to their political or social policy association they will be the stronger for having gained that commitment voluntarily. Their voice will be listened to more often, whether in the local community or the national community.

At this Committee stage of the Bill we want to retain a guarantee, which the Liberal and National parties placed in the legislation for the Australian National University and the Canberra College of Advanced Education, that universities cannot insist on this compulsory levying and compulsory membership of controversial association. In a nutshell, we wish to maintain not only the traditional concept in which there is seen to be strength of freedom of association in these activities but also the voluntary principle, because it brings strength, conscientiousness and integrity to the activities that those student associations have. Even at this late stage I urge the Australian Democrats to join with the Opposition parties and Senator Harradine in passing this amendment so that we can ensure that in higher education there is a principle of voluntary membership and payment of fees in regard to activities of a political and social policy nature.