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Thursday, 5 May 1994
Page: 391


Senator ABETZ (7.40 p.m.) —Today, Australia Post delivered to one of Tasmania's most brilliant tertiary students a notice of debarment advising him that he was debarred from the University of Tasmania. The student I talk about is Daniel Muggeridge, a second-year science student. Daniel's results last year led to his being placed on the dean's honour role of excellence. He also won the Digby Fitzhardinge Memorial Prize. He achieved four high distinctions and two distinctions in the first year of his science degree.

  Having tasted university life for the first year, he made a conscious decision not to pay his compulsory student union fee in the second year because of his objection to the union and its compulsory nature. In true democratic style, in full support of the concepts of free thought, free speech and support for individualism, the university administration decided to put its commitment to compulsory unionism before the rights of Daniel and the rights of Australia to have its young educated and trained—and, in this particular case, the benefits to Australia of this young man's clearly outstanding potential.

  The university administration's action today is a blot on its record. It is a shameful act to debar for political reasons any student, let alone a brilliant student, from education. The university administration's action today is proof positive that the Tasmanian government must act immediately to outlaw this outrage and follow the fine examples of the governments of Western Australia and Victoria which have now legislated, or are about to legislate, for freedom. That any university would consider acting in this manner is shameful enough; that one has acted in this manner is unforgivable.

  I salute Daniel as a young man of conviction and dedication, a young man who is prepared to sacrifice a brilliant future for his beliefs and commitment to freedom—freedom of thought, freedom of belief and freedom to associate or not associate. I make no apology for saying that when I am confronted by this David and Goliath struggle, I will support to the hilt the David and condemn the Goliath which so brutally and destructively seeks to abuse its power.

  This Senate, indeed this country, needs to be made aware of the Tasmanian University's disregard for fundamental rights. I am sure that all Australians tonight will wish Daniel

Muggeridge well in his fight with the university. I am also sure that if the university does not alter its regulations immediately, the people of Australia will say to the Tasmanian government, `Put Daniel Muggeridge before compulsory student unionism.'

Senate adjourned at 7.44 p.m.