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The Coalition against compulsory student fees

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Senator Brett Mason

Shadow Minister for Universities and Research Liberal Senator for Queensland

The Coalition against compulsory student fees


The Federal Opposition will oppose any Gillard Government attempt to re-introduce “compulsory student unionism by stealth” on Australian university campuses, Senator Brett Mason, the Shadow Minister for Universities and Research, said today.

“Schools and Youth Minister, Peter Garrett, may claim that the Government is not bringing back compulsory student unionism, but students can be forgiven for thinking that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck,” said Senator Mason.

The Government this week introduced the Higher Education Legislation Amendment (Student Services and Amenities) Bill 2010, which aims to resurrect a compulsory student fee scheme that has already been rejected once by the Parliament last year.

“The bottom line is that under Labor students will again have to pay up to $250 for services that they may never use. Students attending university are already under enough financial pressure without being forced to pay for services and amenities they may not use or want,” Senator Mason said.

“The students that this unfair tax will affect the most are those from low socio-economic backgrounds. These are the same students the government purportedly wants to attract to university, yet at the same time is slugging them with more tax and more debt.

Senator Mason said that the Labor Party failed to understand that student life today is very different to what it was 30 years ago, during the hey-day of compulsory student unionism.

“More students are older, many more now study part-time and in the evenings due to competing work and family commitments; many more take advantage of greater flexibility and new technologies to study externally. Most students today simply do not have the time, inclination or even opportunity to use the services offered,” Senator Mason said.

“With the Prime Minister who is a former student union president, it is not surprising that Labor is once again trying to offer a sop to their constituency among student politicians who keep on producing new generations of Labor Party apparatchiks.

“But the great majority of students are not interested in student politics, don’t want to pay this new tax, and shouldn’t be forced to subsidise services and activities most of them aren’t interested in.

“This is typical Labor - the first thing they do in government is they slug a new tax, and they slug it on those least able to afford it.”