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VSU inquiry a shameful farce.

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Media Release


Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate

Labor’s Parliamentary Secretary for Education





The Senate Inquiry into the Government’s Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU) legislation has been a sha meful exercise of crude and heavy tactics on the part of the Coalition, according to Senator Kim Carr, Labor’s Senate education spokesperson.


Senator Carr was speaking to the tabling of a minority report of the Senate Committee on Employment, Workplace Relations, Small Business and Education, on the Government’s planned legislation to introduce VSU in Australia’s universities.


Coalition members of the Committee, had engaged in heavy-handed and overbearing behaviour towards witnesses before the Inquiry, Senator Can” said.


“The pitiful and half-hearted efforts of Senator Abetz in the Senate this morning, in retracting his accusations directed at an unfortunate and innocent student representative, simply reflect the Government’s attitude to this Inquiry,” he said. “The Government should have apologised to this person.


“Instead, the Government failed to accord the Opposition the chance to respond to this blatant example of the Government’s cavalier attitude to the truth,” he said.


Senator Carr said that well over ninety percent of submissions made to the Committee had opposed the introduction of VSU. They had included those from churches, other religious groups, welfare organisations, municipal government, the Council for Civil Liberties, sporting bodies and even the Malaysian High Commissioner. Almost all Australian universities had themselves opposed the legislation, as had the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee.


“Nevertheless the Government is persevering with its blatant attack on the rights of students to form democratic organisations to provide themselves with welfare and support services, recreation and representation,” Senator Can” said.


Senator Carr pointed out that even the Government-appointed consultative body, the National Youth Roundtable, had publicly opposed the plan in a submission to the Inquiry. “It did this on the basis of a broadly-based survey which showed that only 29% of students supported VSU.


“To ram its plan through, however, the Coalition was prepared to abuse and accuse witnesses before the Senate Committee of Inquiry, and to limit their opportunities to put their views,” he said. “This whole affair has been a shameful display on the part of the Government of failure to respect the considered and experienced positions of those potentially affected by the VSU legislation,” he said.


“The Senate should reject those proposed amendments to higher education legislation designed force VSU on an unwilling university system,” he said. “The plan is not only unnecessary, but fundamentally destructive to student interests,” he said.


Further in formation: Kim Carr 0262773730; or 0419 563 922.

25 May 1999



jk  1999-05-27  10:55