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Wednesday, 27 August 2014
Page: 5763

Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (15:45): I move:

That the Senate—

(a) notes:

(i) higher education is an important sector that allows for intellectual development and increased job opportunity,

(ii) independent student unions and organisations play a crucial role in the higher education sector particularly in supporting at-risk students and increasing student engagement,

(iii) independent student unions and organisations can play a crucial role in local economies in regional areas, through the provision of jobs and support frameworks for students and young people, and

(iv) Macquarie University currently receives more than $6 million in funding from student fees via the Student Services and Amenities Fee and none of this revenue is provided to independent student unions or directed toward services in democratic consultation with students; and

(b) calls on Macquarie University to:

(i) cease its legal action against the Macquarie University Postgraduate Representative Association and its board members,

(ii) remove any freeze on the Macquarie University Postgraduate Representative Association's bank accounts; and

(iii) support independent and democratically run student unions.

I seek leave to make a short statement.

The PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for one minute.

Senator RHIANNON: Student organisations provide important services for students across Australia, including child care, counselling, sports representation and advocacy. The Howard government's reforms were devastating for students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds who relied on the provision of many of these services. While the student services and amenities fee went some way towards redressing the lack of service provision, its major weakness has always been the fact that independent student organisations have not been guaranteed funding. Macquarie University's legal attack on 'the Macquarie seven'—the board of the Macquarie University Postgraduate Representative Association—is unprecedented. As the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations points out, the issue is an important test case. It is important for those of us who support independent, vibrant, democratic student organisations to stand up against attacks like this, otherwise they may start becoming a common occurrence.