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VSU (Voluntary Student Unionism) inquiry: government seeks to destroy what it cannot control.

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Media Release

Senator Natasha Stott Despoja

Australian Democrats

Higher Education Spokesperson


25 May 1999






The Australian Democrats have condemned the Government’s plan to introd uce Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU) as ‘motivated by revenge’ while tabling a dissenting report to the VSU inquiry today.


Australian Democrats’ Higher Education Spokesperson, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja said: “The Parliament should not be debased to sort out old feuds and involve itself in the settling of political scores for former and current members of the Australian Liberal Students Federation who have failed to gain the electoral support of their fellow students.


“With this bill, the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation, aided by their parliamentary patrons, are seeking to destroy what they cannot control.


“This is a Government scared of democracy and disdainful of dissent.


“Their attempt to silence students is in keeping with this Government’s silencing of other organisations who have criticised regressive Howard Government policies, such as AYPAC and youth organisations, women’s and consumer groups and even pensioners and superannuants organisations.


“Under the Howard Government all who dare to criticise are defunded or destroyed.


“The Australian Democrats believe that students must be able to control their own affairs to protect their academic and social rights.


“Much of the evidence presented to the Senate Committee inquiry into this Bill confirmed the Democrats’ belief that this Bill is a Government campaign to silence the student voice”, concluded Senator Stott Despoja.


The Australian Democrats’ dissenting report recommendations include:


The Australian Democrats:

·  reject VSU and oppose the withdrawal of SOS funding for student organisations in VSU States;

·  recognise that student unions are not trade unions, and reiterate our position that student organisations are more analogous to local government;

·  recommend that those institutions currently without a policy of conscientious objection investigate implementing procedures for students to conscientiously object, without financial incentive, to membership of their student organisation; and,

·  have some sympathy with arguments that an up front fee is a financial disincentive to study and we are interested in further investigating options for those who cannot afford to pay.



For comment, contact Senator Stott Despoja on (02)6277 3645

For copies of the Democrats’ dissenting report on theVS U inquiry contact the Adelaide office on  (08)8232 7595



md 1999-05-27  11:01