By Kate Carr
SYDNEY — On June 29 it was revealed that, despite the federal Coalition government's efforts, its proposed "voluntary student unionism" (VSU) legislation will not be debated during this sitting of the Senate. With the changed balance of power in the new Senate next month, this deferral of debate means, in all likelihood, that the legislation will not be passed: the ALP, Greens and Australian Democrats have all vowed to vote against.
VSU has been the student movement's primary focus this year, provoking large protest actions throughout the country. The biggest of these was the May 19 national day of action against VSU, which mobilised more than 6000 students.
The Howard government's failure to ram the legislation through the Senate is a major victory for the student movement, but it should not lead to complacency. The legislation has still to be rejected by the new Senate and, as was revealed recently in the Democrats' deal with Howard on the GST, the parliamentary parties that currently say they oppose the VSU bill may be unreliable allies.
The possibility remains that these parties will propose a "compromise" VSU which protects student services while legislating against the political role of student unions.
The fight against VSU is not over, but students can claim to have won round one.