'Voluntary student unionism' law takes effect


Emma Clancy

The Howard government's Higher Education Support Amendment (Abolition of Compulsory Up-front Student Union Fees) Act 2005 — also known as the "voluntary student unionism" (VSU) law — came into effect on July 1.

The most serious impact of the law, which was passed by the federal parliament last December, will be to destroy, via starvation of funds, campus organisations that not only represent the interests of students, but also have a history of challenging government policy.

The June 28 Australian reported that at least 400 student union and union-funded service jobs had been lost due the VSU law in the weeks prior to its coming into effect.

In a June 30 media release on the impact of the VSU law, National Union of Students (NUS) president Rose Jackson said: "Over the last few weeks hundreds of dedicated staff have been sacked, with more redundancies coming. At Charles Darwin [University], the student union is all but gone. At Flinders University, all the students' association staff have their final day at work today... At the University of Sydney the emergency student loans program is being shut down. At Victoria University all the academic rights staff from the student union have been made redundant. At RMIT and La Trobe [University], the subsidised dental services are going." NUS itself has also implemented cuts to staff.

According to the Democrats 2006 Youth Poll, released on June 25, 58% of young people are opposed to the abolition of universal student unionism.

From Green Left Weekly, July 5, 2006.
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