By Aaron Benedek
To defeat the federal "voluntary student unionism" (VSU) legislation it is essential that the student movement launch a campaign immediately. Despite many students having heard of VSU, it is clear that many do not understand what it is and what it will mean for student organisations.
Although VSU is a major threat to the survival of student organisations, during campuses' orientation weeks (one of the most intensive outreach opportunities all year), there was a dearth of information on VSU. The National Union of Students' (NUS) main contribution to orientation weeks was a glossy full-colour leaflet on student organisations which did not even mention VSU.
The focus of the campaign has been decided by student activists and campus organisations; whether or not anti-VSU material was distributed during orientation weeks came down to which forces controlled the union. In the Adelaide University student association (controlled by the Independent faction), a conscious decision seems to have been made not mention of VSU. On the other hand, the RMIT student association and Griffith University Student Representative Council (controlled by coalitions of non-Labor left activists) had a well coordinated approach to encouraging student involvement in the campaign and produced materials which explained VSU.
NUS national has declared that it will not call a national mobilisation against VSU until May, three months after the legislation hits parliament. Impatient with NUS national dragging its feet, activist committees and NUS state branches called their own rallies for March 31 in Brisbane, Canberra, Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne and Hobart.
Although NUS national is supporting a week of action against VSU in late March, it should also devote a lot of resources to the March 31 national mobilisation.
In the next few weeks, building anti-VSU rallies will be an important focus for student activists. If you would like to get involved, ring your local Resistance Centre.
Activist committees are still planning some of the March 31 national day of action rally details, but those confirmed are:
Brisbane: 12pm, King George Square, march to DEETYA offices
Canberra: 1pm, Workers' Club
Melbourne: 1.30pm, State Library
Sydney: 1pm, Town Hall
[Aaron Benedek is a Resistance member and an education officer at the Sydney University Students' Representative Council.]