Saturday, July 01, 2006

Voluntary Student Unionism

Today Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU) comes into effect in Australia! VSU in one form or another has been fought for by right-wingers and conservatives since the 1970s. Student unions in Australia have generally been training grounds for the Labor Party as well as extra funding for Labor campaigns and issues. See what I had to say about the issue in December 2004 in The Australian titled Good Riddance to Compulsory Campus Unionism (I’d post a link by it’s been taken off the website). My views changed over my time as Vice-President of the Adelaide University Union where I was generally marginalised by my views for reform (many of which are now being implemented a year later).

I spent a year attending Union Board meetings as well as chairing the Finance and Development Standing Committee and sitting on various others. It wasn’t a total waste of time as I gained valuable experience in management and a little financial knowledge. It has held me in good stead in a number of my current capacities, primarily now as a member of the
University of Adelaide Council. I have also dealt with the dirtiest of personal politics with a number of gagging motions and policies direct at me. One in particular “condemned” me for the above article.

Student Unions not only spend students money (compulsorily acquired though fees) on political campaigns ranging for attacking university policy to the Church teachings and also from promoting abortion to advocating Cuban government as a perfect system, but also on subsidising poor quality food outlets on campus. I can go on but many of you know the story and the arguments that were outlined sometime before the bill was passed in December 2005 with the help of Family First senator, Steve Fielding.

Campus culture should not be lost, simply an end to complacency and new tactics to be forged by the Left. Tony Abbott, Peter Costello, Eric Abetz et al campaigned and succeeded without compulsory support of the student union, now its time for Labor to do the same.

I certainly won’t be voluntarily joining the AUU this semester! Yippie for VSU!

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