- Debate resumed from 20 October.
MOANA MACKEY (Labour)
: Labour will be opposing this legislation. We will be opposing it because it is not about choice; it is about taking away choice from universities with students associations like Waikato University. It first voted to get rid of compulsory student membership and then had to vote to bring it back because voluntary student membership was such a resounding failure and the student association fell apart. That university made a democratic choice to keep compulsory student membership, and this legislation removes the ability of that university to exercise its democratic right to choose compulsory student membership, as it did. Following the enactment of this legislation it will be forced to follow the 2 percent of people who voted for the ACT Party in support of voluntary student membership.
- Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
MOANA MACKEY: The Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill is complete rubbish.
JO GOODHEW (National—Rangitata)
: The Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill is most certainly not complete rubbish, as the member opposite, Moana Mackey, said. There are some key messages I want to reinforce as we draw to a close this bill’s second reading. We in National believe in getting the most out of every single dollar we spend in tertiary education. I know that at least one member opposite has heard that message once already this evening. We also want to see that students get
value for money. Certainly, this bill has given a large number of students a wake-up call. It has given them the opportunity to reflect on whether they are getting value for money.
There has been a really interesting development in recent weeks. You see, the Victoria University of Wellington Students Association has suddenly started asking students what they want. Is it not enlightening that that should happen, probably because of this bill? National believes in freedom of association and personal choice. I guess one of the disturbing aspects of this bill for me was to hear about some of the services being provided by the students associations that were nice, but I did not instinctively think they were core student services. This bill will mean that students associations look to what they should provide, to what the students will support, and to where the provision of those services should most usefully lie. National is committed to supporting students moving towards a much more accountable and higher-performing tertiary sector. I certainly believe that this bill is one step in that direction, and I am very happy to support it.
CHESTER BORROWS (National—Whanganui)
: I rise in support of the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill. I am sure members on the other side of the House will be surprised about that! I do not believe that this bill is rubbish by any means. I endorse the words of my colleague, who made the point that this is about freedom of association and freedom of choice. That is something that the other side of the House rails in support of at every possible opportunity, except when it comes to this. I wonder why that might be.
I believe that any student attending any tertiary education institution in this country should have the ability to choose whether they want to belong to an association of students. I recall my time at university not too long ago where, as a mature student, I trundled along and, like all mature students, I sat in the first two rows of the lecture theatre because I could not see the whiteboard and I could not hear the lecturer. Like all the other mature students, I brought my pencil case and I had my coloured highlighters and my ring binder—and the skinny little bugger who was 20 years old and came in with half a refill and a biro between his teeth got all the A’s, and I got all the C+’s.
The student union did not do much for me. In fact, I did an awful lot for the student union when I was there, not because I had paid a subscription or felt that I wanted to get my money’s worth but because I wanted to. That is why people should belong to students associations and that is why people should belong to unions. It should be because they want to help and they want to do something, not because they are forced to or intimidated into doing it. I am pleased to support this bill.
HILARY CALVERT (ACT)
: I rise this evening pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the second reading of the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill. ACT takes the freedom of the individual as one of the yardsticks in assessing Government actions. At some fundamental level, relationships between individuals should be based on consent and on voluntary cooperation. Over time we have come to respect the importance of freedom of association. As Sir Roger Douglas reminded us in his speech on the first reading of this bill, this House has ratified the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of association and explicitly includes the right not to associate. But one group of individuals in New Zealand is still forced to join an association. Currently, tertiary students around the country are forced to join an organisation—in fact, everyone other than those studying at Auckland University.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Who wrote this speech?
HILARY CALVERT: If the member would like a copy, I can give him one later.
Students are the only group that are forced to join an organisation and pay the fees that are set. ACT has always believed that individuals should be free to pursue their own interests unless they violate the freedom of others. Compulsory membership of unions went in 1983, and students remain the only group compelled to join what is essentially a union whether or not they want to. Students are having their freedom violated. Kiwis prize their freedom, especially freedom of speech and freedom of association—the right to join any group one wants to, and the right not to join a group with which one disagrees. So important is our right to freedom of association that it is protected in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. This bill will finally see students have the same freedom that the rest of us currently enjoy.
As the situation presently stands, a student must pay the students association fees set by that body at the university or polytech that that student attends. The exception is Auckland University, where membership is voluntary. The law provides an out—those who object to belonging to a students association can arrange for their fees to be paid by the association to a charity, but this by no means allows students to choose not to pay for services they have not been persuaded are ones they would choose at a price they are forced to pay.
Compulsory membership and payment of fees mean that the guaranteed incomes students associations receive, regardless of their actions, result in associations not actually representing students’ views and in many cases undertaking partisan political activities. There are a great many examples of student resources being wasted and of some associations indulging in resource mismanagement for the personal gain of association officials. Even if students association resources were all spent wisely, students should be able to choose. Making students association membership voluntary will ensure that they are more accountable to their members. There is nothing like having to provide quality services to attract members, to reduce the risk of money being spent on unwanted services, and to prevent money going missing from time to time. Associations would have a greater incentive to provide services that students actually want—supply and demand in action.
Opponents of voluntary student membership claim that if students are not forced to pay the union fees no one will join and services and the student voice will go. This attitude merely says that the associations have no belief in themselves. If they provide services that students want, they will prosper. Auckland University is a case in point. Membership there is voluntary and students do join. The reason any customer service outlet provides quality services is that it knows that its customers have the opportunity to shop elsewhere. As soon as we have the option of withdrawing our money from any service, the service becomes far more accountable. I commend this bill to the House.
- Amendments recommended by the Education and Science Committee by majority agreed to.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill be now read a second time.
||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; United Future 1.
||New Zealand Labour 39; Green Party 9; Māori Party 5; Progressive 1.
|Bill read a second time.