Wednesday, October 12, 2005

No VSU for 2006!

Opposition from the National Party (in particular, Barnaby Joyce), appears to have succeeded in at least postponing the introduction to the senate, of the proposed bill to abolish compulsory fees at universities (Voluntary Student Unionism) for student services, and clubs and societies. While this likely delay is good news for student associations (and Universities as a whole in my opinion), clearly the governments intention is to continue to pursue this, and have it passed by the senate for implementation in 2007. However, if senators like Joyce are as determined to maintain their opposition to the bill in its current form as they say, then even if the bill is not entirely thrown out, it is quite likely to undergo a substantial watering down before it is passed.

The National Party's opposition is welcome. However, it should be noted that the National Party have their own perspective on this issue, which as you would guess, is primarily motivated by the welfare of uni students studying at rural university campuses (of which there are many). They seem to be particularly concerned about the implications of VSU on sporting clubs and infrastructure, and funding support for student services on rural campuses. I don't dispute this concern, but would like to see the Nationals also acknowledge that city campuses are equally in need of such support, particularly when you consider how many students from rural areas move to the city to study. The stress of such a transition should not be underestimated, and the funding of support services to assist students in this transition is as vital as it is for international students. From all reports, Barnaby Joyce for one, is well aware of the issues (hopefully our postcards helped a little with this :D ), and as demonstrated last night, is quite prepared to cross the floor on an issue (despite copping considerable abuse from his fellow coalition colleagues.

For PARSA, this delay means we can happily plan and budget for 2006, which until recently, was quite difficult. In particular, we can find someone to replace our social and publications officer who resigned earlier in the year due to the uncertainty of her position should VSU be passed. For Amanda and myself, as co-chairs of PARSA's social and outreach team, this is fantastic news. Since Derryth's resignation in September, we have been trying to organise the remaining scheduled social events for this year using our less than abundant PRC volunteers. We are coping, but not without a considerable number of hours spent achieving it.

Of course, despite this good news, the uncertainty of VSU remains, and planning for a VSU world continues. If there is a positive side to the current climate of uncertainty, it is that student organisations have really had to address how they are perceived, not just by students, but by the university as a whole. It has been very encouraging to see how highly regarded PARSA is by the ANU. Substantial efforts have been made by the Vice Chancellor, and other senior figures, to ensure that student representation, and student services remain vibrant and effective should VSU be passed.


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