Guy Crouchback: Student fees serve only cadres

03 Dec 2008

By The Record

It is not surprising that the present Federal government is seeking to restore compulsory student amenities fees. It is a gradualist, back-door re-introduction of compulsory student unionism. This, on past experience, means literally hundreds of millions of dollars taken from students and given to the ALP and the left.
Innumerable ALP State and Federal politicians, including Kim Beazley and Julia Gillard, as well as various lesser apparachiks, received their first political training in compulsorily-funded student guilds. Gillard was the second woman to lead the far-left Australian Union of Students. 
Catholics should be specifically concerned as Catholics and Christians as well as in their capacity as ordinary citizens.
There is good reason to suppose much of this money will be used for various political camapigns directly or indirectly against family values and for promoting secular/atheist/nihilist and anti-Christian positions on abortion, prostitution and a host of other social issues.
Historically, student unions have functioned as cadre-generating factories for the left generally as well as major auxiliaries for political campaigns.
Unlike many political party branches they operate not only at elections but continually.
The left’s hold on compulsorily-funded student unions is decades old. There were also associations with real grown-up terrorism, including support for the PLO when it was involved in hi-jacking.
Students who tried to resist the left’s control were forced to neglect their studies for the wearying, frequently sordid and sometimes dangerous business of student politicking. Peter Costello and ALP right-wing MHR Michael Danby were among those physically attacked.
Most students not committed to leftist politics as a career path put their studies and other activities first, tending to leave the left with permanent majorities in postions of power.
The DLP-aligned and anti-left Democratic Clubs have now faded away and will not be available in the future.
The National Union of Students, which in the 2004 election spent $255,307.00 on Leftist campaigns in marginal electorates, has said the money will be passed on to students for “student services.”
The experience of compulsory student fees has been that they pay for not only individual political campaigns but also for offices, printing, computers, telecommunications, vehicles, stationary and student newspapers – all major political sinews of war, plus various agitprop cultural events. The situation could have been designed deliberately to prevent transparency and accountability.
Perhaps unintentionally revealing the true agenda, University of WA Vice-Chancellor Alan Robertson is reported to have said: “It’s good if young people are engaged in politics. Look at our current Parliament and the very high number of members [who] were involved in student politics from all sides.” This fatuous comment misrepresents the situation in several ways. (Since when was forcing students into political activity in the University’s charter?).
Apart from anything else it falsely suggests a kind of symmetry between activities from “all sides.” In fact those Parliamentarians on the Left previously engaged in student politics were overwelmingly occupied with building careers through student unions.
Those not on the left who were involved in student politics were overwhelmingly occupied in campaigning against compulsory student unionism.
The claim by National Party Senator Barnaby Joyce that he would support a compulsory fee but demand it not be used for political purposes shows, to put it charitably, naivete.
Experience has proved that it is impossible to distinguish between political and non-political uses of this money. Consider just the case of a compulsorily-financed student newspaper: how is that to be kept “non-political”? By appointing an official censor?  Where could a dividing-line between the political and non-political be drawn?    
Once its editor decides to promote anti-Christian material or, for example, pro-abortion or sexually licentious material, Catholic and other Christian students will have no choice but to fund it if they want to continue their university careers.
Must Jewish students fund propaganda openly or covertly, directly or indirectly, supporting Israel’s enemies and those dedicated to its annihilation?
And who thinks the various beneficiaries would take the slightest notice of Joyce’s “demand” once they have their hands on the cash-cow of compulsory fees? The experience of voluntary fees under the Coalition has not shown a negative effect on the Universities’ raison d’etre – the imparting of education through lectures, laboratories, tutorials and libraries.
Nor do the vast majority of students want compulsory amenity fees back. For some reason they would like to continue to be able to spend their money as they choose.
The claim by Melbourne University vice-chancellor Glyn Davis that voluntary student unionism has cost that university about $5 million a year is good news for students and a vindication of voluntary fees.
Further, Robson admitted that with voluntary payments the WA University had “a very active guild,” indicating compulsory fees were not necessary if guilds supplied things students actually wanted.
They were only necessary to force students to pay for things they did not want.
The principle of “user pays” is as manifestly just as the principle of accountability, whether for political or non-political organisations.
In the last few years student societies, dependent on the voluntary contributions of members, have been run in a more open and accountable way: they have been supported by people with an interest in them being efficient and delivering services, just like real-world clubs and societies.
Australian universities today are not the Oxford of Brideshead Revisited and their students tend not to be languid young aristocrats with unlimited time and inclination to indulge in college activities.
Many students today are mature men and women with families, studying part-time and, in the present economic climate, working in grim earnest to improve their qualifications.
They have neither the time for, nor interest in, activities such as building taverns for subsidised drinking and hiring rock-bands, and there is no ethical reason why they should be forced to subsidise others’ drinking and head-banging, any more than any students should be forced to subsidise political or other causes they may find repugnant.