The federal Labor government was elected with a mandate to continue the previous government’s policy of banning Universities from charging their students compulsory fees for amenities, services and to fund student unions.
It hasn’t stopped power obsessed student politicians from continuing a bizarre campaign to get their constituents taxed by Universities with a poll-tax imposed regardless of financial capacity. Oddly, these student representatives prefer a system that compulsorily slugs students to a voluntary union fee.
It’s policy not conceptually different from former UK Conservative Margaret Thatcher’s poll-tax which sought to ensure local governments were funded by all residents not just property owners.
There is an obvious solution to the funding of student services and the organisations that provide them, if only people like the National Union of Students boss with the Thatcherite haircut Angus McFarland had the decency to do his job and ask. If student unions provide valuable services that cannot operate without subsidy, the Commonwealth should allocate the extra funds to provide that subsidy.
All the things that are not essential but important like student newspapers and keeping student officials in Cabcharges and interstate conferences and such could also be subsidised by the taxpayer. They pay for worse rorts in Canberra than anything Angus McFarland could dream up.
But McFarland doesn’t want government subsidy because he’d know that student unions would then have at least some degree of accountability for how they spent the money. An accountability very few of them have ever had when they’ve been able to compulsorily sting individual members for the money for organisations where voter turn-out is usually very low.
His creativity seems restricted to inventing new reasons why his members ought be regressively taxed by the Commonwealth government. Today’s latest reason, the global financial crisis means that Universities armed with billions in reserves somehow can’t afford to pay for basic student services because their investments have declined in value. It shows that while he can grow his hair like Maggie, he can’t make an argument like the Iron Lady could.
If McFarland was a real union official saying that employers couldn’t pay for a subsidised caf at a workplace because of the global financial crisis so the solution was a flat-tax on employees that would be the same regardless of salary, he’d be hunted out of Trades Hall, given a good thumping in its notorious car-park and tied naked to one of its concrete pillars for passers-by to spit upon his displeasing form.
Deputy Prime Minister Gillard is in charge of Australian universities. She was once a student politician. But she’s now a politician for all of us. She will be expected to honour the government’s promise not to impose a highly regressive flat-tax on Australian students as the country enters a time of great economic uncertainty where often the first jobs to get cut are the part-time and casual jobs that are crucial to the incomes of many University students.
The fact that the titular head of the Australian student movement is the loudest voice for imposing a new tax on his own members shows just how badly served they are. A decent rent-seeking lobby group works to benefit its members not advocate measures that will cause many of them considerable hardship in order to fulfil an ideologically and power driven agenda.