More trouble on the campus in Australia now. University students might be deprived of sporting, cultural, welfare and advocacy services in the wake of a Senate vote Tuesday.
Labor's proposal to allow universities to charge students up to $250 a year for sporting, cultural, welfare and advocacy services was defeated after Family First senator Steve Fielding refused to back the change.
AdvertisementSenator Fielding's vote was the decider in the Howard government's successful banning of compulsory students fees under Voluntary Student Unionism laws in 2005.
The Rudd government says the annual charge would not amount to compulsory student unionism because any money universities collected could not be used for political purposes.
Student groups and universities have bemoaned the bill's failure, Bonny Symons-Brown reported for WA today.
University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor Stephen Parker said the fee would have provided a vital cash injection to the ailing tertiary sector.
"Australian universities will continue to face an impossible choice between putting money into labs and classrooms or into sports fields and health facilities," he said.
Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations spokesman Nigel Palmer agreed it was a disappointing outcome.
"This will mean the standard of services and amenities available to students will continue to decline," he said.
National Union of Students president David Barrow accused the Nationals, who would have supported the legislation if fees went only to sport, of abandoning the interests of their key constituents.
"We know that students from regional, rural and remote backgrounds, away from their families, use student services far more than their city counterparts," he said.
Mr Palmer and Mr Barrow called on the federal government to reintroduce the bill to parliament this year.
Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said, "Our issue was never about reintroducing compulsory student unions, not in the slightest.
"Our issue was just in regards to giving universities - as a business - the capacity to cover those things that make up the large amount of their costs."
But in the end, it was Family First senator Steve Fielding who again thwarted Labor's plan.
He described the fee as nothing but an extra tax.
"Students are struggling to make ends meet and we should not be putting an extra financial burden on them at all," he said.
The opposition was delighted. Its parliamentary education secretary Brett Mason said modern Australian students did not have the time or inclination to use student services.
"The result in the Senate today puts $250 back into students' pockets so they can choose what they want to spend it on," he claimed.