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September 7, 2009 | by  | in News |
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Douglas’ VSM bill pulled from the hat

Biweekly 10 page Salient advertorial set to rock students in ’10

Sir Roger Douglas’ Voluntary Student Membership (VSM) of students’ association bill was been selected as a members bill late last month.

The bill, entitled Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill, has the stated aim of “uphold[ing] students’ right to freedom of association, by ensuring that no student is compelled to join a students’ association.”

Under the current system every student enrolled at Victoria University has to become a member of Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association. The only way to opt out is to approach the president of the association and provide sound ideological reasons for not wanting to be a member.

Pro-VSM lobbyists were excited by the promise of the bill. ACT on Campus Vice-President and Victoria University student Peter McCaffrey called upon parliament to honour the Bill of Rights and give New Zealand students “freedom”.

“The local tennis or rugby club can’t compel membership and instead relies on providing a good quality service that people want in order to attract members—student associations should be no different,” McCaffrey said.

ACT on Campus’ sentiments were echoed by Chair of Victoria’s branch of the Young Nats, Christian Lambert.

“Students ought to have the same rights and freedoms as every other New Zealander, we should be able to decide whether or not we join a union,” Lambert said.

Douglas himself frames it as an issue of choice allowing students the freedom to choose rather than forcing them to pay a union fee if they want to study.

“In addition, student associations often support particular political causes, which is inappropriate given that all students are forced to financially contribute. Voluntary student membership will increase the legitimacy of the involvement of such associations with politics,” Douglas said.

New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) co-president Jordan King said the bill was another idea from Sir Roger Douglas who is grossly out of touch with the student population.

“We find the system is working fine. We don’t think he is the best person to make this decision for students,” King said.

“It looks like he wants to impose his 1980 beliefs on unsuspecting students. He probably doesn’t know what it is like to be on a tight budget. We don’t all get a 90 percent discount on our undertakings.”

The bill is expected to have its first reading in parliament within the next few weeks.

This is not the first time a VSM bill has been put before parliament. In 1997, then-MP Michael Laws managed to pass an amendment allowing VSM under the condition that: a) 10 percent of students signed a petition to force a referendum, and b) a majority of students in the referendum voted for VSM.

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About the Author ()

The editor of this fine rag for 2009.

Comments (2)

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  1. C3PO says:

    So the same party who’s MP said they “don’t give a damn about peoples rights” now wants to give protections under the same bill. Hypocriticial?

  2. Just a heads-up: Laws’ bill was unsuccessful (although I forget why). It was actually Hamilton East MP Tony Steel’s amendment in 98 which forced the referenda. The More You Know!

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