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July 11, 2011 | by  | in News |
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Future of VSM looking shaky

The future of students’ associations continue to look uncertain, due to delaying tactics by the Labour Party, the resignation of Heather Roy, and calls for compromise on both sides of the debate.

ACT MP Heather Roy’s Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill, more commonly referred to as the Voluntary Student Membership (VSM) Bill, aims to make membership of students’ associations voluntary.

For several months, the Labour Party has filibustered so that the final Committee Stage of the Bill has not had a chance to be debated in the house. As there are only three Members’ Days left before Parliament dissolves, there is a chance the Bill may not pass before Roy retires in November. Should the Bill not pass by then, another member may pick it up at its current stage and carry it on.

“A number of MPs have asked me if I could transfer the Bill to them after the election,” says Roy. “So I have no doubt at all that, if it’s not passed before this election, it will be carried on into the next election.”

Roy is determined to see the Bill pass before the election and has accused Labour of wasting Parliament’s time. This determination has also led to calls for a compromise from both sides of the controversial debate.

Labour’s Tertiary Education Spokesperson David Shearer and Heather Roy have taken part in “constructive discussion”, but Shearer says the chances of achieving a successful compromise are looking less and less likely.

“The objective, from our point of view, is to ensure that students’ associations stay healthy, vibrant organisations. And, at the same time, that we try and get a piece of legislation through that would actually persevere into the future,” says Shearer.

“I think that the chances of it happening are more and more remote, frankly.”
Roy says she is willing to discuss alternatives as long as they remain consistent with her belief that students have the freedom to choose whether they join their students’ association.

“I will, when looking at any sort of compromise at all, have that principle foremost in my mind of freedom of association,” she says.
The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) has previously opposed VSM outright, but it has recently echoed Labour by asking for a “fairer alternative”.

Internet based prediction market iPredict has just launched stocks on the chances of the Bill or a compromised version being ratified before the General Election. As Salient went to print, the market thought it had a 63% probability of the Bill passing in some form.

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  1. Jennylee says:

    My hat is off to your atstue command over this topic-bravo!

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