Students held silent vigils outside MPs’ offices yesterday in protest against the voluntary student membership bill that will abolish compulsory membership of student unions at tertiary institutions.
The Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill is a member’s bill sponsored by ACT MP Heather Roy.
Before the rallies the national students’ association NZUSA released the results of an independent public opinion poll showing that 77 percent of respondents felt that students should decide the structure of membership of their associations, compared with just 17 percent that believed it was the Government’s decision, and 6 percent who were unsure.
Parliament is due next week to vote on the bill for a third and final time.
NZUSA co-President David Do says the opinion poll shows the New Zealand public believed students themselves should determine the method of students’ association membership, rather than the government.
“Students are best placed to make their own decisions about the membership of their local students’ associations, and this public poll shows there is no appetite for Government involvement in such processes,” said Mr Do.
“These results follow an overwhelming response at Select Committee where 98% of the 4,800 submissions were against the Bill and in support of the status quo. With students, the public, and tertiary institutions opposing the Bill and warning of its negative consequences, why would the Government support such an unpopular and unworkable Bill?” said Mr Do.
The current law, passed by the National Party in 1998, already allows students choice in determining what sort of membership model they want via referenda, and also enables students to individually opt out of membership through conscientious objection and financial hardship.
The Act Party Bill seeks to replace the status quo by imposing voluntary membership on all associations, hence removing students’ choice and putting important student services, representation, and welfare at risk.