The controversial voluntary student union membership legislation has unexpectedly made it back before Parliament last night. The Labour party had been filibustering the Members’ Bill of ACT MP Heather Roy by drawing out debate on an earlier piece of legislation. However ACT used a standing order procedure yesterday afternoon to have the earlier piece of legislation set aside until the next sitting day of parliament. ACT caught Labour unaware and debate began on the voluntary student membership bill and carried on through the evening. The bill had nearly passed through the committee stage by the end of the evening.
It is now possible the bill will pass in a few of weeks’ time when it comes up for its third and final reading. Under Labour’s original plan to delay debate the bill would not have made it before Parliament before the election.
NZUSA co-president David Do immediately accused the National Party of breaking a promise:
“National MPs have told us as recently as two weeks ago that this Bill would not pass before the election,” said Mr Do. “We have been working hard to try and achieve a fair alternative to the Bill which addresses their concerns around the current system while ensuring students’ associations can survive,” added Mr Do.
“With only eight weeks to go before students go into exams, students’ associations will not be able to adequately consult with their students and make preparation for a possible 100 percent loss of income in 2012. Tertiary institutions will likewise have no time to prepare for the massive transition needed to ensure important services and facilities will be able to continue beyond this year.”
TEU national president, Sandra Grey said staff at tertiary institutions would also be concerned by this dramatic turn of events.
“If students associations become financially or politically unviable because of this legislation many of the services they offer will either disappear, or be picked up by institutions and paid for through their own already stretched budgets,” said Dr Grey. “That means more stress, pressure and workloads for tertiary education staff. It also means classes with students with less pastoral support and advocacy, which is bad for learning.”