National MP and Chair of the Education and Workforce Selection Committee, Parmjeet Parmar has told nearly two hundred union members that they will not be given the opportunity to tell MPs in full what they think about legislation to put students and staff back on tertiary education institution councils.
MPs on the Education and Workforce Select Committee are in the midst of hearing evidence on the Government’s proposals to put into law a requirement that all tertiary education institution councils have a seat for at least one student and one staff member.
Nearly 400 TEU members submitted their thoughts on the Bill, with 175 members requesting to speak directly to MPs as part of their deliberations.
Overwhelmed by the number of submissions, a couple of weeks ago the Committee wrote to the TEU offering a single 30 minute hearing “to represent/capture all of these  oral submissions.”
The offer was rejected by the TEU in favour of giving all those that wanted to a chance to have their say. Parmar then put forward a series of alternative options to present the 175 submissions.
Again, these were rejected by the TEU, which put forward a compromise whereby 10 of the submitters, along with Sandra Grey, national president, have a 45 minute hearing with the Committee. It was suggested that this was done as a conversation with the Committee members, instead of the standard presentation and then questions format, which is the usual way Select Committees operate.
The remainder of the submitters would then be offered the opportunity to present their evidence in small groups.
The Committee turned down the offer and said it would allow only 20 minutes to hear from a panel of 10 submitters – and that these would be heard as a formal hearing, rather than the proposed conversation.
The remaining submitters would then be invited to give evidence to MPs as part of an eight person panel for a total combined time of 10 minutes per panel.
The TEU had little choice but to accept what was proposed, with the 20 minute hearing due to take place on Wednesday 1 August.
Everybody has their own experience of being excluded from decision-making at their institution, and it is important that as many of these stories as possible is heard. For MPs to allow only 10 minutes to hear from eight people at a time is not good enough.
Parliamentary rules do allow for Select Committees to make this kind of arrangement when they have “too many” submitters to deal with. However, on such an important issue for students and staff, it is disappointing that MPs have opted to shut out so many voices from the debate.
The TEU had been due to meet with committee chair Parmjeet Parmar a couple of weeks ago, but the meeting was cancelled. When notifying the TEU of the cancellation, Parmar’s office said she had no time available at any point in the future to meet.
Chris Hipkins recently issued a supplementary order paper to amend the Bill so the changes do not apply to wānanga.