10% Support Not A Convincing Mandate
20 October 2000
The results of the Waikato referendum on student association membership showed that only 10% of students on that campus support the compulsory option. This is a similar result to the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology vote a month ago in which 8% of the students on the campus chose the compulsory option.
Both these votes clearly show that compulsory membership is very clearly something that only a small number of students actually support. However because the Labour-Alliance Government, a supporter of compulsory membership, changed the law earlier this year to remove the checks and balances that previously existed, these sort of gerrymandered minority outcomes are now much easier to achieve.
Serious concerns have been raised by the conduct of the Waikato campaign. Students were given very little notice that the ballot was to occur and it was conducted within a study week when fewer students would be present on campus. The current law places no conditions on the conduct of campaigns, with the result that the incumbent student association has a disproportionately greater amount of influence on the final result. NZUSA's constitution allegedly prevents it from interfering in local campus issues yet there was national association involvement in the WSU campaign and that of the CPSA at CPIT.
If the same rules were applied to national elections they would be called shameful and undemocratic. These are rules that are only fit for groups that cannot make their membership compulsory. Student associations should not be allowed to have compulsory membership when there are so few constraints on their operations, when so few students have indicated their willingness to participate in their activities, and when they have shown that the spirit of democracy can be so blatantly abused.
The WSU campaign is in sharp contrast to that at Auckland University where there will be a postal ballot, where campaigners for both sides will have access to the same resources. The Labour-Alliance government's legislative move can only be seen cynically as a means of throwing a few crumbs to left-wing student leaders who have clamoured for payback from their favourite politicians. These leaders' cliched praises for the Waikato result must be seen for the political whitewash that they are.
Web site: http://patrick.dunford.com/vsmc/