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ACT urged to take its own advice on cross-party solutions

ACT urged to take its own advice on cross-party solutions

Students are urging National this afternoon to support a longer-lasting enduring solution that is a practical and balanced alternative to ACT’s bill to end universal membership of students’ associations. Such an alternative could generate cross-party support and stop this issue from continuing to be a future political football.

Student leaders believe that National and ACT should heed the recent words of the Bill’s sponsor, MP Heather Roy:

“some of the best solutions that I have seen in my 9 years in Parliament have occurred when cross-party support and co-operation has been to the fore….we must strive to find a way to achieve solutions that won’t become three-yearly political footballs”.[1]

“As the Committee Stage resumes this afternoon, there is still an opportunity for National to support a fairer alternative that is supported by students, and will not cause the damage ACT’s Bill will bring to the sector. The proposal is on the table - all National needs to do is choose it,” says NZUSA Co-President David Do.

Last week student leaders released a practical proposal which would improve the current law which governs students’ associations and is similar to a Kiwisaver-style arrangement.

The main features include:

• Students will automatically become members of their students’ association when they enrol at a tertiary institution.
• Students may opt-out of their association at any time and for any (or no) reason. If students opt-out within the first four weeks of term, they would receive a full refund of any association fees.
• Membership processes would be administered and promoted by the institution rather than the students’ association.
• Associations would improve their governance and operations through a Code of Practice for democracy and accountability.
• The proposed law would come into effect in 2013, ensuring enough time for the sector to make adjustments.

“This is a fair, balanced, and reasonable solution to ensure students can exercise freedom of association while allowing students’ associations to continue to be an independent advocate for students, hold institutions to account, and provide the wide range of services, experiences, and facilities that students use, need, and enjoy on a daily basis. Even the Education and Science Select Committee last year was reportedly considering solutions like this as an alternative,” says Do.

“This Bill would be repealed if there is a change in government, which relitigates the whole issue. Instead of going back and forth, lets agree on something that can have broad cross-party support, and that would do what ACT claim they are trying to achieve with their current Member’s Bill and ensure the best outcomes for students. All we need is National to come to the table,” said Do.

“Today presents one of the last chances for National to adopt a practical, pragmatic solution that prioritises students needs and wishes over the ACT Party. Will they take it?,” concluded Do.

*************

[1] http://www.roy.org.nz/royters/back-benches-ive-been-thinking

NZUSA is the national representative body for tertiary students and has been advocating on student issues since 1929.

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