I am contrary, I know, but whenever Julie Bishop is enthusiastic about something I tend to take the opposite view. Yesterday, for example, speaking in defence of the ideologically driven (and short-sighted) abolition of compulsory union fees at universities — see The Sydney Morning Herald — she remarked: “The challenge for student unions is to attract student support by being relevant and efficient.” The context for that “Let them eat cake” utterance is this.
Students used to pay several hundred dollars a year in compulsory union fees, which subsidised services such as child care, international student support, food outlets, sporting clubs and infrastructure, student newspapers and social clubs, but the Federal Government passed laws banning the practice in 2005. Since then the sector has lost $167 million in annual income, resulting in a 50 per cent funding cut to inter-university sport, a 40 per cent funding cut to sporting clubs and more than 1000 people employed in student services losing their jobs, the study found.
Nationally 100 sporting services such as elite athlete support have been shut down or reduced, while the same has happened to 261 union services.
But the money students have saved will not necessarily remain in their pockets, with the study calculating they will spend more than that amount in the increased cost of services and rises in HECS fees.