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Voluntary student union membership

  • June 30th, 2009

Good to see Heather Roy on the news of yet another student union fraud repeating her unequivocal call for VSM.

The Young Nats official response is also promising.

"Student associations are essentially able to get away with making poor decisions and having poor processes in place like no other union in New Zealand – simply because they do not have the accountability that they would have under voluntary membership”

The latest  report confirms that  reason for the prevalence of fraud.

"The association’s annual revenue is about $500,000. This was being held in trust until recently because it had failed to complete its 2007 and 2008 audited accounts. Marra [the association Manager] said CPSA had a 2 per cent voter turnout this year, which was higher than in the past, but still "pathetic"."

Why would sensible Polytech students racking up debts to qualify for a job take student politics seriously (other than those who like to spend others’ money and boss them around). These organisations can’t hold institutional memory, they have little or no natural constituency. Like unions around the world they are ripe for corruption because of a cultural history of bullying and there being too few with a sufficient stake to incur the costs of monitoring office-holders’ fiduciary fidelity (and risking the bullying). Decent students have better things to do with their time than associate with many of the types drawn to student politics.

I should know. I was one of those so drawn.

The story from Christchurch lists a number of recent frauds. To that list I could add another just as large, reported to me with supporting papers which satisfied me of fraud, but which the Hamilton Police simply would not investigate. The embarrassed institutional management wanted to leave it alone, it was complicated, involved ‘cultural issues’, and so to the Police was of ‘low priority’.

As Minister of Consumer Affairs and an Associate in Education perhaps Heather Roy will  be able to get action. National’s constitution promises freedom and the liberal side of its history is overdue for ascendacy.

Compulsory student union membership is an unjust tax to feed political activists. They are natural enemies of freedom. Their causes would starve if they had to get donations for their propaganda. It is overdue for National to put a stake through the heart of their power in tertiary education.




My main beef with compulsory student union membership is that it’s at odds with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 20 quite succinctly covers it:

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

I’d suspect that students would be better served until voluntary membership too.


Equally Johnny-johnny our own Bill of Rights covers it too with the sections on freedom of association and conscience.

Your last paragraph Stephen is on the nail and is another reason why if National finally deals to this abuse of rights and freedoms it needs to ensure that compulsory funding is not back-doored in as it is at Auckland University where membership is voluntary but funding effectively is not.

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