The purpose of this Bill is to uphold students’ right to freedom of association, by ensuring that no student is compelled to join a students association.
Section 17 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 guarantees the right to freedom of association. This right includes the freedom from compelled association. Parliament has an obligation to ensure New Zealand legislation is consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act and New Zealand’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This Bill does not seek to damage or limit students associations, but guarantees the right of students to the freedom of association. It will result in students associations being truly representative of the students who voluntarily join them.
Under this Bill, all students would be able to choose whether or not to join a students association. The current Act requires councils to conduct a referendum to decide if all students should be forced to become members of an association, if petitioned by 10% of the students enrolled at the institution. If a majority of voters in a referendum support compulsory membership, then the right to freedom of association for the all remaining students is breached.
This Bill seeks to address the negative consequences stemming from the passing of the Education Amendment Act 2000 and the referenda provisions of the Education (Tertiary Students Association Voluntary Membership) Amendment Act 1997. The current legislation fails to guarantee individual students a satisfactory opportunity to withdraw from associations, and sets the bar too high for those who wish to make membership of a students association voluntary.
The link above will take you to a pdf of the Bill as hosted by Salient (Blogger does not permit me to upload attachments). As former President and Vice-President of the Waikato Students Union during its brief stint as a voluntary association, Matt and I are extremely pleased that this bill is on the table and we urge the government to back it.
The only thing I would want to fiddle with is clause 6 to make sure it is really clear that the voluntary membership model at the University of Auckland, where I currently study, is not able to continue. It is effectively compulsory funding but voluntary membership and almost all the problems of compulsory associations remain as a result. It appears that clause 6 of this Bill is intended to address this,
6 New section 229 substituted
Section 229 is repealed and the following section substituted:
“229 Voluntary membership of students associations
“(1) No person, including any tertiary institution or any association of students, may require any student or exert undue influence on any student –
“(a) to become or not become a member of any association of students; or
“(b) to pay any money to any association of students, or to any other person in lieu of such fees.
“(2) No person, including any tertiary institution, may act in any way which conflicts with the sprit and intent of this section.” [sic]
However, at Auckland no student directly has to pay any money to the student association. The money is taken from student levies and payed via a service agreement to the association. I worry that as written this clause might permit that to continue. Still such things can always be fiddled with during the select committee process or via supplementary order papers if the Bill goes that far.
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