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The Freedom of Association Bill

August 21st, 2009 by Madeleine

Fantastic news! Yesterday the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill 75/1 was drawn from the ballot. Sponsored by ACT’s Sir Roger Douglas, the explanatory note states:
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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51 responses so far ↓

  • Awful news.  Now we can have a studnet unions with 34 (??) members again.  Remind me Matt – what were the exact numbers?  I recall you refused to release them at the time. Why you rejoice at this baffles me.  I guess its what happens when ideology gets in the way of reality.

    Voluntary taxes anyone?  Well I guess if you go along with ACT's insane philosophy far enough you may say yes.

    It is a dark day for NZ.

  • Other good news is that compromise is unlikely – the student associations demonstrated last time how they treat compromises.

  • That people can only object by implying that a private union has the same right to my membership as the government has to taxes speaks clearly of the sinister mindset behind compulsory unionism.

    I may as well request a law making you a de-facto member of my church. Don't bother objecting, I mean, you don't get to abstain from paying taxes, right?

    It's funny how some people would recognise this terrible reasoning in other circumstances, but their normal senses get switched off when it comes to unions.

    It is a day of hope for New Zealand.

  • The numbers definitely dipped but why cite the worst figure they fell to? (not that 34 members is accurate) Why not cite the figure they rose to whilst voluntary at Waikato? The launch of the membership package we released for the following year, (the new exec came in in March each year so they have to implement the work done by the previous exec) netted the WSU 3000 members, at that point Waikato had 11000 full time students.

    Regardless, and you know this argument full well Max, even if the numbers had dropped to 34 then that is an even stronger argument as to why students should not be forced to fund it. If it is that irrelevant and unvalued to students then it deserves to die.

  • Voluntary taxes anyone?

    Sorry, how is a union analogous to a government?

  • "how is a union analogous to a government?"

    They have elections.
    They have people they make promises to and don't keep.
    They get to speak to the media.
    Everywhere the president goes on campus people recognise him or her.
    They get their own offices paid for by other people.
    They get to go on junkets and have free food, booze, flights and accomodation.
    Lots of people who serve on student unions end up being in government – usually in the Labour or Green party.

  • Of course the fact that unions lack coercive power, cannot prosecute people, cannot declare war on other nations are all minor insignificant details.

  • So are you an advocate of volunatry membership to the nation of NZ then Madeleine?

    So can you tell me – years and years later what the numbers were is not 34?  Just to satisfy my curiousity?

  • I honestly cannot remember Max. I know the number at its lowest was in the hundreds, that's how I know it was not 34, but I have several numbers in my head when I think about it so I can't be sure.

  • Meh!  Actually who cares… voluntary/compulsory… minor issues.  I am getting distracted form the big picture…

  • I always though/think the student associations should have been split into two bodies… an actual UNION which was compulsory – and a student SOCIAL CLUB which was voluntary.  I object strongly to having to belong to an association which takes my money to spend on other people's recreationsal activieties.. (I mean if they want to play Rugby or have party – they can pay for it themselves!) – but I could see a lot of value in the student advocasy and representionside of things.

    I think the reason people tend to support voluntary associations (unless it is because of fanatical political beliefs) is because they don't like having to pay for other people's entertainment.  But if it was actually a union which ONLY looked after student's rights then they would be more keen to join.  It would also be considerably cheaper I would imagine.

    The one good thing about this and the referendum just passes is that both point towards a short term of National – and then ACT will lose any influence as well.

  • Max, it is far more important that "unions" be voluntary than that social clubs be voluntary (although of course both should be voluntary). This is because it is the union that is the mora political body that takes stances on conscience issues. To make these compulsory is no better than making the Catholic Church compulsory.

  • OK Glenn.  I just plain disagree with you.  Not for philosophical reasons. or even political reasoins really, but for historical reasons.

    I happen to like having (i) sickpay (ii) weekends off (iii) paid holidays (iv) the right to not be harrassed on the work place (iv) a living wage (v) reasonable working hours etc. etc. etc.  Go look at what living conditions were like in London before all of these things were fought for and won.  Don't talk about philosophy and ideals and all that nosnsense.  Talk about reality for once.

    I have all of these wonderful gifts from the past in large part because of the unions, and brave men who fought (and died in many cases) to protect my rights.

    I know these things will vanish if all unions are destroyed.  It is happening in NZ already.  If I have to give up certain freedoms in order to keep a decent society where decent working folk can live a decent life – then so be it.

    I do not (as I have said before) worship the sacred cow of Freedom as an ideal that must be upheld at all costs.

  • Max, it's just not fair ow honest to imply that there are people trying to destroy unions here. That's ridiculous. Labour unions are voluntary, and they have not been destroyed at all. So whatever you're talking about, it's most certainly not "reality." Voluntary unionism has not harmed unions.

    Or are you seriously claiming that it has? Do tell! But this rubbuish about me being all philosophical and you being concerned with reality or history is just silly rhetoric.

  • "Voluntary unionism has not harmed unions"

    Glenn, I have neither the time nor the inclination to write you a short history of the union movement, and its interaction with working conditions in New Zealand.  I am sure you are an intelligent man and you are capable of researching this for yourself.  If, after having done so, you still think the same thing, so be it.  But yes.  I am seriously claiming this.  And yes – shock horror – I do think that there are people who have a vested interest in destroying strong unions.  Is that really hard to believe?  I know I will be harrassed (again) into giving an apology – but I think you are deluded if you can't see this.

  • Max, you've lost touch with reality. Aside from student associations, unions are voluntary. They are also thriving. These are widely known facts, denied by nobody.

    Ergo you are wrong to think that voluntary unionism destroys unions. Open and shut case. I had both the time and the inclination to point this out, and it didn't take long.

  • OK Glenn.  As I have already said I think you are wrong.  So not much else to say on the matter really is there?  There is little point us both bluntly asserting things.  If you have gone and studied the issues in depth (either earlier in your life or in the.. what is it… couple of hours it took you to reply) then I will have to trust that this is your honest opinion.  It is just testiment to the fact that two vastly different opinions can come out of the same historical data.  I somehow doubt you know the history – but if you say you do I can not possibly disagree.

  • Max, trouble is, I'm not just asserting. I'm presenting incontrovertible evidence. In fact, you youerself accept the evidence. You yourself accept that unions have not gone out of existence, and you accept too that they are voluntary. Every trade union you can care to name is doing just fine as a voluntary organisation. You know this, so we agree on it.

    Therefore vountary membership does not destroy unions.

    That is not a matter of disagreement. It is a matter of agreement. You, however, are adding on the assertion that voluntary membership destroys unions, without denying the facts of history as I have stated them about unions thriving in spite of being voluntary.

    At the place where I work there is even competition among unions, and both of those unions are thriving!

    The above is evidence, not assertion.

    So firstly, the facts of history are with me, and they are firmly against your position.

    Secondly, the morality of compulsion is against you. it would be wrong to force you to join my church on the grounds that I think it is best for you. It would be wrong to force you to join a political party on the grounds that they want a better deal for you. That it why we have things like Bills of Rights in the first place to remind would be dictators that nobody should be compelled to beling to an association.

    So the facts of history and the moral facts (assuming that you believe in such things) are against your stance here.

  • Glen.  Not interested.  Don't take it personally.  Just not interested in this topic enough to care that much. 

  • *shrug* Suit yourself Maxx.

  • I also find some of your "debating tactics" in the past a little too offensive to deal with.  So I don't want to get into another debate with you over anything to be honest.  Again don't take it personally – I just don't think there is any point trying to discuss anything rationally with you. 

  • Oh please, you could have ended it with dignity with your previous post but no…

  • Do you think you deserve my respect Glenn?  I had only just realised when I had last talked to you – and how vile you were last time you tried to "debate".  Anyway,  as I said I don't think you are really worth talking to.  Perhaps you could think a little about this, and what it says about you, rather than responding to this with some sort of defense of yourself – or attack of me.  Show what sort of man you are.

  • For someone who doesn't wnt to talk about it, you suddenly have a lot to say about me personally…

    You're calling these comments now an attack on you. That's just unfair and untrue, and you know it.

  • I am just explaining to you why I said what I said.  And you know full well why I said what I said.  I did not call anything an attack – I just said not to attack in the future.  Don't try and pretend that you are a gentlman.  Sir, you are not.  Good day to you.

  • You just don't learn.  It is kind of sad in a way.  Go think a while.

  • Not really the place for a personal fight Glenn.  I suggest we both delete such silly messages.

  • Do you guys need me to turn on the hose?

    Nice post Glenn.

  • And now that he's deleted all his posts (I wouln't want anyone to see them either if it were me), it looks like I've been talking to myself!

  • I just thought that Madalaine was right and it is not the forum for a personal fight.  Don't start it up again.  Whats the point.

  • For the record and as everyone – Nax included, clearly observed, my comments were about the subject at hand: Compulsory associations. One of us decided to start picking at personal claims about the other person. Max, I am still willing to continue discussing the subject I was talking about with you, but as you have a personal issue with me you chose not to. You are welcome to return to conversation ay time, explaining how it is that voluntary unions survive and thrive right now in NZ, in spite of your claim that voluntary unionism "destroys" unions.

  • For the record and as everyone – Max included, observed, my comments were about the subject at hand: Compulsory associations. One of us decided to start picking at personal claims about the other person. Max, I am still willing to continue discussing the subject I was talking about with you, but as you have a personal issue with me you chose not to. You are welcome to return to conversation ay time, explaining how it is that voluntary unions survive and thrive right now in NZ, in spite of your claim that voluntary unionism "destroys" unions.

  • Just stop it please Glenn.  I beg you. It is not worth it

  • Max, if you don't want to talk to me about it, don't. I'll cope. But continually replying with silly little snide comments suggesting that I'm doing something wrong are petty and revealing of your personality in a way that most people would be embarassed by. Converse with me or don't.

  • Glenn. I amjust asking you to stop this.  I don't want to continue this.

  • I m not trying to be snide etc.  I just don't want to continue this.  I can't make it clearer than that.

  • *petty
    *defective personality (in some way)

    Fine.  OK. That's me.  Now do you want to add to the list?  Or shall we say goodbye?

  • * arrogant
    * angry
    * depressed
    * infantile
    * illogical
    * vindictive
    * deceitful
    * disloyal

  • Max, you're being utterly pathetic. Passive aggressive much?Talk about earning your description. What is the point of posting again to tell me that you don't ant to post again, only to do the same thing an hour later?

    I get the point. You don't want to talk about it. I got it the first time when I said "as you wish." It's only your weird obsession with – after we';ve agreed to drop it – posting again to remind me that you want to drop it, and adding that my vileness is to blame.

    Until now I've not gotten personal in the least, but your insecurity is showing!

    Hint: If you want me to believe you when you say that you don't want to talk to me, you might start by shutting up.

  • I am honestly not embarrassed Glenn.  Despite all that.  Isn't that wonderful news?

  • *pathetic
    *passive aggressive

    Looks like I did miss a few!  Thanks Glenn!

    But guess what?  I am still not embarrassed.

  • Does the fact that I'm posting something now mean that you're going to have to post again, begging me to stop?

    (By the way, you've probably adequately distracted people away from the point that you were unwilling to concede now. Top job.)

    In spite of the fact that you don't want to say anything, I await your reply. 😉

  • Is that not good news Glenn?

  • Glenn – do you see why it is such good news?

  • Do you see it Glenn?  There is something a lot more important that quarreling over opinions here.  Let us rather each be convinced in our own opinions.  

  • Given your refusal to say anything (aside from complaining about me saying anything at all), what choice is there?

  • After all, who are we to pass judgements on someone elses union member ?

  • Well – it is before their own Union Boss that they will stand or fall.  Right?