Senator fighting for Voluntary Student Unionism

Queensland Senator James McGrath has flagged the pending introduction of a Private Members Bill to abolish compulsory union fees for tertiary students.

In a speech to The Senate last night, Senator McGrath said the Student Services Amenities Fee, introduced in 2010 by the Gillard Labor Government, represented a financially draining attack on freedom.

“The SSAF represents an attack on the fundamental freedom of association,” Senator McGrath told the Senate.

“Yet Labor, the Greens and their comrades in the National Union of Students feel no hesitation in pilfering from students to fund their own leftist propaganda machine. Let us be clear, that is exactly what the SSAF does.”

Senator McGrath, who had first flagged the intended bill in his maiden speech last July, last night described the compulsory fee as a “tax on students”.

“$286 is a lot amount of money for university students, especially when it is appropriated without choice, denying students the ability to spend their money on what they believe to be important to them,” he said.

Senator McGrath said he intended to introduce the Bill, which is currently being drafted, to enable the abolishing of the fee “and re-establishing voluntary student unionism as implemented by the Howard government.”

The Australian Liberal Students' Federation has welcomed Senator McGrath's private member's bill.

"The SSAF is a totally draconian fee, its money cannot be used for educational purposes but instead forces students to join extremist student unions," ALSF spokesperson Matthew Lesh said.

"These are the organisations that have undertaken extremely disruptive protests and physically attacked federal government ministers in recent history, totally unrepresentative of regular students."