Sunday, August 06, 2006

Interview with Rick Kuhn

Here’s another interview about VSU, this time with Rick Kuhn who is an academic working at the Australian National University.

It was reported in the Green Left Weekly that, "...ANU academic Rick Kuhn and Resistance activist Leigh Hughes were enthusiastically received by the crowd when they condemned the VSU legislation as a political attack on the basic right of students to organise a fight-back against regressive Coalition policies."

Could you elaborate on your views in this regard?

Student unions, SRCs and Students Associations, exist to represent the collective interests of students. They mean that students democratically decide how to respond together to government policies of different kinds, actions by university administrations as well as a range of political and social issues.

Over the past 40 to 50 years they have tended to be critical of the Coalition (although there have been periods at some campuses when the right has dominated student unions). That is why the Howard government has introduced VSU. It wants to silence critical voices.

The idea of "voluntary student unionism" is like that of "voluntary taxation". Student unions provide services, especially that of democratically representing students to government, uni[versity] administrations and the wider society, from which all students benefit. Governments also provide services for the whole community. Making student union membership and fees voluntary is as much of a nonsense as making membership of the Australian political system and the payment of taxes voluntary.


At August 06, 2006 12:38 pm, Blogger skepticlawyer said...

This guy trusts government WAY too much. Why is it, if a service is delivered by private enterprise, it is malign? And why, when delivered by government, does it mysteriously become benign?

At August 07, 2006 12:29 am, Blogger Rafe said...

"Democracy" on campus is dominated by interest groups that generally do not serve the interests of the majority of students.

The analogy with taxes does not hold up. Taxes can be justified for things like defence and some forms of public infrastucture that cannot easily be provided otherwise. The things that student stirrers want to have funded by compulsory fees do not fit into that category.

At August 07, 2006 7:21 pm, Anonymous Sam Ward said...

"Making student union membership and fees voluntary is as much of a nonsense as making membership of the Australian political system and the payment of taxes voluntary."

What rubbish. It is like making membership of the Liberal or Labor party voluntary, which it is and always has been.

At August 07, 2006 8:09 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The tax analogy used by Rick Kuhn (and also by Jenny Macklin) has already been demolished by Rafe and Sam, but for the record here's yet another way from Andrew Norton's VSU paper:

"These analogies are very awkward. The non-academic fee is not levied by a government authorised to tax; students cannot go to jail for refusing to pay. How much students pay for an amenities fee depends on what university they attend, and whether they are enrolled full or part-time. It is not a percentage of income or assets, the usual way of calculating taxes and rates. By paying a non-academic fee students become directly entitled to a package of services, while taxes and government services operate independently of each other. Student associations are more like political parties or interest groups than agencies of the state. The non-academic fee needs no analogy. It is exactly what its name suggests, a market fee."

At August 07, 2006 10:22 pm, Anonymous mikey said...

Agree with you guys (pinching myslef as i type) but I think Kuhn was fairly spot on regarding the Howard governments motivations though - at least at the top echelon.

At August 08, 2006 8:56 pm, Anonymous Sam Ward said...

Explain how not forcing students to pay money to the guilds will "silence" anyone.

It doesn't cost anything to speak out. Compulsory unionism was always just a great excuse to steal money from students to provide the in-crowd with cheap beer and pizza, and funnel money to their pet political causes.

The fact that the left still believes that struggling students should be forced to fund the upper-middle class private school socialists that dominate student politics just goes to show where their real priorities lie.

At August 09, 2006 11:45 pm, Anonymous mikey said...

Hey, I'm not defending student politics (despite the gross caricature that you made of it.) I'm just saying Howard saw a chance to snuff out another traditional avenue of dissent.

Under the dominant paradigm of political advocacy it does take money to speak out effectively. I think JWH and co were focused on shortcircuiting this, while satisfying more than a few old scores in the process. I don't terribly mind the outcome and I reckon these chickens may come back to roost (see WA.)


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