The majority voted against a motion introduced by Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young that: That the Senate— (a) recognises that university enrolments for 2009 are due to begin in the week beginning 28 September 2008 around the country; (b) notes: (i) the summary report, The impact of voluntary student unionism on services, amenities and representation for Australian university students [480 KB], dated April 2008, that specifically highlighted the devastating impact voluntary student unionism (VSU) has had on the quality of student support services on campuses across the country, (ii) the alternative solutions to the current system of VSU put forward by a number of key stakeholders, including a proposal based on a combination of shared funding arrangements between students, universities and government, and (iii) the Government’s commitment to restoring essential student services and representation; and (c) calls on the Minister for Education (Ms Gillard) to confirm before enrolments for the 2009 university calendar commence, that the current system of VSU will be scrapped to address the regressive impact VSU has had on student services and the educational experience, to ensure any change in legislation is in place before 2010.
This was a [http://www.aph.gov.au/~/media/05%20About%20Parliament/53%20HoR/532%20PPP/Practice6/PDF/Chapters/6Chap09.ashx substantive motion] [924 KB], meaning that it was a “self-contained proposal... drafted in a form capable of expressing a decision or opinion of the House”.
Someone who voted Aye supported the motion. Since the majority voted No, the motion was unsuccessful. This means that the majority of the Senate disagreed with the motion.
Debate in Parliament
The Labor Government joined the Coalition Opposition in voting against this motion.
Labor Senator Joe Ludwig confirmed that "[t]he government’s consultations on VSU [voluntary student unionism] have supported our view that this policy has had a substantial negative impact for students and the higher education sector".(Read Senator Ludwig's discussion here.) He said "[w]e want to provide a sustainable and robust solution" but that the government "will of course not be rushed on this and is undertaking a proper process to ensure it gets the policy right".
Background to the motion
Voluntary student union fees were introduced by then Prime Minister John Howard’s Coalition Government with the Higher Education Support Amendment (Abolition of Compulsory Upfront Student Union Fees) Bill 2005. This meant that universities could no longer require students to pay a compulsory fee for facilities, amenities or services that were not of an academic nature.