How Chris Ellison voted compared to someone who believes that university students should be able to choose whether or not to pay student services and amenities fees (also called student union fees)

Division Chris Ellison Supporters vote Division outcome

25th Sep 2008, 9:45 AM – Senate Motions - Voluntary Student Unionism - Agree to motion

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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 [ 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.


absent No Not passed by a large majority

11th Sep 2006, 3:50 PM – Senate Motions - End Voluntary Student Unionism

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The majority voted against a motion introduced by Australian Democrats Senator Natasha Stott Despoja. This means that the motion was rejected.

The motion was:

That the Senate-

(a) notes that:

(i) the introduction of voluntary student unionism on 1 July 2006 has resulted in the loss of numerous jobs and the closure of vital student services,

(ii) many other student services are in jeopardy,

(iii) the Government’s ‘Voluntary Student Unionism Transition Fund’ has done little to protect essential university services such as child care, welfare, counselling, advocacy and accommodation,(Read more about the fund here.)

(iv) the closure of these services is having a devastating effect on poorer students and those in regional and isolated areas, and

(v) the introduction of voluntary student unionism has undermined student autonomy and representation at universities; and

(b) calls on the Government to reverse voluntary student unionism.


No No Not passed by a small majority

How "voted strongly for" is worked out

The MP's votes count towards a weighted average where the most important votes get 50 points, less important votes get 10 points, and less important votes for which the MP was absent get 2 points. In important votes the MP gets awarded the full 50 points for voting the same as the policy, 0 points for voting against the policy, and 25 points for not voting. In less important votes, the MP gets 10 points for voting with the policy, 0 points for voting against, and 1 (out of 2) if absent.

Then, the number gets converted to a simple english language phrase based on the range of values it's within.

No of votes Points Out of
Most important votes (50 points)      
MP voted with policy 0 0 0
MP voted against policy 0 0 0
MP absent 0 0 0
Less important votes (10 points)      
MP voted with policy 1 10 10
MP voted against policy 0 0 0
Less important absentees (2 points)      
MP absent* 1 1 2
Total: 11 12

*Pressure of other work means MPs or Senators are not always available to vote – it does not always indicate they have abstained. Therefore, being absent on a less important vote makes a disproportionatly small difference.

Agreement score = MP's points / total points = 11 / 12 = 92%.

And then