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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 37, Number 5. 3rd April 1974

Putting screws on student money

page 5

Putting screws on student money

Student opposition has helped rebuff a National Party attempt to restrict the independence of technical institute students associations. An attempt by the Opposition to include restrictions on technical institute students associations' financial freedom in an amendment to the Education Act is likely to be rejected by the Labour Government.

At the time of writing the Education Amendment bills (Nos 1 and 2) have not been reported back to the House of Representatives for its second reading debate by the Statutes Revision Committee. But there will be a sharp clash over the bills when they are debated on the floor of the House.

At present there are two amendment bills. The first was introduced into Parliament by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, R.D. Muldoon, as a result of problems at the Auckland Technical Institute over the legal power of the students association there to collect fees from students.

When a student at the ATI questioned the legality of paying students association fees, the institute administration had to freeze all students association fees, leaving the association without any money to operate on or to pay its staff. To overcome the problem the chairman of the ATI council. Sir Reginald Savory invited the Minister of Education and Auckland members of parliament to an urgent meeting to find out if legislation could be passed to empower the collection of students association fees.

Muldoon promised the meeting that if the Minister of Education was unable to introduce an amendment to the Education Act quickly, he would do so. On March 8, Muldoon introduced an amendment to the Education Act, and the first reading debate on this amendment took place on March 12.

There are three short sections to Muldoon's amendment bill Section 94A empowers the governing body of technical institutes to impose and collect fees from students on behalf of students associations.

Section 94B states "Any fees collected in accordance with the preceding section shall be applied only for the benefit or welfare of the students of the technical institute or of any association or organisation of students, and for no other purpose."

Section 94C states "The payment of any fees collected In accordance with section 94A shall not imply, or be deemed to imply, membership of any association or organisation of students."

During the first reading debate on this bill the Opposition displayed inordinate haste in trying to get the bill passed. Muldoon wanted the second reading debate on the bill the next day, and when the Attorney-General Dr Finlay called for the bill to go to the Statutes Revision Committee to iron out drafting blemishes Muldoon objected that all of Finlay's amendments could be incorporated in "five minutes".

The Government resisted these attempts to railroad the bill through Parliament and had it referred to the Statutes Revision Committee. Backbencher Labour MP Mike Moore pointed out that technical institute students hadn't had the opportunity to discuss the bill, and that the NZ Technical Institute Students Association and NZUSA wanted To make submissions on the bill. But Moore's defence of students' rights to express their views on the bill wasn't supported by the National Party. The MP for Franklin, Mr Birch, for example, argued that interested students could comment on the bill through their MPs. Would he have adopted such an offhanded approach to the democratic rights of interest groups if organisations like Federated Farmers or the Employers' Federation had been concerned about the bill?

In between the first reading debate on Muldoon's bill and the Statutes Revision Committee's sitting to hear submissions, the Minister of Education, Mr Amos, introduced his own amendment bill. This bill empowered the Governor-General by Order in Council to make regulations enabling the governing body of a technical institute to impose and collect from students of the institute such fees as the governing body considers reasonable, but not in any case exceeding a prescribed maximum amount for the benefit of any students association. The regulations may make provision for exemption from payment by any student on the grounds of hardship. A student is deemed to be a member of the students association unless he declares himself conscientiously opposed to membership of it.

Because Amos' amendment bill was introduced very late in the piece submissions presented to the Statutes Revision Committee concentrated on the Muldoon bill.

The NZ Technical Institute Students Association, NZUSA, the Canterbury University Students Association, and Christchurch City Councillor David Caygill presented similar submissions, despite differences about the more technical aspects of the legislation. They welcomed the granting of the power to collect students association fees, but opposed the other two sections of the Muldoon bill, clause 94B in particular. The main points they made were:

The proposed restriction on the ways in which technical institute students associations could use their funds implied that technical institute students were immature and less responsible than university students associations which are not restricted by legislation in this way.


The inclusion of this restrictive clause in Muldoon's bill implied that university students associations have been irresponsible in the ways in which they have spent their money. Such an implication is completely unwarranted because the open democratic structure of students associations provides adequate machinery through which students can object to the way their associations' funds are spent.


It is entirely proper that students associations should have the power to grant funds for general charitable works in the community, as well as for political purposes. NZUSA pointed out in its submissions: "Students are traditionally concerned about their community and its environment and are frequently moved to grant sums of money to various organisations whose sources of finance are often limited. For instance, university students in the recent past have made donations to the Maori Research Centre at the University of Waikato and the Glenelt Health Camp School in Christchurch.... Further, it has to be borne in mind that the Students Associations are some of the very few incorporated societies in our community who have traditionally made a practice of considering donations to worthy projects."

During the Statutes Revision Committee's hearings Opposition MP Peter Wilkinson argued that it would be no great financial burden on students to raise money voluntarily for non-student purposes. David Caygill replied that this argument was quite true but that it evaded the point which was whether it was correct for students associations to make grants for political or charitable purposes.


The provision for conscientious objection to membership of students association was unnecessary, and could best be provided for by students associations themselves if the need arose. All that was needed was to give the governing body of Technical Institutes the power to exempt students from paying fees on the grounds of hardship.

The Auckland Technical Institute Students Association, supported by the chairman of the ATI Council, Sir Reginald Savory, argued that technical institute students associations should be restricted from granting money for political purposes. Students go to technical institutes to study, said Sir Reginald, not to join the "commie club" or to "make free love on the backstairs". It is not the function of students asssociations, he added, to send money for a statue to General Franco or for sheepskins in Russia. "I'm an old man," he continued, "and I'm against setting up contraceptive vending machines." "There's nothing like thinking young. Sir Reginald." quipped Government MP. Mike Bassett.

However when questioned by Government MP Frank O'Flynn both Sir Reginald Savory and the secretary of the ATI Students Association Mr Guest agreed that clause 948 of the Muldoon bill was unnecessary.

One important point that came out during the Statutes Revision Committee's hearing was that Muldoon hadn't mentioned clause 948 at the Auckland meeting called by Sir Reginald Savory, and that this clause had not been requested by the students, according to NZTISA president Newlands. Sir Reginald said that Muldoon had put clauses 94B and 94C in the bill off his own bat.

There was one other objector to the Education Amendment bills, an ATI student named R.W. Goldie. Mr Goldie opposed the principle of compulsory students association and had refused to pay students association fees at the ATI for several years. One year he had donated the equivalent to the students association fee to the RSA. He wanted "university Chancelleries and technical institute Councils to be responsible for ensuring that student activities are conducted in line with the principles of responsible democracy." What Mr Goldie meant by 'responsible democracy' was uncertain, but it was clear that he knew what he didn't like. Before he addressed the committee Mr Goldie flung a copy of 'Hart News' in front of the surprised MPs, and complained that this insidious paper had been distributed by the "compulsory students association".

"This minority group that controls the ATI compulsory students association," charged Mr Goldie, "have, through the student paper called "Korero", provided a mouthpiece for what I consider to be nothing much more than hard-line communist propaganda. For example; pro Hanoi, anti-America, anti South Africa, pro Black, anti democratic institutions and the like, the slating of public figures, misrepresentation of public officials, pro other extremist organisations, pro 'Care' and 'Hart'".

"Proliferation of compulsory organisations", warned Mr Goldie in another part of his submissions, "negates the appreciation of democratic values and encourages apathy. In allowing this to continue we are laying the groundwork for the day when a people's parliament could be quite ineffectual and perhaps be replaced by a non-democratic junta."

Mr Goldie said that these views were based on his experience of life. However persistent questioning from Frank O'Flynn revealed that Mr Goldie's experience was limited to a time as an apprentice carpenter and to some involvement with the Boy Scouts.

The Education Amendment Bill was finally reported back to Parliament on March 29. The Statutes Revision Committee dropped clause 94B of Muldoon's bill and gave technical institute councils the power to make bylaws providing for conscientious objection. In the committee stages of the bill the Minister of Education amended it to make the conscientious objection clause mandatory, on Muldoon's suggestion.

There was also a sharp clash between Muldoon and Frank O'Flynn about whether Muldoon had consulted Sir Reginald Savory and the President of the NZ Technical Institutes Association about clauses 94B and 94C of Muldoon's bill. Muldoon claimed he had consulted them, while O'Flynn repeated Sir Reginald's evidence to the Statutes Revision Committee (quoted above) that Muldoon had put these clauses in the bill off his own bat.

In the opinion of the NZTISA, NZUSA and others the inclusion of a provision for conscientious objection in the Education Amendment Bill is unnecessary. However the National Party's attempt to restrict the financial independence of students associations has been thwarted. The lesson of this controversy is that students must be vigilant in safeguarding theirr independence.

Drawing of a person holding an axe