Police break up student protest
Police say a student protest outside their central Auckland HQ has ended with one arrest.
A group of students were sitting outside the station on Cook Street this evening after police earlier broke up a protest at the University of Auckland business school. Hundreds of students barricaded themselves in the top floor of the Owen Glenn building this afternoon in response to Government plans to make student union membership voluntary. …
“This is an amazing turn-out and really demonstrates that student unity still exists,” student spokesperson Guy Cohen said earlier in the day. …
Students are hopeful the Government will have a change of heart and decide against backing the controversial law change, driven by the Act Party. National has pledged to support it, despite 98% of submissions being against the change.
Hope is misplaced. National have an ideological hatred of anything with “union” in the title (a while back I suggested that Student Unions should “re-brand” themselves as local governments). By the end of the week VSM will be law. David Shearer at Red Alert describes what will happen next:
Students will lose, but still pay
… Well, the university, polytech or institution will step in, charge students a levy, and continue some of the services through subcontracting companies or students to do it for them. It’s already been gazetted (NZ Gazette No. 138). Institutions can charge students for: advocacy and legal advice, careers advice and guidance, counselling services, employment information, financial support and advice, health servieces, childcare facilities, sports and recreation facilities.
In other words, all the stuff that supports students and makes these institutions of learning vital, interesting places.
So, voluntary student association membership will result in … money taken off students compulsorily, leaving them with no power to determine what services are kept. Taxation without representation is one way it can be represented.
Guy Cohen is right, student unity still exists. It was great to see protests all round the country today, with a big turnout in Auckland (following on from a prior big event at Otago). But it’s entirely possible that with the gutting of student unions, this unity will not endure. Have we just witnessed the last student protest? That would suit the Nats very nicely (sheep will be so much easier to fleece). But there’s no way it’s a healthy thing for democracy in New Zealand.