SSAF No More?

31 October 2013

The future of the Student Services and Amenities Fee is now up for discussion as Tony Abbott’s Prime Ministership kicks into gear.

While ‘PM Abbott’ might take a while to roll off the tongue, his consistent opposition to the SSAF and models of compulsory student unionism have many asking exactly how much longer the fee will be levied on students.

Abbott began his political life at university, where he was president of the SRC at the University of Sydney in 1978. Throughout his time in student politics he was critical of the dominance of left wing ideals within universities and was an advocate from voluntary student unionism.

As a federal politician he has had a consistent opposition to compulsory fees on students for services.

The SSAF legislation was passed by the Rudd government and came into effect in 2012. The University of Melbourne Student Union negotiated a deal with the university to collect an extra $988,273 this year on top of its pre-SSAF budget.

“Funding to Farrago doubled after the introduction of the SSAF and clubs and societies funding tripled after enabling dozens of new clubs to affiliate and the support of students to make friends, [letting students] find a reason to be art of a community that is not just about academia,” UMSU President Kara Hadgraft explains.

Unlike previous models of compulsory student unionism, the SSAF can be deferred through HECs. It goes directly to universities, and then student unions and other bodies are required to negotiate with the university over how much moolah they get.

The SSAF rated zero mention throughout the election campaign. Abbott’s position on the legislation isn’t ambiguous, and yet other policy initiatives like border and economic management will most likely keep the government busy for their first year in office.

Ms Hadgraft explains that repealing the SSAF will have serious consequences for rural and regional campuses in particular.

“The responsibility in Canberra lies largely with the Nationals and other rural/regional representatives because it is small and regional universities that bore the brunt of voluntary student unionism. Student representative and sporting organisations folded, vital student support such as dental, medical and counselling on many campuses folded,” she said.

“The benefit of the SSAF to students and to the campus as a whole community is immense and cannot be substituted and supported with a voluntary fee.”

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