Campbell is right

The Dom Post reports:

Whitireia Polytechnic chief executive Don Campbell said students should be able to opt out of paying the $135 a year compulsory subscription to student associations. “I’m quite concerned about what’s happened.”

In fact they should be allowed to decide whether or not they opt in. It’s very simple. At enrolment they get to tick a box to choose whether or not they wish to join, based on the services being provided for the membership fee.

More than $72,000 was paid out in unauthorised “hardship” grants. However, it appears not all that money went to poverty-stricken students. …

The statements, for the year 2009, show $72,259 was doled out to students who were said to be struggling financially. But has learned of one student who was paid $350 but was recorded as receiving $1170. She received two envelopes stuffed with $150 and $200.

When she demanded to see records, she saw she was noted as receiving $1170. There were five other names on the list who had received up to $1800 each.

Student Association actually boast about how much money they give away in hardship grants, citing them as proof of why they must remain compulsory. My response is that it is unsurprising that if you offer students free money, more and more students will take it up – and that it is the job of WINZ, not student associations, to provide welfare payments.

But the culture of corruption goes deeper, and I do link it to compulsion. I don’t blame the student associations though – I blame Parliament.

The power of compulsory membership and funding is one that should be granted rarely, and with strict controls. Take for example local government – in exchange for the power to impose compulsory rates, they are subject to the Local Government Act, the Local Electoral Act, the Ombudsman, the Auditor-General, the OIA, the Local Government Commission and statutory requirements around consultation, public plans etc etc.

Student associations have been granted the power of compulsion, with absolutely no safeguards. They are not even required to have democratic elections. There is no oversight and no scrutiny. The tales of abuse are legion – and that is because Parliament has given them the power of compulsion, with no safeguards.

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