Causley accuses uni chief of exaggeration
By ZOE SATHERLEY
FEDERAL Member for Page, Ian Causley, yesterday blasted Southern Cross University Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Clark as being 'full of outrageous hyperbole'.
Mr Causley was responding to comments made by Prof Clark in Monday's Northern Star describing the Federal Government's axing of compulsory student union membership as underming the university's long-term future.
The Federal Government passed laws on Friday banning compulsory student union fees from July 1 next year for domestic students.
Because many of SCU's services and amenities are now under threat, Prof Clark said he had 'deep concerns' over being able to maintain student numbers.
Prof Clark said the predicted loss of about 150 jobs ? currently paid for by student union fees ? could lead to an annual loss of $2.5 million in retail spending in the region.
But Mr Causley hotly contested these claims.
"It's not the end of the world," he said. "We haven't abolished student unions. We just don't think all students should be forced to pay for something that they don't all want.
"People who want the service will still be prepared to pay for it. It's no different to the real world.
"I belong to lots of organisations that aren't compulsory because I want the service they provide. It will be the same with student unions.
"Why should some students subsidise what others want?
"Prof Clark's comments are full of outrageous hyperbole."
Prof Clark said he felt a 'deep disappointment' about the changes to the laws.
"I am especially saddened Ian Causley could not convince the Federal Government to separate out the two key issues," he said.
"We could have managed a situation where student unionism was voluntary and still have provided a full range of amenities and services if we could charge a fee for them.
"However the new legislation forbids us from charging a fee for anything other than delivering education.
"Campuses will become much lesser places if the life of a university now only revolves around what happens in the lecture theatre."
But Mr Causley was unmoved by Prof Clark's disappointment.
"Of course we'd never agree to universities providing services and charging for them," Mr Causley said.
"The majority of our members in the party room just didn't trust the vice-chancellors on this one.
"It was felt this would just be compulsory student unionism by an- other name.
"They are already doing something like this in Victoria, and the funds are just being channelled back to the union."
Mr Causley said he doubted Prof Clark's figures on the $2.5m projected loss to the Lismore economy.
"I don't accept that figure at all. I really don't think it will have much of an impact on the local economy," he said.
Prof Paul Clark yesterday declined to respond any further to Mr Causley's comments.