Another fight if the education minister wants one

Mr Tudge powered up the outrageatron Friday

What happened: Alan Tudge was exercised over a report in The Australian newspaper that an ANU student organisation would ban the Australian Defence Force from having stalls at a student welcome day.

“This is completely unacceptable.  It is one thing for some fringe students to have a pacifist view of the world, but quite another for the university’s student association, using compulsory student fees, to place a political lens over who they serve. … The ANU could immediately intervene to stop this individual example,” Mr Tudge said in a statement.

To which ANU responded, “once more detail comes to hand, and if any of our relevant policies or codes of conduct have been breached, the university will respond accordingly.”

What could be next: But Mr Tudge appears intent on appearing ready if ANU decides they aren’t. “I am going to look more carefully at how we prevent compulsory acquired student fees being used in an overtly political manner.” This could include, “insisting that student associations be subject to a similar free speech code that we are asking universities to adopt.”

Perhaps this could be done, with changes to the Study Assist-HELP scheme, under which the Commonwealth loans students the maximum $330 pa student services and amenities fee universities levy.  Or perhaps not, CMM asked the minister’s office and was told he “is considering a range of options.”

And why: This may, or may not be, enough to ensure some of Mr Tudge’s coalition colleagues do not demand immediate action.

When the SSAF was introduced a decade back, then Opposition members argued it was a way to force undergraduates to fund left-wing campus activism and to pay for services most did not use.

Some coalition members argue such still. In 2019 Senator James McGrath (LNP- Queensland) proposed a bill to abolish the compulsory student service fee, calling it, “unfair, unpopular, undemocratic, unnecessary, burdensome, politicised and wasteful,” (CMM February 15 2019).

Mr Tudge has nothing to lose by upsetting student unionists and creating additional imposition on universities.

And anything that annoys either goes down well in his party-room.