Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: The Inexorable Advance

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  • 3410,

    we don't abandon cherished freedoms to save lives and alleviate suffering in the third world, and we shouldn't do it to to get a couple of good gigs. - GE

    We already sacrifice Freedom of Association rights for all sorts of good reasons. Or will you now be defending landlords' 'human rights' to not rent to 'Maoris,' or shopkeepers' 'rights' to not have, say, blind people in their shops?

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Yes. But why would I have to argue for complete privatisation because of it?

    Would you argue for partial privatisation of the compulsory education sector, with similarly high fees, based on the fact that you get a private benefit from it?

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    will you now be defending landlords' 'human rights' to not rent to 'Maoris,' or shopkeepers' 'rights' to not have, say, blind people in their shops?

    No.

    You?

    Good. That's sorted then.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    The best analogy I could come up with is in there - a local residents' association.

    A better analogy would be the customer relations department of Telecom or Vodafone. Neither a telco customer or student has ability to influence governance of the entity they are purchasing from. The analogy to ratepayer or shareholder fails because those do have direct imput in electing their governing council or board.

    The universities farm out customer relations to a bunch of generally incompetent, self important, drunkards in the form of a student union. The telcos have automated call waiting transferring to a call centre in Bangalore. The "inexorable advance of human liberty" by analogy shall therefore entail students spend more time on hold?

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    That's a debate you can have with DPF and student choice - but I suspect you'll find there's some pretty strong disagreement with this point.

    I do find it hard to believe that the market will provide advocacy and advice, Parentspace (very handy for DPB mums going straight, surely) and similar services. These all seem to me to underwrite my investment in education.

    The phones on campus there were at Vic were provided by the University.

    The ones in Auckland seem to be maintained by AUSA.

    SJS is almost exclusively government-funded.

    But it would cost more to run if the student associations didn't do their bit.

    I like to think this wasn't a hissy fit.

    Yeah, I know. But I think there's a case for seeing it my way, as the guy who's paying for it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    You get the picture: as a non-participant, I figure I get a better deal for my contribution if students are required to get their collective shit together. Students' rights to have a hissy fit over compulsion occupy me less.

    Russell, the dismissal of pro-VSM activists (which I was back in the day) as pitching "a hissy fit" is a bit obnoxious. It's not relevant to you, fine, but don't patronise people for whom it does matter.

    As someone who periodically has occasion to call on fresh media talent, I value the role played by student radio and the student press in cultivating that talent. This is demonstrably easier to maintain with the assistance of compulsory fees.

    And I'm sure there are people out there who regard PA Radio (thanks NZ on Air!) and Media 7 (thanks TVNZ!) as good things.
    Would you appreciate a future government telling you that TVNZ was becoming a closed shop, and NZoA would no longer fund any projects with non-union members? I sure would.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    will you now be defending landlords' 'human rights' to not rent to 'Maoris,' or shopkeepers' 'rights' to not have, say, blind people in their shops?

    After pressing "post reply", I decided you perhaps deserved a better answer than my glib one above - you obviously weren't seriously suggesting I held such opinions.

    The fuller reply might be to quote myself:

    Proponents of compulsory membership of students' association are trying to limit human rights; they should be able to point to a compelling state interest to be advanced.

    I can point to a compelling state interest to be advanced in relation to Māori tenants, and blind customers. The limit such restrictions place on what might otherwise be landlords' or shopkeepers' right to freedom of association is reasonable, and demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society.

    Russell has had a punt at providing what might be the compelling state interest in this case, but so far, he seems to be the only commenter wanting to give it a try.

    My response is basically that they are nice points, but not nearly enough - not least because I feel the goal could be obtained by less restrictive means. You or he might disagree, or perhaps you'd like to posit your own: what is the compelling state interest to be advanced in this case?

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    The phones on campus there were at Vic were provided by the University.

    The ones in Auckland seem to be maintained by AUSA.

    I fear this one hurts your case, rather than helps it. As Matthew notes above, AUSA is voluntary.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler,

    But I think there's a case for seeing it my way, as the guy who's paying for it.

    This would have more force if we (taxpayers) were paying for all of it, which isn't a bad idea really. Interesting thought - what if Student Associations were more like school Boards of Trustees (with the proviso that students can represent themselves, rather than delegate to their parents :-))? ie. if they were considered a fundamental and essential part of the organisation, rather than some kind of lobby group.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    Good. That's sorted then.

    Not, really. You claim freedom of association as a fundamental human right, but then decline to argue against certain curtailments of it.

    PS. Thanks for the rude responce.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    And the freedom to choose to live in a country that practises [insert some human rights indignity here]?

    If you must, I don't see the comparison but I also don't see why you should not, if that is what you choose to do. However distasteful it may be.

    Why should someone who wants to be a vet (only available at Massey-Palmy) have no choice while others do? What if a majority of students (who can be bothered to vote) at each university opt for compulsion? What if the only reason you can study at a university is you're working nights to pay for it all? What if your kids like seeing their father?

    I you choose to be a vet and that's what it takes then what is the problem. It's your choice.

    Should the parents of your local state primary school be permitted to decide whether there should be compulsory instruction in Christianity? You can just move house. Only one school in your town, or several that have all decided the same way? Move town and get a new job.

    Why not?. It comes back to the same thing, choice. Are you saying we should be forced to live in a wishy washy world where nobody has to think that hard, where all the decisions are made for you?. You seem to be conflating "freedom of association" with "freedom of choice as to which association or not you choose to be a member of" a big leap there.
    I think you are either in danger of destroying your own argument or you're just winding us all up.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    We already sacrifice Freedom of Association rights for all sorts of good reasons. Or will you now be defending landlords' 'human rights' to not rent to 'Maoris,' or shopkeepers' 'rights' to not have, say, blind people in their shops?

    We don't sacrifice people's freedom of political association -- unless you're going to start defending my right to evict a tenant I discover is a member of a trade union or is hosting a cottage meeting for a left-wing candidate; or refuse to serve someone wearing a red or green rosette because I don't like their politics.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    PS. Thanks for the rude response.

    I did follow up - almost immediately - with a more tempered one.

    The perils of fast-paced commentary.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Quardle Oodle,

    FYI The University of Auckland campus emergency phones are installed and run by University Security (UniSafe).

    AUSA may still provide a freebie in the City Campus Student Union building and there's the taxi phone in the local drinking establishment. Can't speak for other campuses.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 8 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I fear this one hurts your case, rather than helps it. As Matthew notes above, AUSA is voluntary.

    And the dues that fund those telephones are still compulsory, only now they're taken directly by the university, and then given to the students association. AUSA is effectively a contracted service provider.

    Same fees, less control over them.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    I did follow up - almost immediately...

    Got that. Truce. :)

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Why not?. It comes back to the same thing, choice. Are you saying we should be forced to live in a wishy washy world where nobody has to think that hard, where all the decisions are made for you?.

    I'm pretty sure I'm not.

    [checks]

    I want to live in a Liberal Democracy. Illiberal democracy - say Singapore - is certainly an alternative. Benevolent dictatorship is another.

    I'm spending a few minutes trying to figure how you get to the conclusion I want all the decisions made for me. It is of course exactly the opposite. At the very direct level, I want individual students to be able to decide for themselves whether they want universal fully-taxpayer-funded tertiary education: rather than having that decided for them by NZUSA.

    I don't want the society in which almost everyone is indoctrinated into Christianity because all the state schools have decided to teach it. Having an organisation to which you are forced to belong decide your religious or political ideas for you is the antithesis of choice.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    There's a theory that the downturn of Hamilton's live music scene in the late '90s was directly related to the first VSM student union selling off the student radio station and campus performance venue.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    There's a theory...

    Fragging Bunnies!

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Mikaere Curtis,

    Graeme, how about this: students retain freedom to associate or disassociate with their respective student association as is their whim, but there's not getting out of the compulsory donation to said association.

    Does that satisfy your human rights concerns, or is this really about the money ?

    IIRC (and someone please correct me if I am wrong), at Auckland in the early 90s, after the AUSA went voluntary, the university started charging a services fee for services that would have been paid for by the associated. In other words, you still paid regardless, but now the vice-Chancellor was holding the purse-strings, not the association.

    Also, would it be cool for non-members to be denied access to member-only services such as association-owner/leased buildings, cafes and student services ?

    I'm with Russell on this, compulsary membership increased the value of services and that's good for education - the public good we all pay for.

    Tamaki Makaurau • Since Nov 2006 • 528 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    The phones on campus there were at Vic were provided by the University. SJS is almost exclusively government-funded.

    Students associations used to fund SJS to keep it open during term time as well as the holidays. The government used to only fund it for summer. I'm not sure if that's still the case. Also, SJS is largely funded by government, but it's owned and run by Student Associations. It wouldn't exist if student associations hadn't started it, students would be fighting with everyone else at the MSD offices.

    And everywhere you find a phone (or indeed umpteen million other things around tertiary institutions) which a tertiary institution put in, half the time it's there is because of pressure from the students association. I spent hundreds of hours of my time at OUSA stopping the University spending several million building a bridge, and getting them to instead spend the money on a Student Learning Center. Both achieved.

    But these points aren't really central to your argument. I think the answer is four things:

    Membership is automatic, but it's not compulsory. You can opt out of membership, and your money (at OUSA at least) and is redirected to a charity. I don't think ever more than 2 people a year requested this. You then miss out on the privileges of membership (actually, you'll still collect most of them by default, the explicit ones like voting you'll miss out on).

    Making membership automatic isn't all fairies, but if student associations go voluntary, students will pay similar amounts of money (to the university mostly) for less, and certainly for a less independent voice. The weakest advocates for the student voice across New Zealand are the voluntary ones. There are no practical benefits to VSM, only philosophical ones.

    These institutions are all incorporated socieites with constitutions, elections, general meetings etc. Unlike churches (or many other organisations), their direction is wholly set by members. Part of the reason VSM raises its head is "I am right wing and this students association is left wing, I shouldn't have to be a member of this which doesn't represent me." It's a sample of how the new right behaves in relation to democratic institutions - instead of engaging the process, they claim 'freedom' and try and opt out. I'd like to opt out of a number of things done in my name by various elected representatives, but it doesn't work that way.

    I had a debate with a libertarian the other day (one of those young ones that likes arguing about philosophical stuff which has no practical application), who was trying to prove to me that freedom from taxation was a basic human right and I was applying force to him by allowing the state to tax him, in much the same way that a majority of the population might apply force to him if they voted to stone him. I say this to note that some of these people are fools, and that they'll apply the argument in the paragraph above to anything, not just student associations.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    And the dues that fund those telephones are still compulsory, only now they're taken directly by the university, and then given to the students association. AUSA is effectively a contracted service provider.

    Same fees, less control over them.

    This is a great argument to use against DPF. Or Student Choice.

    But I don't oppose compulsory membership of students' associations from a free-market perspective. I oppose it from a human rights-based perspective.

    This is a cost I'm willing to accept, as I note in my argument: sometimes financial expense is the cost of respect for human rights. I certainly don't agree that it reaches the standard of compelling state interest required to reasonably force membership on others.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    These institutions are all incorporated socieites with constitutions, elections, general meetings etc..

    So's the National Party, Kyle. Carry on...

    Unlike churches (or many other organisations), their direction is wholly set by members.

    I repeat...

    Part of the reason VSM raises its head is "I am right wing and this students association is left wing, I shouldn't have to be a member of this which doesn't represent me." It's a sample of how the new right behaves in relation to democratic institutions - instead of engaging the process, they claim 'freedom' and try and opt out. I'd like to opt out of a number of things done in my name by various elected representatives, but it doesn't work that way.

    Oy... I think I'm going to treat that bad faith hand wave with the contempt it deserves, but if you want to play that I guess left-wingers only defend VSM because they're the entrenched special interest here. Right? As I've said until I'm blue in the face, compulsory student unionism is just wrong even if I'm running it.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I want individual students to be able to decide for themselves whether they want universal fully-taxpayer-funded tertiary education: rather than having that decided for them by NZUSA.

    I want individual taxpayers to be able to decide for themselves whether they want fully taxpayer funded SAS at war in Afghanistan: rather than having that decided for them by the government.

    I mention this not to suggest that NZUSA and the government are equivalent, they clearly aren't.

    But to point out that the fact that your elected representatives do not dictate to you what you think on an issue. They decide what the institution/state thinks on an issue. NZUSA doesn't tell students what they think any more than John Key tells me what I think.

    I'm not sure why this distinction gets failed to be made when talking about student associations.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    I'm spending a few minutes trying to figure how you get to the conclusion I want all the decisions made for me. It is of course exactly the opposite.

    By making things such as Student Associations voluntary you remove the passion. Without that passion all becomes grey. When all is grey your choice becomes mere window dressing so you have no real decision to make.
    You will be telling us that the Bar Association should be voluntary next...
    Oh, hang on, it is. No wonder the legal system is in such a shambles.
    ;-)

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

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