A private senator’s bill to abolish the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) will be introduced by Queensland Liberal senator James McGrath in the next sitting of parliament, according to The Australian.
The news comes as students across the country prepare to march in the year’s third National Day of Action (NDA), with thousands taking to the streets last May following the release of the federal budget.
The NDA looks to put pressure on opposition parties to block the Coalition’s mooted higher education reforms, which include fee deregulation, placing a real interest rate on existing student debt, and reducing the HELP-debt repayment threshold.
McGrath has secured support from NSW Liberal MP Alex Hawke, who will introduce the a motion in the Lower House, Democratic Liberal Party senator David Leyonhjelm and Family First senator Bob Day.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne told The Australian the Coalition would “consider [the bill] (and it) will go through our normal processes.”
Prime Minister Tony Abbott played down concerns over the abolition of the SSAF, stating shortly after the election the government had “no plans for change in the area”.
“The compulsory fee that was meant to be for services is actually being spent on political activity and salaries for student politicians”, Hawke told The Australian.
The University of Sydney picked up $12,970,000 from the SSAF this year, with the University of Sydney Union (USU) receiving $3.2m, or one quarter of total SSAF monies, and the Sydney University Students’ Representative Council (SRC) receiving $1.5m, or 12 per cent of the SSAF.
Sydney University Sports and Fitness received just over $4m, or 31 per cent of the SSAF, the largest single allocation from the fund.
In 2012, The University’s SSAF contribution amounted to 14.6 per cent of its total income. The USU’s Board of student directors was paid an aggregate salary of $84,878, or 0.4 per cent of its SSAF allocation.
As a proportion of the Union’s total revenue, Board Directors received 0.26 per cent in compensation.
In 2014, the SRC allocated $159,101 to pay student representatives, representing 10.5 per cent of the University’s SSAF contribution or just 9.6 per cent of council’s total income. Just over $21,000 was set aside for various departments’ activities and campaigns.
The lion’s share of SRC money is spent on student welfare, with nearly 40 per cent of its total income dedicated to its welfare team, research and casework, and the SRC Legal Centre.
“The SRC relies solely on SSAF funds and has no other revenue, without it we could not run,” said SRC President Jennifer Light.
“This is just another attack on students and student rights by the federal Liberal government.”
“SSAF is critical for the operation of all student organisations,” said USU President Tara Waniganayaka. “It provides the foundation for student support, services and life.”
“We will be watching the situation closely, and working with the SRC, SUPRA and CSG to formulate a response if necessary.”