James McGrath speaking in the Australian Senate

SSAF Debate Reignites Over Funding of Essential Student Services

The debate over the value of SSAF has been reignited by Liberal Senator James McGrath. The Senator has announced a private members bill to abolish the fee which provides essential student welfare and cultural services.

The Senator has a long-running disagreement with SSAF funding, and believes it contravenes freedom of association as understood in the Workchoices legislation.

In a recent Facebook post he stated ‘The SSAF is unfair, unpopular, undemocratic, unnecessary, burdensome, politicised and wasteful.’ He also linked SSAF to factional infighting of student organisations.

SSAF funding is allocated at the end of each year, following public consultation with students and the production of detailed budgets for ANU approval.

The fee is used for student amenities such as publications, sporting groups and learning initiatives. It is also the primary source of funding for both ANUSA and PARSA, the student advocacy associations. As a result, the fees provide legal, financial and pastoral support.

President of ANUSA Eden Lim, stated today that “SSAF funds enable key service provision to improve student life and assist students who are struggling at the ANU.”

“ANUSA believe that student support services and representation are crucial to ensuring Undergraduate students at ANU have a voice, support and a vibrant community to thrive in.”

President of the National Union of Students (NUS) Desiree Cai noted the bipartisan lack of support for the bill: ‘“People from all over the political spectrum are not really supporting this”.

While of the same party, both the Education and Deputy Prime Minister were quick to note the private nature of the bill, which is not sponsored by the government.

Deputy Prime Minister McCormack noted the particular importance of the fees for regional students, whose disadvantage is the target of SSAF-funded services.

He was also a key player in ensuring similar bills put forward by Tony Abbott were also quashed before debate could even occur in the House of Reps.

President of PARSA, Zyl Hovenga-Wauchope summarised the bill as “just another thoughtlessly ideological attack on students from a member of a party that consistently demonstrates their disregard for student wellbeing.”

Nonetheless, they are “proudly reaping the benefits of increased productivity and innovation that comes of a well-educated citizenry.”

For more information on what SSAF is, see our TV explainer: https://www.woroni.com.au/tv/explainer-what-is-ssaf/

For Woroni’s SSAF bid for 2019, see: https://www.woroni.com.au/financials/