If people want to disassociate themselves from students' associations when undertaking tertiary study they should not be able to do so simply for financial advantage, says former finance minister David Caygill.
Mr Caygill, who served under the David Lange and Geoffrey Palmer-led Labour government, returned to Parliament today with his son James to jointly submit at an education select committee against ACT Party MP Sir Roger Douglas' Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill.
The bill seeks to end compulsory tertiary student association membership.
Mr Caygill, a one-time Labour Party colleague of Sir Roger, who was absent from the committee today, said the bill would reduce the ability of students' associations to serve and represent their members -- the two things they were set up to do.
He said the committee and Parliament needed to answer the question; "is there some larger harm that needs to be addressed that justifies the disadvantages that this bill will clearly confer on students associations in future? We say no, that is in fact not the case".
Mr Caygill said the only potential harm the bill appeared to seek to address was the harm of compulsory membership.
James Caygill said nothing in the bill appeared to enhance the ability for people to freely associate or disassociate themselves from students' associations.
He said if the committee decided legislation needed to be strengthened to enhance the ability to conscientiously object, it needed to be clear that would not confer financial advantage. The remedy should be to see the fee sent to a charity, he said.
"If conscientious objection is something that Parliament feels it needs to enhance, by all means, enhance it. But make sure it's a neutral enhancement."
David Caygill said generations of students had benefited from the work of students associations and the tradition needed to continue.
Submissions on the bill have for months been read in select committees and Labour MP Trevor Mallard said today he suspected the Government had realised there were "some dangers" in it and a compromise needed to be sought. "They won't say that, but I can."