The UWA Student Guild and the National Union of Students are pretty strongly opposed to voluntary student unionism, or VSU: the result of amendments to the Higher Education Support Act 2003 which took effect in 2006.
Essentially, VSU means that Australian universities cannot require their students to be a member of a student guild or pay fees for non-academic services (like the Amenities and Services Fee we have at UWA, which provides funding for the Guild). In other words, students can choose whether or not they want to become Guild members (and whether or not they want to pay the A+S fee).
The Guild website has a page on VSU which appears to be rather outdated, but essentially suggests that VSU will prevent the Guild from offering services which it is still offering today, more than 2 years after VSU's introduction. Specifically, it claims:
A universal fee is the only way of funding important services on campus like representation, welfare, and campus life. Without the Guild, there will be no-one fighting against HECS fee increases, or representing students’ views to the uni, government and broader community. Students will have nowhere to turn if they are sexually harassed at uni, no-one to help them if they want to appeal a mark, nowhere to go for a textbook subsidy, no-one to fund their clubs to create an awesome social life on campus, no tavern, no O’Camp, no cultural events, no queer department, no financial counselling, no grants, no club rooms, no end of semester show, no social justice week, no women’s department, no market days, no Pelican… no STUDENT CONTROL.
And yet I didn't arrive at UWA until after VSU was implemented, and during the last two years I haven't noticed the loss of any of these services. Does anybody actually believe without VSU (or even without a Guild at all!), there would be "nowhere to turn if [you] are sexually harassed at uni"?!
My question is: why are the Guild and NUS still campaigning so aggressively against VSU, and why do they expect students to support them? There are always NUS posters up around campus encouraging students to "Say No To VSU!" and I've heard the president of the NUS speak at at least one meeting of student representatives, strongly encouraging people to come down to 'days of action' to, I guess, complain loudly about the injustice of not forcing students to pay the Guild ~$120/yr. (Which seems rather at odds with their other campaigns which encourage us to "help end student poverty".)
The last two and a half years have shown that VSU does not threaten the financial stability of the Guild (though it may reduce the Guild's income), so I fail to see why I should support taking away the right of other students to choose whether or not they want to support the Guild financially. Is there some other anti-VSU argument I'm missing? If anything, VSU seems to encourage the Guild to provide services that are actually useful to students by allowing us to choose whether or not we're going to support it.
(Note: I'm an A+S fee-paying Guild member, and I intend to stay that way for the foreseeable future, because I use services provided by the Guild - but I see no reason why those who don't use these services should have to pay the fee, too.)