"Instead he advocates for student associations to become voluntary. The equivalent of course is the public refusing to pay their taxes when the Government does something they don't like."
My response to that is fairly clear:
Tony that is absolute bollocks, student unions are not like some arm of government, they are associations no different from a political party, industry association, trade union, environmental group, sports club or the like. This same old tired argument gets trotted out time and time again.
Governments have a monopoly of the use of legalised force against citizens. This is typically used to protect citizens from each other and from invasion. Local government has specified devolved statutory responsibilities regarding the enforcement and operation of certain laws (e.g. RMA, dog laws, food premises).
Student unions do not by any stretch of the imagination carry out any statutorily defined functions or have a legal right to use force in any way - except to force students to belong.
I don't "belong" to the New Zealand Government, nor Wellington City Council or Wellington Regional Council. All those entities have legally defined powers related to my behaviour in public places and the use of my property, student unions have none of the sort (all the powers they have are private property rights).
There is a fundamental human right of freedom of association. That means if I don't want to belong an association because I do not want it to represent me (which is the core function of student unions), then I shouldn't be forced to. Whatever other services student union's provide can largely be rationed by showing a membership card, or other techniques that, remarkably, virtually all other voluntary associations manage. For example, associate membership just to use certain facilities and not cross subsidise the political activity.
I know the left pined for compulsory trade union membership after the Nats abolished it in 1983 and again in 1991, but it is no different.
Yes members can vote, but why should one vote in an organisation that you don't believe in, that you don't want representing you, and which doesn't deliver what you want.
The truth is that student associations oppose voluntary membership because they are scared shitless that most students would rather keep the money than support a student association if they use few to none of the facilities, and don't agree with the fringe Marxists who run the show.
Of course Marxists have never been known for their belief in individual rights.
It also follows up the ANZAC Day celebrates war, so we wont celebrate ANZAC Day view of the communists running the VUWSA. In the past a couple of VUWSA Presidents have had the audacity of laying communist wreaths, happy to insult veterans of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, as if it would have been better had Kim Il Sung made all of Korea a totalitarian hellhole instead of half.
Most students don't vote at student union elections for some obvious reasons, many go to university to go to lectures and tutorials, not to spend time figuring out how to vote. Most students get little chance to really understand the candidates (it's a bit different from a general election!), and so many candidates are mediocrities that nobody can be bothered voting for.
Most students will see their vote not counting at all, because student unions are almost always run by leftwing activist types, so the student union is not seen as relevant to them.
David Farrar is dead right, Anne Tolley should be putting voluntary student union membership on the agenda (although she's never struck me as a supporter of individual freedom in the past). The primary opponents will be Labour and the Greens, both of whom treat student unions as training boot camps for future candidates, but it is ACT policy, and National might get some kudos from students by making student associations truly accountable.
It is about freedom, fundamentally.