Megan Doherty August 18, 2012
The Australian National University Students' Association says it has done nothing wrong by spending student fees on cupcakes, a jumping castle and party at nightclub Mooseheads.
It also confirms it spent $4000 on jelly beans to give to students during exams but says they were funded by means other than the student services and amenities fee, such as its own corporate sponsorship.
Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz has put questions on notice to Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans asking whether the ANU Students' Association was making appropriate use of the controversial fee and ''what avenues are available to students who feel that their funds are being misspent''.
ANU Liberal Club president David Howard alerted Senator Abetz because he believed the association was frittering away funds.
He said as well as the jelly beans, the association had given away mulled wine and cupcakes to students and hired a jumping castle for them.
Mr Howard suggested the association now had more money than it knew what to do with.
After changes to laws last year which brought an end to the Howard government's voluntary student unionism, universities can now charge students $263 a year for services and amenities of a ''non-academic nature'' such as sport and recreation, career advice, child care, financial advice and food services.
The association has posted its mid-year financial report on the student services and amenities fee saying it used the money to pay for items such as emergency grants for grocery vouchers and legal services for students and the Save the School of Music campaign as well as an end-of-semester party at Mooseheads and ''the biggest O Week ever''.
There were also plans to buy a mini-bus to ferry students to their accommodation at night.
Association president Dallas Proctor said many of the items were ''cost-neutral'' as while the association had spent money on events such as the orientation week concert that featured singer Kimbra and Mooseheads party, it recouped those costs through ticket sales and sponsorship.
Mr Proctor said the association regularly gave away food and drink to students as an enticement to also provide them with information about various student welfare and other campaigns. He said the jumping castle could be classed as ''sport and recreation'' under the fee regulations but ''the purpose is to get students there so we can give them material that they need''.
The jelly beans were to promote a student evaluation survey which were completed after exams.
Mr Proctor said the association had to provide a range of services to students from social to activism to providing representation to the university.
He was confident its use of the student fee was appropriate.
''We don't think we should have to justify each thing that we spend under a particular criteria as long as what we do over the whole of the year meets the legislation broadly,'' he said. A spokeswoman for the ANU said the students' association reported to the university twice yearly on its financial transactions ''against broad, allowable categories''.
''The detail of the spending is a matter for the Student Association,'' she said.
''ANU takes its obligations under the student services and amenities fee legislation very seriously, and have negotiated a 13-page contract with ANUSA regarding spending and accountability of SSAF funds.''
Mr Howard, meanwhile, said he was in favour of voluntary student unionism and the association had been ''fantastic'' under the previous regime.