April 08, 2005 | Graham

I really couldn’t care about Voluntary Student Unionism so why write about it?

Like most current and former students, I don’t spend a lot of my time worrying about the minor extortion represented by student union fees, yet here I am doing a second blog post on them. Why? Probably because the issue is encouraging some of the most fanciful claims I have heard in public debate in years, and I can’t resist an easy target.
The latest flurry, to which Mick O’Regan gave air this morning on The Sports Factor, is that compulsory student unionism is behind Australia’s standing as a sporting nation.
Mick’s not the first to provide a forum for this argument, but I have yet to hear anyone cite even basic facts to support the proposition, such as what proportion of the total monies spent on sport in general, and elite sport specifically, comes out of student union fees. My guess is it is very little. If they do represent a large proportion it is certainly not apparent in the facilities which the universities provide.
The facilities at UQ where I went were, and as far as I know, still are, very ho hum. Swimming in the uni pool is like swimming in the ocean, there is so much chop because of its ancient design. If you want a good running track you’d be better off going to Nudgee College where foreign teams trained on their tartan in the run-up to the Olympics.
The rugby field has a clubhouse, just like, but not nearly as good as, a lot of the other Brisbane club sides, and they do produce some stars, but then so do clubs like Souths and Brothers.
UQ does have a nice state-of-the-art weights and fitness gym, but I bet it’s used more for increasing the aerobic capacity of faux-blondes in leotards than building endurance and strength in current Olympians.
Perhaps this is why rowing seems to be mentioned most often as the sport which will lose out. Well, we do seem to do well in rowing, but it’s hardly a mass appeal sport, the demise of which is going to raise the national heart rates and cholesterol levels because its absence will noticeably impact on the amount of activity we are all doing!
No, on this issue, the only measurable aerobic effect is the huffing and puffing coming out of the publicists. If there was evidence that the system was producing great sportsmen and women out of great facilities, surely someone would have produced them by now.

Posted by Graham at 11:14 am | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. I immediately thought of Robert Newberry, Olympic bronze medallist, sure enough a quick internet check reveals that he is a UQ sport scholarship holder along with: Melanie Kleeberg (Athletics), Bradley Smith (Beach Volleyball), Erin O’Keefe (Canoeing), Graeme Skennar (Cricket), Shaun Coulton (Rowing), Michael McBryde (Rowing), Leith Brodie (Swimming), Annabel Luxford (Triathlon), Sam Conrad (Rowing), Thomas Hockings (Rugby Union), John Burstow (Athletics), Andrew Mewing (Swimming), Suzannah Fraser (Water Polo), Hannah Banks (Cycling) and Amy Hetzel (Water Polo). So a broad range of sports there, apart from Robert being an Olympic Bronze Medallist, Shaun Coulton was a rowing finalist at the Athens Olympics, Amy Hetzel was first reserve for the Australian women’s Olympic Water Polo team in 2004 and Annabel Luxford, was ranked no. 2 in the ITU Triathlon World Cup. [http://www.uqsport.uq.edu.au/?page=28835&pid=7133].
    At Griffith Uni current and past sports scholarships holders include a number of Australian Olympians, e.g. Robert Newberry and Dean Pullar (diving); Jennifer Morris (hockey); Duncan Free (rowing); Steven Bradbury (short track ice speed skating); Katrin Borchert (kayaking); Robert Van Der Zant and Joshua Watson (swimming) and Naomi Castle (water polo).[http://www.griffith.edu.au/ua/aa/sta/admission/scholarships/sports/sports01.html] At QUT the 2005 scholarship holders are: Lindsay McGrath- Fencing, Nicholas Sprenger- Swimming, Ben Gledhill- Cricket, Andrew Gray- Rugby Union, Nicole Smith- Softball, Patrick Coleman- Athletics, Ainsley Cavanagh- Orienteering, Ben Lee- Badminton, Alan Moran- Triathlon, Clair Campbell-Innes- Table Tennis,
    Damon Kelly- Olympic Weightlifting, Steven Green- Hockey, Craig Dorrstein- Rowing. Also in the past Wendy Alcorn was a sport scholarship holder at QUT and now she is playing for the Hockeyroos.[http://www.guildonline.net/sport/].

    Comment by Petra — April 11, 2005 @ 9:17 pm

  2. Re: The universities facilities… to say that Nudgee College has a better track than UQ is a joke. Anyone who has competed at Nudgee knows this for a fact. You’ll also find that even though the American Athletics team did prepare there for the olympics, by the end of the week, over half of the team had relocated to the track at runaway bay because the track surface at Nudgee wasn’t up to scratch. The track at UQ is world class and this has a great effect on the development of world level athletes such as Jacynta Boyd, Mel Kleeberg and John Burstow

    Comment by Fred — November 5, 2005 @ 10:48 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.