Home > Social Issues, The Body Politic > “It’s fundamentally a fairness issue”- Peter Dunne

“It’s fundamentally a fairness issue”- Peter Dunne


student debt


In a recent blogpost (see: Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall) the nadir of National’s cost-cutting to funding of our public services was revealed in a succession of NZ Herald stories,


Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery

Full story


In a repeat of  (then-Health Minister) Bill English’s cost cutting of the public health sector  in the late 1990s, National is once again targetting social services that will impact most harshly on our youngest and most vulnerable – our children. It defies understanding  and flies in the face of our supposed reputation for being “a great place to bring up children”.


Govt's proposed health cuts could affect children - Labour

Full story


As one respondent stated on a previous blogpost,

“One of the major reasons in combatting glue ear is improving a child’s academic performance.

Ensuring academic success with today’s children offers the best prospect of growing tomorrow’s economy, reducing unemployment, increasing the living standard, generally reducing the country’s/ world’s problems, etc.

Is this not a smart investment? How National fails to understand this is bewildering.” –  ‘Procrastinator’, 12 January 2012


Doubt over savings from restricting ear treatment

Full story


“Bewildering”, indeed.

Until one starts to “connect-the-dots” and a slightly new – though all-to-familiar – picture emerges.

To complete the picture, some more “dots”,


Parents face burden of preschool squeeze

Full story


Budget 2012 - 'Paper boy tax' on small earnings stuns Labour

Full story


Student loan repayments hiked, allowances restricted

Full story


Meds price hike - 'Children will die'

Full story


Petrol price rises to balance books

Full story


And the latest,


Student-loan dodgers face tough crackdown

Full story


Revenue Minister Peter Dunne sez,

It’s fundamentally a fairness issue.”

I call “bollocks” on that.

This has as much to do with “fairness” as the US invasion of Iraq had to do with locating Saddam Hussein’s mythical  “weapons of mass destruction”.

Let’s be upfront and honest here, Mr Dunne. This has squat to do with “fairness”.  After all,  if  National ministers and their coalition “partners” truly wanted to make this an issue of  ” fundamental fairness “, then perhaps Mr Dunne and his colleagues should look in the mirror first.

Starting with Peter Dunne himself…

Peter Dunne ” graduated from the University of Canterbury in 1977 with a Master of Arts Degree with Honours in Political Science, and has also studied business administration at Massey University ” (see: Beehive.govt.nz: Peter Dunne ).

With student loans for tertiary education fees  not kicking in until 1992 (see: Timeline of New Zealand history), Peter Dunne’s own University education was  free.

He paid nothing for his Master of Arts Degree with Honours in Political Science, nor for his  business administration studies at Massey University which were most likely carried out prior to 1988, when he was an Associate Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Management (see: Beehive.govt.nz: Peter Dunne ). I can find no record indicating whether or not Dunne graduated from his business course at Massey.

On top of his free education, Dunne probably also qualified for a student allowance – again courtesy of the New Zealand taxpayer and non-repayable.

The Prime Minister, John Key, and Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, also gained their respective University education free of charge – courtesy of the taxpayer. In Bennett’s case, she used the WINZ Training Incentive Allowance to pay for her tertiary education – which she later cut back so it is now no longer available for other solo-parents (see: Bennett cutting a benefit that helped her).

Peter Dunne was partially correct in one respect, though,

There’s a certain sense of annoyance amongst people who stayed in New Zealand and diligently worked to pay off their loans that these freeloaders overseas are, in some cases, getting away with it.”

See: Student-loan dodgers face tough crackdown

The free-loaders though, are not the students who’ve escaped the double-standards; hypocrisy; and sheer plain selfishness of our country. The real free-loaders are every single Tory politician and bludging right-winger who gained a free taxpayer funded tertiary education – and then proceeded to force subsequent generations of young New Zealanders to pay for their University education.

The real free loaders are hypocrites such as Peter Dunne who paid nothing for his years at  University – whilst now expecting others for pay. And on top of that, using the full force of the State to enforce payment.

No wonder that so many New Zealanders, like Matthew Fraher, who  left for Australia in 2000, are justifiably angry. As he pointed out about politicians, they,

“… didn’t pay a dime and they’re having a go at us.”

See: Student loan debtor: I’m better off in Australia

And the system is actually encouraging graduates to leave the country. As Mr Fraher correctly stated,

I was paying about $10,000 a year just doing the minimum amount for the last three and a half years.

When I go to Australia I’ll be paying back $3000 a year.

They’re actually making an incentive to leave the country. “If anyone thinks that’s sensible or good policy, their head’s not right.”


None of the student fees/loans/debt makes any sense. Not socially, not economically, and certainly not for our country’s future as we continue to bleed people to Australia and further afield.




Only  certain politicians and the low-information voters who voted for this mess could possibly think any of this was a good idea.

The sad thing is that New Zealand was warned of this eventuality in the 1990s by social commentators, left-wing activists,  and political parties such as The Alliance.

The real motive for National’s under-funding and cutting social services; taxing newspaper-delivery boys and girls;  and their latest witch-hunt to grab back every cent they can manage to ring from ex-students, is quite simple: National is desperate for cash.

After two unaffordable tax-cuts in 2009 and 2010, which cost this country in billions of dollars in lost revenue (see; Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting, Deficit halved, but still higher than forecast), National is scrambling to cut services to save money and to raise revenue from every possible source.

All for promises of two tax cuts we couldn’t afford in 2008 – and still can’t afford now, five years later.

Alex Tarrant, from Interest.co.nz,  summed matters up succinctly when he wrote last year,


Treasury lowers govt's forecast for 2014 2015 surplus to NZ$66 mln

Full story


Mr Tarrant left out one vital factor: the tax cuts. He refers to “government receiving almost NZ$8 billion less in tax revenue over the next four years” – which is precisely the figure that The Green Party uncovered after some judicious political detective work,

The Green Party has today revealed that the National Government has so far had to borrow an additional $2 billion dollars to fund their 2010 tax cut package for upper income earners.

New information prepared for the Green Party by the Parliamentary Library show that the estimated lost tax revenues from National’s 2010 tax cut package are between $1.6–$2.2 billion. The lost revenue calculation includes company and personal income tax revenues offset by increases in GST.

“The National Government said that their signature 2010 income tax cut package would be ‘fiscally neutral’ — paid for increased revenues from raising GST. That hasn’t happened. The net cost for tax cuts has been about $2 billion,” Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today.

“Borrowing $2 billion in 18 months to fund upper-income tax cuts is fiscally irresponsible.

“National’s poor economic decisions have led to record levels of government debt and borrowing.

“They have also broken a promise to the electorate when they said their tax cut package was going to be fiscally neutral.”

See: Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

Dr Norman is correct – National did indeed promise that tax cuts would be “fiscally neutral”.  But more than that, in 2008, National also pledged,

National’s rebalancing of the tax system is self-funding and requires no cuts to public services or additional borrowing.

See: National/Economy/Tax Policy

That has to be the biggest,  bare-faced lie from National since John Key took over leadership of that Party in November 2006.

It is also worth noting that  National’s expected surplus for 2014/15 is a mere $66 million. That is a fraction of the $72.9 to $74.9 billion in Core Crown expenses for the 2014/15 period (see:  Fiscal Outlook). It’s the cost of a damaged bridge-repair  or other unforeseen circumstance requiring government expenditure.

Little wonder that Ministers are directing their departments to scrimp and scrape to save every dollar they can get away with.

The reason this is so vital to National?

Because every other economic and social indicator is either stagnating, or getting worse. With their free market “hands off” policy, National is unable to intervene directly in the economy  in any meaningful way (except provide subsidies to certain industries like multi-billion dollar movie conglomerates).

National finds itself unable to engage in job creation programmes – that is the role of business, said Dear Leader,

Nothing creates jobs and boosts incomes better than business growth. ” – John Key,  24 August 2012

See: Key Notes: Honouring our fallen soldiers

National can’t even bring itself to help Cantabrians with housing – that is the role of private enterprise, said Roly Poly Leader, Gerry Brownlee. (see:  Christchurch rent crisis ‘best left to market’)

With much of the economy “off limits” on ideological grounds and National unwilling to address critical social problems (I refuse to call them “issues”) – there is only one area where Key and his Party can show the voting public that they are an effective Party in power and “on top of things”: government spending.

In a bizarre form of political roulette, Key and English are gambling their political reputations on one throw of the dice; returning to Budget surplus in 2014/15.

That’s all they have. Most other economic and social indicators are worsening on an almost weekly or monthly basis and National’s Party strategists know that come the  2014 general election, they are in for a real nasty hiding if they cannot demonstrate to the public that they can return to surplus. After all, if the Nats can’t achieve even that, then voters would be scratching their heads and wondering what on Earth Key has been doing for six years.

That’s when Labour, NZ First, et al, will be showing clips of John Key dancing at radio stations, Gangnam-style. Or gormless-style.

Peter Dunne was being dishonest when he said, “It’s fundamentally a fairness issue“.

Rubbish. It has nothing to do with “fairness”.

What Dunne was really saying was, “It’s fundamentally a fiscal  issue”.

If Dunne was really interested in fairness, then I suggest that he, John Key, Paula Bennet, Stephen Joyce, et al, all pay back the full amount of student fees and living allowances that were paid to them when they were at University. Plus interest.

It might not dent the debt that National has accumulated since 2009 – but at least they’d be setting an example to the country, and not engaging in rank hypocrisy.

What about it, Mr Dunne – will you be paying for your University degree?

Addendum 1

Date: Wed, 16 Jan 2013 at 0:06
From: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: Student debt
To: “peter.dunne@parliament.govt.nz” <peter.dunne@parliament.govt.nz>

Kia ora Mr Dunne,

You have been recently reported in the media as pursuing student loan holders who have left the country and who are not re-paying their student loan debt.

In the NZ Herald you are quoted as saying,

“There’s a certain sense of annoyance amongst people who stayed in New Zealand and diligently worked to pay off their loans that these freeloaders overseas are, in some cases, getting away with it.”

It is common knowledge that you yourself (along with John Key, Paula Bennett, Stephen Joyce, et al) are all beneficiaries of a free, tax-payer funded tertiary education.

The record states that you graduated from the University of Canterbury in 1977 with a Master of Arts Degree with Honours in Political Science, and has also studied business administration at Massey University.

You may even have been in receipt of a taxpayer funded and non-repayable student allowance.

To show true leadership on this issue and to set an example to student loan holders, can we assume that you will be paying the cost of your tertiary education, along with repayment of any allowances received; plus interest?

To many people it seems curiously hypocritical that you are demanding payment for education from other people whilst not paying your own fair share.

As you said in the NZ Herald on 10 January,

“It’s fundamentally a fairness issue.”

Let’s put it to the test, shall we? It’s fundamentally a fairness issue that you pay for something that others have to pay for as well.

-Frank Macskasy

Addendum 2

National’s (tax payer funded) media spin doctors have been using a particular ‘line’ when it comes to cost-cutting our social services; instead of reducing government debt, they say that “savings will be reinvested” in other areas of state services.

Here are a few examples from above,

The money would be used for smarter investment in other parts of the health system.”

See: Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery

Joyce says the changes will slice $250m off the loan book and create $60m to $70m per annum savings for the Government, which would be re-invested in the tertiary sector.”

See: Student loan repayments hiked, allowances restricted

The Government has announced it will make the first increase in prescription cost in 20 years at next week’s budget to fund reinvestment in the health sector in lean economic times.”

See: Meds price hike: ‘Children will die

It’s such a subtle piece of BS spin that it’s hardly noticeable. But it all a lie, of course. The cost-cutting – which they refer to as “savings” – will be used to reduce borrowing. And the borrowing is necessary because of the unwise, progligate taxcuts of 2009 and 2010.

Eventually, of course, most New Zealanders become weary of constant cuts to essential services and vote for a return to a Labour-led government. The re-building of our social services then begins in earnest,


$1.5b injection for health - 9 December 2001


Been there. Done that. Lost the t-shirt off my back.



Previous related blogposts

Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall

The Great New Zealand Scam

An Expensive Lesson?

It’s official: Political Dissent Discouraged in NZ!

Greed is good?


The Atlantic: Tax Cuts Don’t Lead to Economic Growth, a New 65-Year Study Finds

NZ Herald: Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b

Fairfax media: Budget 2012: The main points

Scoop.co.nz: Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

Fairfax media: Student loan repayments hiked, allowances restricted

Dominion Post: Ten students owe $2.9 million in loans

NZ Herald: Student-loan dodgers face tough crackdown

NZ Herald: Student loan debtor: I’m better off in Australia

Beehive.govt.nz: Peter Dunne



= fs =

  1. Robbie Kaiviti
    16 January 2013 at 12:49 am

    Love your stuff Frank.

  2. 16 January 2013 at 1:15 am

    Love this by an excellent researcher, writer, dotjoiner & citizenblogger ..so much it inspired me to a limerick

    ‘The Nat Party’s amnesia, lies,
    Not just a U.F Act (sic) surprise..
    They cut, burn & slash..
    Sick, kids and benes’ bash..
    Yet own wealth & our debt, upsize!’
    Hope this is shared viralled everywhere Frank, to put most in mainstream media to shame!

    • 17 January 2013 at 8:19 pm

      Thanks, Blonde… I’m honoured! I don’t think I’ve ever motivated someone to write poetry in response to one of my writings…. *blushes* 🙂

  3. 16 January 2013 at 11:06 am

    Bit like the first time they introduced the user-pays concept, many calls in the house about “It’s not worth the paper it’s written on if you don’t pay for it”…

    So … the piece of paper that you, the proposers of this bill, is therefore written on is worth … exactly how much then, care to extrapolate on that one?!?

    Round and round the mulberry bush we go…

  4. SW
    16 January 2013 at 11:14 pm

    I’ve always thought it immoral that the people who got their degrees for free (or $129 / year) then turned around and pulled the ladder up behind them.

    Labour started it…and haven’t done much since to change it, though taking the interest off student loans until people actually started working was most welcome. National opposed even that.

  5. Mick
    17 January 2013 at 8:36 am

    Hypocrisy knows no bounds.

  6. 17 January 2013 at 2:03 pm

    Really, it doesn’t matter what labour “started”, it’s the fact that National continue it that is the problem. Labour is not exactly in government and hasn’t been for a few years now …

    The interest lifting while still studying went quite some way to alleviating undue financial stress. And yes, National opposed that with all it had … the Act party, the party of USER PAYS, advocates user pays – except when they would have to pay for it naturally…

    • SW
      18 January 2013 at 2:23 pm

      Alan , Labour had almost a decade to do something about it.

  7. Kevin H
    17 January 2013 at 10:27 pm

    What on earth would the Idiot Peter Dunne know about fairness? Nada

  8. Leftie Lenny
    26 January 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Alan Benton :

    Really, it doesn’t matter what labour “started”, it’s the fact that National continue it that is the problem. Labour is not exactly in government and hasn’t been for a few years now …

    The interest lifting while still studying went quite some way to alleviating undue financial stress. And yes, National opposed that with all it had … the Act party, the party of USER PAYS, advocates user pays – except when they would have to pay for it naturally…


  1. 22 January 2013 at 12:01 pm
  2. 15 May 2015 at 8:02 am
  3. 20 May 2015 at 11:56 pm
  4. 25 May 2015 at 8:01 am
  5. 11 June 2015 at 8:01 am

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