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Posts Tagged ‘free tertiary education’

Professor Bill English lectures young New Zealanders on free education

25 January 2018 4 comments

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The new Labour-led Coalition is preparing to implement it’s election promise of one year free tertiary education, planned to start this year.  By 2024, Labour plans to increase free tertiary education to three years. As their website points out;

Government investment in tertiary education and training has fallen and so has participation. In 2010, 40 per cent of 18-24 year olds were in tertiary education or training, but by 2015 (the latest data) that had dropped to 35 per cent.

Despite Labour’s interest-free loans, cost remains a major barrier to post-school education. 65 per cent of parents list cost as a reason young people do not go into post-school learning, and 44 per cent of students report they do not have enough money to meet their basic needs. The cost barrier comprises both fees, which are up over 40 per cent since 2008, and rising living costs such as rent.

Study debt holds people back for years after they leave education. On average, people take eight years to clear their debt. Repayments make it harder to save and this is a contributing factor in plummeting home ownership among under 40s.

Education minister, Chris Hipkins has stated that apprentices and industry trainees will receive two years of fees-free training as their courses are not fulltime.

User-pays (even partially) in tertiary education has been  one of the cornerstones of neo-liberalism. Prior to 1990, tertiary education was mostly free. After 1990, Universities began charging fees for tuition. In 1992, the Student Loan Scheme was enacted.

Fees have even been rising in secondary school education – traditionally considered free for users –  under the guise of “donations”.  Under-funding of the education system has been so bad that schools have been “caught masking voluntary donations as school fees“. As  Palmerston North Boys’ High School rector, David Bovey, revealed in September 2016;

“We could not exist in our current form on the Ministry of Education Operation Grant. Thus, we really do rely on the goodwill of parents to support what we do.”

Between 2000 and 2015 “voluntary donations” to state schools amounted to more than  $1 billion.  Some schools  drew more than $2 million in so-called “voluntary donations” in a year.

The notion of free education in this country has become like our “clean and green” environment and “100% Pure” rivers: a fiction. New Zealanders are deluding themselves if they believe education is still free.

The Labour-led coalition’s policy of gradually increasing free tertiary education will be the un-picking of twentyeight years of neo-liberal user-pays in the education sector.

The Right are not happy.

Bill English – currently filling in his duties as Leader of the Opposition until he is rolled – was scathing and irrational in his condemnation of the Coalition’s free first year plans. On 17 January, on Radio NZ’s Summer Report, he responded to questioning regarding the Coalition’s planned education reforms, saying;

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@ 6.01:

“ The free first year of tertiary education that’s free was explained to us as, um, y’know being paid for by getting rid of what was the tax cuts that were on the books, was explained to us in Parliament as MPs didn’t need the thousand dollars a year. Well, in my case they’ve handed my household now six thousand dollars a year! Because we have someone eligible for the first year of free education. So it’s a very expensive, very poorly targetted policy that will have the effect of getting maybe a few thousand, a couple of thousand more people into tertiary education. I think that’s what the officials have said. So it would’ve been better if they didn’t implement it. ’cause it’s a hugely expensive way to get a few more people into polytech.”

“Poorly targetted”?

How can free tertiary education be “poorly targetted” when it will be focused on New Zealanders wanting further education; on-going training; to be better equipped for the rapidly evolving needs of the 21st Century?

How can it be any more “poorly targetted” than the tax cuts of 2009 and 2010 – and National’s planned tax cuts for this year – that gave massive windfalls of cash to the highest income earners? As Audrey Young reported in the NZ Herald in February 2010;

Herald calculations on the basis of one of the scenarios in the tax working group report (cutting personal tax rates to 30c, 19c and 10.5c) would see someone on $50,000 get about $12 a week net, taking into account higher prices with the GST increase.

A person on $90,000 would get about $50 more a week.

Mr Key has defended his plan against accusations it is skewed to the rich and is light on boldness.

On top of which, the tax-cuts for the wealthy and high-income earners was funded partly by raising GST from 12.5 to 15% – a move impacting on low-income earners the most. Increases in user-pays such as increased prescription charges in January 2013 (from $3 to $5) also hit low-income families and individuals the hardest.

According to research carried out by the Parliamentary Library, the 2010 tax cuts alone cost the country $2 billion.

But according to Bill English, helping young people to achieve academic and training goals is “poorly targetted”.

Bill English is the same politician who, in the last few years, has consistently  denigrated young people and workers in this country.

In 2016;

“ A lot of the Kiwis that are meant to be available [for farm work] are pretty damned hopeless. They won’t show up. You can’t rely on them and that is one of the reasons why immigration’s a bit permissive, to fill that gap… a cohort of Kiwis who now can’t get a license because they can’t read and write properly and don’t look to be employable, you know, basically young males.”

Last year;

“ One of the hurdles these days is just passing a drug test. Under workplace safety you can’t have people on your premises under the influence of drugs and a lot of our younger people can’t pass that test.”

And again in December year;

Government’s fees-free policy will ‘soak up staff out of McDonald’s’...”

English’s contemptuous disdain for workers and young New Zealanders is apparent for all to see.

It should be remembered though, that (according to Wikipedia) Bill English undertook his tertiary education prior to 1987. Student fees/loans did not start until 1991/92.

[Bill] English went on to study commerce at the University of Otago, where he was a resident at Selwyn College, and then completed an honours degree in English literature at Victoria University of Wellington.

After finishing his studies, English returned to Dipton and farmed for a few years. From 1987 to 1989, he worked in Wellington as a policy analyst for the New Zealand Treasury…

Bill English graduated with his Commerce and English Lit degrees without having to pay fees or take  out massive loans. His tertiary education was (near-)free.

This blogger wondered if his (near-)free tertiary education was “poorly targetted”? So I wrote to Mr English, seeking his clarification on matters that have arisen from his interview and comments;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Bill English <bill.english@parliament.govt.nz>
date: 18 January 2018
subject: Radio NZ interview – some follow-up questions

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Bill English
Leader of the Opposition
Parliament
Wellington

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Kia Ora Mr English,

On 17 January, on Radio NZ’s Summer Report, you criticised the Coalition government’s programme to implement one year free university for students and two years free trades courses for apprentices, and industry trainees as “poorly targetted”.

You were highly disparaging of the policy, complaining that;

“ …Well, in my case they’ve handed my household now six thousand dollars a year! Because we have someone eligible for the first year of free education. So it’s a very expensive, very poorly targetted policy that will have the effect of getting maybe a few thousand, a couple of thousand more people into tertiary education. I think that’s what the officials have said. So it would’ve been better if they didn’t implement it. ’cause it’s a hugely expensive way to get a few more people into polytech.”

Can you confirm the following points relating to this issue:

1. That you yourself received a near-free university education whilst studying commerce at the University of Otago, and then completed an honours degree in English literature at Victoria University of Wellington?

2. That you received a student allowance whilst studying?

3. That subsequent to the economic “reforms” of the 1980s and 1990s, that you paid less and less tax through subsequent tax cuts in those decades as well as 2009 and 2010?

4. That the (near-)free university education you yourself enjoyed was poorly targetted?

5. That you have benefitted doubly by next-to-nothing university fees as well as increased income through multiple tax cuts? And no student debt to pay off?

6. That young New Zealanders have not enjoyed the same benefits of a (near-)free tertiary education that you yourself had in the 1980s?

I look forward to any response you may have to shed light on this issue.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy

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Any response from Mr English will be reported in an up-date on this story.

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References

NZ Herald:  About 80,000 expected to get fees-free study in 2018

NZ Labour Party:  Making tertiary education and training affordable for all

Productivity Commission: History of tertiary education reforms in New Zealand (p3)

Fairfax media:  Under-pressure schools get dodgy with donations

Radio NZ:  Live – Opposition leader Bill English (alt.link)

NZ Herald:  Tax cuts – High earners set to benefit most

Fairfax media:  Prescription price rise hits vulnerable

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

NZ Herald:  Unions demand Bill English apologise for describing jobseekers as ‘pretty damned hopeless’

Fairfax media:  Bill English says employers are regularly telling him that Kiwis can’t pass drug tests

Twitter: Newshub – Bill English “soak up staff out of McDonalds”

Wikipedia:  Bill English

Previous related blogposts

Mr English: Where are National’s secret coalition negotiation papers?

2017: Parting shots from the Right: tantrums, bloated entitlements, and low, low expectations for our Youth – rua

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 January 2018.

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2017: Parting shots from the Right: tantrums, bloated entitlements, and low, low expectations for our Youth – rua

6 January 2018 3 comments

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Bill English has low hopes for young New Zealanders.

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Bill English – putting the peasantry in their place

When born-to-rule Tories – with a bloated sense of self-worth and entitlement – slip up and let us peasants know how they really view us – it is usually unsurprising to most on the Left.

Take, for example, Bill English’s candid admission that New Zealand’s lower wage rates were beneficial when it came to competing with Australia. On 10 April  2011, in an exchange with Guyon Espiner on TVNZ’s Q+A, English boasted of the benefits of low wages;

GUYON Can I talk about the real economy for people? They see the cost of living keep going up. They see wages really not- if not quite keeping pace with that, certainly not outstripping it much. I mean, you said at the weekend to the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum that one of our advantages over Australia was that our wages were 30% cheaper. I mean, is that an advantage now?

BILL Well, it’s a way of competing, isn’t it? I mean, if we want to grow this economy, we need the capital – more capital per worker – and we’re competing for people as well.

GUYON So it’s part of our strategy to have wages 30% below Australia?

BILL Well, they are, and we need to get on with competing for Australia. So if you take an area like tourism, we are competing with Australia. We’re trying to get Australians here instead of spending their tourist dollar in Australia.

GUYON But is it a good thing?

BILL Well, it is a good thing if we can attract the capital, and the fact is Australians- Australian companies should be looking at bringing activities to New Zealand because we are so much more competitive than most of the Australian economy.

GUYON So let’s get this straight – it’s a good thing for New Zealand that our wages are 30% below Australia?

BILL No, it’s not a good thing, but it is a fact. We want to close that gap up, and one way to close that gap up is to compete, just like our sports teams are doing. This weekend we’ve had rugby league, netball, basketball teams, and rugby teams out there competing with Australia. That’s lifting the standard. They’re closing up the gap.

GUYON But you said it was an advantage, Minister.

BILL Well, at the moment, if I go to Australia and talk to Australians, I want to put to them a positive case for investment in New Zealand, because while we are saving more, we’re not saving more fast enough to get the capital that we need to close the gap with Australia. So Australia already has 40 billion of investment in New Zealand. If we could attract more Australian companies, activities here, that would help us create the jobs and lift incomes.

Perhaps realising he had dug a hole for himself, English added at the end; “…  and lift incomes“. Though of course, if “incomes lifted”, New Zealand workers would no longer be competitive with their  Australian cuzzies, according to his Bizarro-world “logic”.

In 2016,  at a Federated Farmers meeting in Feilding, English probably felt “at home” and sufficiently comfortable in his surroundings to let his guard down. English attacked workers again, trashing them as “hopeless“;

“A lot of the Kiwis that are meant to be available [for farm work] are pretty damned hopeless. They won’t show up. You can’t rely on them and that is one of the reasons why immigration’s a bit permissive, to fill that gap… a cohort of Kiwis who now can’t get a license because they can’t read and write properly and don’t look to be employable, you know, basically young males.”

A year later, English took a further swipe at New Zealand workers, effectively labelling them en-masse as “druggies. On 27 February 2017, he told the Parliamentary press;

“One of the hurdles these days is just passing a drug test. Under workplace safety you can’t have people on your premises under the influence of drugs and a lot of our younger people can’t pass that test.”

English’s startling (and offensive) generalisation came as a response to questions why National was allowing a flood of immigrant workers when 140,000 local workers remained unemployed.

Blaming others is de rigueur for National when facing one of their countless failures;

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Some more blame-gaming;

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And yet more…

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Not satisfied with those digs at workers and the unemployed, English made it clear only four days before Christmas precisely what he thought of young people bettering themselves through higher education. Responding to Labour’s enactment of their election promise for one year’s free tertiary education – English lamented that “Government’s fees-free policy will ‘soak up staff out of McDonald’s’...”;

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That’s right, folks. Bill English’s ambition for young New Zealanders is to get a job at McDonalds; work hard; and  – stay there. No higher education for you mini-peasants!

McDonalds New Zealand realised immediatley the implications of English’s derisory comment and quickly fired out a statement countering the former-Prime Minister;

“We don’t expect to see much impact as a result of the Government’s free fees policy.”

When a major business contradicts National – the political party ostensibly representing the interests of business – you know Bill English has screwed up. Essentially his brain was in ‘neutral’ when his mouth opened and words tumbled out.

It should come as absolutely no surprise that English is so harsh in his criticism. Labour’s one year free tertiary education is only the beginning. It heralds a gradual return to what  New Zealanders once enjoyed: near-free tertiary education.

It is another cog removed from the creaking neo-liberal system as it is dismantled, piece-by-rotten-piece.

Postscript

According to Wikipedia;

[Bill] English went on to study commerce at the University of Otago, where he was a resident at Selwyn College, and then completed an honours degree in English literature at Victoria University of Wellington.

After finishing his studies, English returned to Dipton and farmed for a few years. From 1987 to 1989, he worked in Wellington as a policy analyst for the New Zealand Treasury…

Bill English undertook his tertiary education prior to 1987. Student fees/loans did not start until 1992.

That means Bill English graduated with his Commerce and English Lit degrees without having to pay fees or take  out massive loans. His tertiary education was (near-)free.

A job at McDonalds awaits him.

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References

Scoop media:  Guyon Espiner interviews Finance Minister, Bill English

Fairfax media:  Bill English describes some Kiwis looking for work as ‘pretty damned hopeless’

NZ Herald:  Unions demand Bill English apologise for describing jobseekers as ‘pretty damned hopeless’

Fairfax media:  Bill English says employers are regularly telling him that Kiwis can’t pass drug tests

Twitter: Newshub – Bill English “soak up staff out of McDonalds”

Mediaworks:  Government’s fees-free policy will ‘soak up staff out of McDonald’s’ – Bill English

Wikipedia:  Bill English

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Kiwi workers are pretty damned hopeless – says Bill English

Previous related blogposts

John Key – Practicing Deflection 101

When National is under attack – Deflect, deflect, deflect!

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 January 2018.

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2017: Parting shots from the Right: tantrums, bloated entitlements, and low, low expectations for our Youth – tahi

5 January 2018 2 comments

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Taking personal responsibility Mike Hosking-style

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Former ‘Seven Sharp‘ presenter and National Party stooge, Mike Hosking, recently gave us an illuminating insight into how seriously he takes personal responsibility.

On an episode of ‘Seven Sharp‘, on 23 August 2017, Hosking said to his co-presenter, Toni Street;

“…you can’t vote for the Māori Party because you’re not enrolled in the Māori electorate.”
The statement was factually incorrect, and people rightly objected. The following day, Hosking made a half-hearted “clarification”;

The fact that anyone can vote for [the Māori Party] as a list party I automatically assumed we all knew given we have been doing this for 20 years… and it went without saying. So hopefully that clears all of that up.

It didn’t “clear all that up”. Not by a long-shot.

After a complaint was laid with the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA), the finding was scathing of Hosking. On 19 December, the BSA found;

The Authority upheld a complaint that Mr Hosking’s comments were inaccurate and misleading, and that the alleged clarification broadcast on 24 August 2017 was flippant and too general to correct the inaccurate information for viewers. Voters not enrolled on the Māori electoral roll can cast a party vote for the Māori Party, or vote for one of the 18 Māori Party candidates representing general electorates in the 2017 General Election.

In reaching its decision, the Authority recognised the high value and public interest in political speech during the election period, but emphasised the importance of ensuring audiences were accurately informed about election matters. It said Mr Hosking’s inaccurate comments were presented at a critical time, when voters required accurate information to enable them to make informed voting decisions.

“This was an important issue, particularly during the election period, and had the potential to significantly affect voters’ understanding of the Māori roll and of New ealand’s electoral system”, it said.

In considering whether orders should be made, the Authority commented on the important and influential role held by programme hosts and presenters,particularly during the democratic election process.

Note that the BSA wasn’t commenting on an opinion held by Hosking. Hosking did not say,

“…you [shouldn’t] vote for the Māori Party because X-Y-Z.”

He stated an incorrect fact;

“…you can’t vote for the Māori Party because you’re not enrolled in the Māori electorate.”

An example of “fake news” some might say.

Furthermore, the BSA found that Hosking’s “clarification” was;

…flippant and too general to correct the inaccurate information for viewers“.

Quite clearly, Hosking made a mistake.  Whether he genuinely believed that “you can’t vote for the Māori Party because you’re not enrolled in the Māori electorate”, or he mis-spoke, is almost irrelevant. The fact is that his statement – made on prime time television, with an audience of several hundred thousand people – was untrue. It couldn’t be any more untrue.

The BSA demanded;

… it would be appropriate for the broadcaster to publicly acknowledge the breach of the accuracy standard to its audience by way of a broadcast statement on air.The Authority directed that the statement be broadcast before the 2017 summer holiday break.

Which, by 19 December, was about four months too late. The election had been ‘done and dusted’ by the time the BSA made it’s ruling. Any damage to voters – who were unfamiliar with the intracacies of MMP – had been done.

Hosking could have “taken it on the chin”. But he didn’t, and he broke the cardinal rule for those in public life; ‘when in a hole, stop f—–g digging’!

Hosking kept digging, getting deeper and deeper in the cesspit hole he had dug for himself. Writing for the Herald on 20 December – the day following the BSA’s findings released to the public – Hosking reacted with the equanimity of a spoiled, pinot-sipping, Maserati-driving, rich brat;

My Christmas gift from the BSA, the Broadcasting Standards Authority, is I misled the nation. Sorry nation, I misled you.

I didn’t of course, but they don’t have a sense of humour, or indeed any understanding of the realities of broadcasting, like you shouldn’t take everything literally.

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But the BSA was having none of it. And so sadly, once again, we have paid for a bunch of humourless earnest clipboarders to sit around pontificating and writing reports.

The irony being they decided a statement had to be made rectifying my outlandish behaviour, and it had to be done before Seven Sharp took a summer break.

They released their report yesterday – five days after the show had gone off-air. And they might have known the show had gone off air, because the final show got quite a bit of coverage for other reasons.

Then he added, in a final shot of petulance that only a ten year old could appreciate;

So what has been achieved here? Nothing. The show is finished. The election is over. I’ve quit.

He left out this bit; “…so I’m taking my ball and going home.”

Hosking wondered “why we have a BSA that busies itself with such nonsense“.

Tim Watkin, writing for The Pundit, was unimpressed;

Suck it up, buttercup. Take your medicine. Don’t whinge and claim to be misunderstood, just take responsibility. That’s the sort of advice often offered on talkback radio, yet Mike Hosking seems to have missed that memo with his ill-advised Herald column this morning on a Broadcasting Standards Authority ruling against him.

Watkin added that Hosking’s whinge in his on-going NZ Herald column was, in itself, an abuse of power;

This is dangerous stuff and a rather worrying abuse of power. When someone is sentenced by the Court in New Zealand, they don’t get a newspaper column in which to vilify the judge. And for good reason. Hosking may disagree with the ruling, but you suck it up and take your dues. That is another of the realities of broadcasting, and Hosking should realise that.

Yes, standards bodies get to pontificate; it’s their job. I know, as the digital rep on the New Zealand Media Council (until recently, the Press Council). The bodies exist to protect free speech, balance the power between the media and the audiences it serves and ensure those people with the megaphone act according to agreed ethics. As with anything we do in society, there are rules. If Hosking doesn’t like the rules, he can argue to change them. He can cry into his pinot at home.

But he doesn’t get to whine about them in print when he gets pinged.

Watkins is on the nail on every point made.

But it is illuminating that the Right – which fetishises personal responsibility to the  nth degree – is the last to take personal responsibility seriously.  Hosking demands personal responsibility from just about everyone else;

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This is one the pitfalls of our hyper-commercialised mainstream media, when it sets up “media personalities” to pontificate to the nation on various issues. Such “media personalities” become an embarrassing liability when they get their feet firmly wedged in their oft-open mouths, having said something incredibly (a) stupid or (b) wrong or (c) both.

In this case, Hosking achieved (c): both. And worse still, his masters in the National Party must have been pulling their hair out in tufts. Hosking’s bullshit comment would have impacted badly on the Maori Party. How many votes did the Maori Party lose because of Hosking’s mis-information?

If they did lose a sizeable chunk of votes – was Hosking inadvertently responsible for the Maori Party losing their seats in Parliament? In which case, Hosking may have single-handedly denied National a fourth term in office by destroying one of their coalition partners.

“Own goal” doesn’t begin to cover Hosking’s incredible feat of self-destruction for his Party.

The role of  pundits  is to engage with the public and offer matters to think about and/or to inform us. On 23 August 2017, Hosking achieved neither of those admirable goals. Instead, he was sloppy. His “Maori electorate” comment was sloppy, and mis-informed viewers. His clarification was sloppy, treating viewers with thinly-disguised disdain.

And to make matters worse; it was abundantly obvious he couldn’t care less.

This should be an end to Mike Hosking’s career in broadcasting.

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References

Broadcasting Standards Authority: Seven Sharp presenter’s comments about voting for Māori Party inaccurate and misleading, BSA finds

NZ Herald:  Mike Hosking – ‘Pontificating’ Broadcasting Standards Authority humourless earnest clipboarders

Newstalk ZB:  Mike’s Minute – What about consumer responsibility?

Additional

Mediaworks:  BSA has no sense of humour – Mike Hosking

Mediaworks:  Mike Hosking officially broke broadcasting rules with false Māori Party comments

Other Blogs

The Pundit:  Mike Hosking – You do the crime, you do the time

Previous related blogposts

Mike Hosking as TVNZ’s moderator for political debates?! WTF?!

Mike Hosking – Minister for War Propaganda?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 December 2017.

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Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

6 September 2017 Leave a comment

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So many little occurrences and huge events have transpired over the last couple of months, to brand this as one of the most intriguing (and tumultuous) of election campaigns in my life. Only the 1984  and the 2014 General Elections rank as memorable. In all three, there were two threads weaving through the campaigns;

  1. Events which have successfully engaged even the most disinterested, cynical Citizen;
  2. A  subtle – but palpable – shift in the political concensus.

Over-laying those two threads are the desperate scramblings of a decaying third term government; the rise of a new, popular leader (this time on the Left); and an unreconstructed, vindictive side of New Zealand society.

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It’s just a… jump to the Left!

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The onset demise of neo-liberalism/globalisation has been an on-going topic of discussion since the “Brexit” referendum and the ascendancy of Donald Trump and (to a lesser degree) Emmanuel Macron.

Some have suggested that with our MMP system – which has a diluting-effect on political revolutions whether Left, Right, or Populist – that New Zealand will dodge the rising groundswell of international public resentment against the neo-liberal concensus.

Well, that won’t be happening. Regardless of electoral systems, New Zealand is not immune to the winds of international political change.

Just as neo-liberalism swept over this country in the 198os – imported from Reagan’s USA and Thatcher’s Great Britain – the counter-counter-revolution will happen here, and it has been televised since the courageous Metiria Turei put her hand up and showed us why things were so broken for those left behind by Roger Douglas’ so-called “reforms”.

One of the litmus-tests for ideological positioning on the Left-Right spectrum is the concept of user-pays. Since the late 1980s, user-pays has been gradually implemented by way of “mission-creep”.

Done gradually so as not to alienate the public, National learned a bruising lesson in public resentment after it attempted to implement a $50-per-day public-hospital charge in 1991. The public defied the charges and simply refused to comply with  invoices demanding payment. The policy was dropped prior to the 1993 general election.

User pays for medication has been gradually increased from fifty cents to three dollars (in 2007, by Labour), to five dollars (in 2013 by National).

The other big-ticket item targeted for user-pays was tertiary education. Student fees were raised and student loans implemented by National in 1992 (the same year ‘Shortland Street’ began broadcasting).

Until then, tertiary education was near-free, with student allowances paid to students to meet basic living costs.

Former Prime Minister, John KeyMinister Steven Joyce, and previous Finance Minister, Ruth Richardson (who implemented the policy) were amongst those National Party politicians who benefitted from near-free tertiary education. Like Paula Bennett, who gained a free tertiary education as a young woman whilst on the DPB, using the Training Incentive Allowance – and which she then scrapped in 2009 – Richardson, Joyce, and Key made sure no other young New Zealander would gain from a free (or near-free) tertiary education.

The user-pays regime has remained in place ever since, and student debt had spiralled out of control to a staggering $15.3 billion owed by 731,800 students.

Resentment by students, and refusal to repay this monstrous debt, was such that in 2013 Minister Joyce employed draconian Soviet/Nazi-style policies to arrest and prosecute rebellious loan defaulters;

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Just because people have left New Zealand it doesn’t mean they can leave behind their debt.  The New Zealand taxpayer helped to fund their education and they have an obligation to repay it so the scheme can continue to support future generations of students. “

Said the man who had a near-free, tax-payer funded tertiary education – Steven Joyce.

The result of National’s crack-down? Predictable, as Fairfax’s Adele  Redmond reported in May this year;

Five years of arrests and court proceedings have recovered less than $230,000 in overdue student loan debt.

Arrest warrants and Australian court cases pursued by Inland Revenue in the last five years have recovered a fraction of student debt, figures released under the Official Information Act show.

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Three completed court cases recovered $79,610 from two borrowers – the third person’s debt was wiped due to hardship – and $150,221 was repaid following eight arrest warrants to prevent debtors leaving New Zealand.

Twelve more cases covering $621,955 of debt were still under way, an Inland Revenue spokesman said.

The $229,831 recovered so far represented 0.02 per cent of all overdue debt.

The amount of loan debt owed worldwide topped $1.07 billion last year.

User-pays in tertiary education has failed. Like our antiquated marijuana laws, it criminalises those who refuse (or cannot) repay their debt. Others are left with a debt hanging over them as they try to save to buy a house; raise a family; or set up business. The mill-stone of a student debt handicaps young New Zealanders before they have set foot outside of learning institutions and into the workforce.

The innate unfairness and fiscal failure of user-pays is apparent. What is not so apparent is that the majority of political parties have policies that are counter to the user-pays concensus that has existed up till now;

Greens

Loan Repayment

  • Support keeping the current zero interest scheme
  • Ensure that repayment rates reflect borrowers’ ability to repay by adjusting the repayment thresholds to start at a higher income level, and introduce a progressive repayment scheme

Student Support

  • Review levels of student support to ensure they are at an equitable and liveable level
  • Work towards a universal student allowance by progressively reducing the age at which students cease to be means tested on their parents’ income and continue to raise the parental income threshold
  • Reinstate access to the Student Allowance for those studying postgraduate courses

Fees

  • Work towards a public ‘fee-free’ tertiary education system by capping and then progressively reducing student fees
  • Review funding mechanisms to explore alternatives to EFTS funding
  • Ensure Tertiary Institutions are adequately funded

Labour

  • Increasing living costs support with both a $50 a week boost to student allowances and a $50 a week lift to the maximum that can be borrowed for living costs
  • Restoring post-graduate students’ eligibility for student allowances
  • Restoring the eligibility of students in long courses, such as medicine, to access student allowances or loans beyond seven years FTE study
  • Accelerating the three years’ free policy, starting with one year fees free full-time equivalent for everyone starting tertiary education or training for the first time from 1 January 2018, and extending this to three years’ free by 2024.

Mana Movement (not currently in Parliament)

  • Improve access to free tertiary education for all students
  • Abolish all tertiary fees and cancel interest on student loans
  • Provide students with jobs to help them pay off debt
  • Develop a plan to write off student debt
  • Provide students with a living allowance while studying

Maori Party

  • Increase the accommodation supplement by half for all tertiary students.
  • Introduce a universal student allowance with cost of living adjustment to guarantee a livable income during study, for all tertiary students, including post-graduate students.
  • Write off the living cost component of all student loans and explore the viability of writing off the total student loan for those who work in a job equivalent to their qualification in Aotearoa for a period of five years
  • Provide free public transport to primary and secondary school children as well as tertiary students
  • Develop a four year zero fee scholarship to target the ‘First in Whānau’ to engage in a Bachelor level qualification programme.
  • Retain interest-free loans.
  • Reduce the repayment levels on a student loan starting at 4% ($40,000), 6% ($50,000) and 8% (for $60,000 and over)

NZ First

  • Introduce a universal living allowance which is not subject to parent means testing as a priority for all full-time students.
  • Immediately introduce a dollar-for-dollar debt write-off scheme so that graduates in identified areas of workforce demand may trade a year’s worth of debt for each year of paid full-time work in New Zealand in that area
  • Work with NZUSA and the sector to establish an expert reference group with a view to implement two thousand ‘First in Family’ scholarships per year. These will create a step-change in educational aspiration by promoting fee-free education with wrap-around support from secondary, through transition and to completion for those who would be the first in their immediate family to achieve a degree. ($68m over first 3 years 2015 to 2017).

United Future (now defunct)

Fees

[United Future will] Remove tuition fees for tertiary education in New Zealand, accompanied by a push to increase the quality of tertiary education and protect the value of New Zealand degrees. The zero fees policy would mean that students would only borrow living costs, rather than the crippling loans which are currently being incurred to cover fees as well. A zero fees policy also addresses one of the illusions of the current policy, where it is assumed that tuition fees cover all or most of the costs of study, when in fact the taxpayer already covers the majority of tuition costs.

Student Allowance

Abolish the Student Allowance, as a way to help fund the zero fees policy. The student allowance system has become patently unfair, relying on means testing of parental income until a student turns 24, and enabling the wealthy to receive allowances where their parents are able to reduce their taxable income.

National and ACT appear to be the only two parties that stubbornly adhere to the notion of user-pays in tertiary education.

The times, they are-a-changin’, as user-pays in tertiary education becomes less and less popular. We may expect in the coming years to see that deeply unpopular policy slowly wound back and a gradual, inexorable return to free, state-funded tertiary education.

Like the billboard sez;

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Though perhaps the slogan should have read “Return to free education“. If only to remind New Zealanders what we once had – and then lost – in the mania that was neo-liberalism.

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ACT’s Billboard – Blissful Obliviousness to Ironic Hypocrisy

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Seen throughout the country is  David Seymour’s grinning face on ACT’s canary-yellow billboard;

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Note the campaign slogan ACT has adopted; “Own your future“.

Deeply ironic considering that ACT is the party that has at it’s core policy to sell off all state assets to the highest bidders, whether local or off-shore corporates.

Own your  future“? Yeah, nah. Only if you can afford to bid for it.

 

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References

Te Ara Encyclopaedia of New Zealand:  Hospital funding and patient entitlement – Funding public hospitals

Fairfax media:  Prescription price rise hits vulnerable

Wikipedia:  Timeline of New Zealand history – 1990s

Ruth Richardson NZ Ltd: Ruth Richardson CV

Sunday Star Times: Politics – John Key – A snapshot

NBR: Bennett cutting a benefit that helped her – Labour

Fairfax media:  Student loan debt ‘balloons’ by 37 per cent, with average student owing $21,000

Fairfax media:  Joyce defends student loan crackdown

Fairfax media:  Five years of legal action by Inland Revenue recovers fraction of student loan debt

Green Party:  Tertiary Education Policy

Labour Party: Tertiary Education

Mana Movement: Education

Maori Party: Education Policy

NZ First: Education

United Future: Tertiary Education

Additional

Radio NZ:  As it happened – Jacinda Ardern takes charge as Labour leader

Horizon Poll:  New Zealand First voters equally split over coalition options

Radio NZ:  Labour sweeps into lead in latest poll

Previous related blogposts

Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Week

Cutting taxes toward more user-pays – the Great Kiwi Con

 

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Note: Replace US references to  Social Security with Superannuation and Medicare with State-funded healthcare for local relevance.

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 September 2017.

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= fs =

Andrew Little’s “dangerous” speech – a cunning plan for the Middle and the Left

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Labour Party - Andrew Little - pre-budget speech (24)

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Wellington, NZ, 22 May – Speaking to a fully packed downtown conference centre in Wellington, on a cold, gloomy rainy afternoon, Labour-leader, Andrew Little launched into a fiery attack on the current National Government focusing  on it’s inarguably lack-lustre track record for the past eight years.

With a heavy media presence, Rimutaka MP, and Labour spokesperson for Education, Chris Hipkins, was tasked with making the introduction;

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com Labour Party - Andrew Little - pre-budget speech

 

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Hipkins said;

“Certainly there is a mood for change around the country now and that mood for change is increasing.  But the question that everybody has been asking us, is is Labour ready? And that’s a fair question to ask.”

“They say that being the leader of the Opposition is the toughest job in politics. Well I can tell to tell you that Andrew has taken to that tough job in politics like a duck to water.”

“In all of that time that he has been doing that job, and all the hours he has put in, he has never forgotten why is there; for people. And that is why the Labour Party is here.”

The short  introduction over, the audience of committed Labour members clapped enthusiastically as Little mounted the podium;

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com Labour Party - Andrew Little - pre-budget speech

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To say that Little had plenty of material to work with would be an understatement as the growing crisis for both affordable housing; skyrocketing rentals; and shortage of state houses have been well publicised in the media and by bloggers.

From just one day in Wellington’s Dominion Post Monday 23 May edition;

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dominion post - housing crisis

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Jane Bowron’s piece especially – Marae shows up Government with haere mai to homeless  – is a must-read, head-on assault on the warped ‘values’ which currently afflict our government and some peoples’ thinking.   Yet, the Dominion Post is hardly known as a bastion for marxist agitation.

Little wasted no time as  he launched into a recitation of National’s failures after eight years in government;

“It’s becoming harder for many people to get ahead.  Harder to find a good job or get a pay rise. Harder to find a home, put some savings aside, or get the health care you need. Parents are paying more for their childrens’ education, but our schools aren’t performing as well.

[…]

Look at the headlines from the last couple of weeks: Children sleeping in cars or forced to lives in houses that make them sick; plummeting home ownership; rising unemployment, [and] stalled wages for many people.

[…]

And while the few at the very top got to enjoy special rules that meant they didn’t have to pay their fair share – everyone else is paying the cost.

We’ve seen increases in unemployment. There are now 144,000 people out of work in New Zealand, 40,000 more than when National took office.”

Little is correct on those stats. According to the convenient graphs and data from US website, Trading Economics, the increase in unemployment in New Zealand has remained stubbornly high;

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unemployed persons 2008 - 2016

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Little explained that the unemployment problem was worse than just sheer numbers;

“And it’s not just that more people are out of work – it’s that many more are out of work for longer.  Under this government the number of people unemployed for more than a year has tripled – up over 11,000 since they took office.

The situation is especially tough for our young people. Under this government the number of young people who aren’t in work, education or training has risen by more than 26,000.

The truth is those are the young people this government has given up on – the ones they label as ‘pretty damn hopeless’.”

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Bill English describes some Kiwis looking for work as 'pretty damned hopeless'

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Little pointed out the numbers who had not gotten any wage increase in the last year, and more importantly that workers were missing out on the benefits of economic growth;

For those in work, getting a pay rise has become harder. 43% of New Zealanders saw no increase in their incomes at all in the last 12 months.

[…]

Under the last Labour government, the share of economic growth going to wage and salary earners was over 50%.

Today, it’s 37%.

The slice of the economy going to workers has fallen each year under National.

This year, that lost income works out to be fifty bucks a week for the average family.

His comments will most likely resonate with those workers who feel they are working harder and longer hours – and yet do not seem to be progressing. The back-stories of mega-rich tax-evaders hoarding their wealth in tax havens will fuel feelings of resentment by those who work and pay their  taxes so we can have roads, hospitals, schools, etc;

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Panama Papers investigation 'NZ absolutely, conclusively is a tax haven'

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Little then hit the big story of the last few weeks – growing homelessness in New Zealand. Coupled with a fall in home ownership rates since 1991 (from 74% in 1991 to 64% in 2015), and we get a clear picture how “free” market economics has impacted on our society.

National’s response was to deny that a problem existed in New Zealand at all. According to Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett;

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"I certainly wouldn't call it a crisis. I think that we've always had people in need."

“I certainly wouldn’t call it a crisis. I think that we’ve always had people in need.” – Paula Bennett, 20 May 2016

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Andrew Little’s response was less dismissive of the challenges facing 21st century New Zealand families;

“When kids are sleeping in cars. That’s a crisis.

When families are crowded into garages. That’s a crisis.

When an entire generation is locked out of ever owning their own home, that is a crisis.”

He firmly sheeted home blame for our current predicament, in no uncertain terms;

“Instead of owning up to that and fixing it, the government is siding with property speculators and land bankers, while everyone else misses out.

Every initiative our bumbling housing minister Nick Smith has tried on housing has failed. Rather than go after the causes of the problems, he’s flailed around with gimmicks.

Remember special housing areas? Fewer than 1000 homes actually built.

Remember his gimmick from the last Budget? Releasing crown land? It turned out to include substations, cemeteries and even the back yard of Government House.

While the government’s been tinkering, the problem’s gotten so much worse.

In March, the average house price in Auckland rose by over $2,200 a day.”

For maximum effect, Little repeated that startling factoid to the audience and media;

“Let me say that figure again. Over twenty two hundred dollars a day.”

On Radio NZ’s political panel on Monday, 23 May, former Labour Party President, Mike Williams complimented Andrew Little’s speech, referring to it as “dangerous”;

“Middle New Zealand is concerned about health, education, housing, and the economy. And I think, as far as John Key is concerned, this is the most dangerous speech a Labour leader has given since Helen Clark resigned.”

Williams also made an interesting observation regarding how Middle New Zealand felt about their rising house values;

“I think there’s a bit of schizophrenia going on in Middle New Zealand which is showing up in the UMR numbers. If you own a house you are feeling pretty good because the value of your asset has been going through the roof. However, if you’ve got kids, you’re worried about their schooling; you’re worried about will they get a house; and  you’re worried about will they get a job that pays enough  to pay for a house. So I think, that, yes,  home-owning New Zealanders [are]  feeling ok, but parents are not.”

Little then addressed the growing under-funding of  public healthcare;

According to Infometrics, we’ve had $1.7 billion dollars cut in real terms from our health budget over 6 years.

That’s meant that 160,000 people in the last 5 years have been unable to get the appointment they need with a specialist.”

Which seems to be a replay of National’s cuts to the Health budget in the late 1990s;

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acute-heart-surgery-list-nearly-400-otago-daily-times-5-february-1998

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In response, Little promised;

“Under Labour, Kiwis will know that if they get sick, the public healthcare system will be there for them.  That’s why we are committed to meeting the cost pressures that are depriving people of the care they need…

…Budgets are about priorities, and under Labour, health will be a priority again. We shouldn’t be spending money on $3 billion of unaffordable tax cuts when we could be fixing our health system instead.”

Which, if the previous Clark-led Labour government’s actions are anything to go by, can be counted as a solid committment;

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1-5b-injection-for-health-9-dec-2001

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Little was also scathing at National’s taxpayer subsidies being thrown at Charter Schools;

“At the same time as National has poured millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money into privately run charter schools, our public education system is struggling.

In the last year alone, National has cut funding for pupils by $150 each.

And so schools load more costs on to parents in order to fill the gaps.

Ask any parent and they’ll tell you the cost of uniforms, class activities, camps and of course ‘voluntary donations’ just keep on rising.”

For all of National’s much-vaunted “reforms” in our education system, the results are less than impressive. Little rattled off a list of stats that should raise concern with all New Zealanders;

But here’s the thing: while costs are rising, standards are falling.

In 2006, we were ranked 5th in the world for reading.

Now we’re 13th.

We were 7th in science.

Today? 18th.

And in maths? We’ve fallen from 11th to 23rd.

So much for National Standards. And so much for the neo-liberal ideology that has not only not delivered on promises of excellence in our education system – but has seemingly damaged it. Our fall in international rankings are stark evidence that National’s policies in education have failed spectacularly.

Little then offered what can only be  described as Labour’s manifesto for the 2017 General Election;

  • We’ll crack down on the offshore speculators who are driving up house prices and locking families out of the market.
  • Labour will launch a mass home building programme to deliver new, affordable homes in Auckland and around the country.
  • That’s why we are committed to three years’ free post-school education so that Kiwis can train and retrain across their working lives, without having to take on huge debt. That’s how we support our people and its how we tackle the challenge of the future of work.
  • We’ll introduce a dole for apprenticeships scheme to give young people the opportunity to get into paid work.
  • We’ll raise the number of hours people can work without having their benefit cut.
  • We will feed hungry kids in schools…

In six, short, sentences, Andrew Little has put the boot into neo-liberal so-called “reforms”. If elected, and if Labour does not water-down it’s promises, we will be witnessing the dismantling of thirtythree years of the neo-liberal paradigm in New Zealand.

No wonder right-wing commentator, Matthew Hooton, seemed perturbed by Little’s speech during his regular ‘slot’ on Radio NZ’s Nine to Noon programme on 23 May.

Perhaps the most revolutionary aspect to Little’s promises is that of  “three years’ free post-school education“. This is, in effect, partially undoing user-pays in our tertiary institutions.

But the most clever aspect to Little’s speech is that it is “talking” to two different parts of New Zealand.

His reference to “that lost income works out to be fifty bucks a week for the average family” is a direct pitch to Middle New Zealand that feels it is not progressing whilst the mega-rich rort the tax system.

But his reference to abandoning part of user-pays in tertiary education is directed at the Left who are demanding that the Labour Party make a public commitment to renouncing it’s Rogernomics past.

The trick for Labour’s hierarchy and strategists is to achieve both – appealing to Middle New Zealand and the Left – but without spooking the former, or further alienating the latter.

In effect, Labour has taken a firm step-to-the-left – and the public have not noticed.

Mike Williams was right: this was a “dangerous” speech from Andrew Little.

And a damned clever one.

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Addendum

Full text of Andrew Little’s speech here.

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Labour victory

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References

Fairfax: Jane Bowron – Marae shows up Government with haere mai to homeless

Trading economics: New Zealand Unemployed Persons 

Fairfax media: Bill English describes some Kiwis looking for work as ‘pretty damned hopeless’

TV1 News: Panama Papers investigation – ‘NZ absolutely, conclusively is a tax haven’

Interest.co.nz: Collapse in home-ownership rates among families formed since 1991 is an unfolding disaster for NZ’s economy

Radio NZ: No housing crisis in NZ – Paula Bennett

Radio NZ: Nine to Noon – Political commentators Mike Williams and Matthew Hooton

Scoop media: Andrew Little: Pre-Budget Speech 2016

Related

Pundit: Have We a Housing Policy?

Other bloggers

Chris Trotter: Left Unsaid: What Andrew Little Didn’t Say In His Pre-Budget Speech

Kiwipolitico: Not Quite But Getting There

No Right Turn: National should give us our $13,000 back

The Standard: Little’s $50 a week message getting through

Copyright (c) Notice

All images stamped ‘fmacskasy.wordpress.com’ are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

» Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
» Where purpose of use is commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
» At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
» Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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capitalism taking from those who work

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 May 2016.

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= fs =

Letter to the editor – Who are the Real Greedies?

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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It is amazing how many blame the victims of neo-liberal ideology, rather than looking at the causes of why things happen.  Are some people really so simple-minded that they can’t see beyond their immediate prejudices…?

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letter to the editor - dominion post - sylvia moore

 

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So yet again, I point out some ‘home truths’ to people like Ms Moore, who seems to have selective amnesia when it comes to recent history…

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Sat, May 21, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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In attacking so-called “loan defaulters”, Sylvia Moore has targetted the wrong group. (letters, 20 May)

She is indeed correct that increased student fees and student loans were introduced in 1992. Before that, tertiary education was near-free.

Beneficiaries of free tertiary education were people like John Key, Bill English, Steven Joyce, et al. Even Paula Bennett was recipient of free tertiary education, through the Training Incentive Allowance – which she scrapped in 2009 after becoming Minister for Social Welfare.

When Moore states that “perhaps if they [student loan defaulters] repaid their loans, the government, might be able to allocate a grant to parents in need of help” misses the point that since 1986 there have been seven tax cuts. The last two in 2009 and 2010 cost over $2 billion per annum

That is why schools and hospitals are being under-funded and children are in need in equipment such as lap-tops, as Ms Moore pointed out.

It is a double standard that we now saddle our youth with massive student debts and threats of prosecution.

Perhaps she should cast her ire at National Ministers who have gained personal benefit from free education and are now abusing their power to force others to pay for what they got for free.

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-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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References

NBR: Bennett cutting a benefit that helped her – Labour

Infonews: Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

Previous related blogposts

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash”

Roads, grandma, and John Key

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers

Aged Care: The Price of Compassion

Tax cuts & school children

Nick Hanauer – a devastating demolition of the Neo-liberal dogma of tax cuts!

Tax cuts and jobs – how are they working out so far, my fellow New Zealanders?

Letter to the Editor – tax cuts bribes? Are we smarter than that?

The consequences of tax-cuts – worker exploitation?

The Mendacities of Mr Key #3: tax cuts

A Message to Radio NZ – English continues fiscal irresponsibility with tax-cut hints

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student-loan-debt

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 May 2016.

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= fs =

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 16: No one deserves a free tertiary education (except my mates and me)

11 February 2016 9 comments

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student-loans-debt

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Prologue

As reported in a previous blogpost last year (Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Week);

Fun Fact #1: Student loan stood at $14.235 billion, as at 30 June 2014 – up from 9.573 billion in 2008.

*Up-date* – Student loan stood at  $14.837 billion as at 30 June 2015 – up from $14.235 billion in 2014.

Fun Fact #2: As at 30 June 2013, 721,437 people had an outstanding student loan, registered with Inland Revenue. That’s roughly 16% of the population.

Fun Fact #3: Approximately 1.2 million people – roughly a quarter of the population –  have taken out  student loans.

Fun Fact #4: Students have borrowed $20.119 billion of which  $9.157 billion has been collected in loan repayments.  More than 415,000 loans have been fully repaid.

Fun Fact #5: $1.031.7 billion in loan repayments were received, $22.2 million less than last year. The total number of students completing formal qualifications reached 144,000 in 2013 – a decrease of 0.6% from 2012. The number of people enrolled in tertiary education has dropped, from  504,000 in 2005 to  about 420,000 (in 2014).

Fun Fact #6: The student fees/debt system began in 1992. Prior to that, students  had access to Bursaries and Student Allowances and tuition fees were minimal.

Fun Fact #7: “The median borrowing increased – from $7,441 in 2013 to $7,708 in 2014. The median loan balance also increased – from $13,882 in 2013 to $14,421 in 2014. Both were driven by higher fee borrowing: fees are rising and students are more likely to take more expensive courses. In the 2014 academic year, 72.4% of eligible students took out a loan, down from 73.8% in 2013… The number of borrowers in default has declined slightly on 2013/14, but the amount in default has increased.”

Fun Fact #8: On 17 May 2013, National announced new legislation would give the IRD powers to arrest loan defaulters at “the border” (ie, airports) if they are “about to leave or attempt to leave New Zealand after returning from overseas”.

Fun Fact #9: On 18 January this year, the first person arrested at the border for non-payment of a student debt was a 40-year-old with  an  outstanding debt that, with interest,  had ballooned from $40,000 to $130,000.

Fun Fact #10: The Prime Minister, John Key, and Tertiary Education Minister, Steven Joyce, both received near-free tertiary education, paid nearly entirely by the New Zealand taxpayer.

Sources: Ministry of Education, Beehive, NBR, and The Wireless

Some Recent History: 1972 – 1992

Prior to 1992, tertiary education at Universities was mostly free, with minimal course fees. On top of which, a student allowance plus part-time paid employment, was usually sufficient for students to graduate with minimal debt hanging over them.

This allowed graduates to start their adult lives, careers, and families with only as much debt as they chose to take on. This was usually in the form of a mortgage and business start-up costs (if they elected to be self-employed).

Those that earned more in a professional capacity, paid a higher rate of tax. This ensured that those who stood to gain the most, financially, from a near-free tertiary system, paid more in taxation. This – in part – assisted funding for future generations to move through the tertiary education system.

Those that did not achieve high income-brackets could contribute in other ways.

When National’s Ruth Richardson became Finance Minister in 1990, the social contract between generations “paying it forward” was broken. University fees were increased; student loans were made available to cover payment for increasing user-pays;

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Prime Minister Jim Bolger and Finance Minister Ruth Richardson make their way to the House of Representatives for the presentation of the 1991 budget. Richardson was from the radical wing of the National Party, which promoted individual liberty and small government. This was reflected in the budget, which severely cut government spending, including on welfare. Richardson proudly proclaimed her plan as the 'mother of all budgets', but such was its unpopularity among voters that it – along with high levels of unemployment – nearly cost National the next election.

Prime Minister Jim Bolger and Finance Minister Ruth Richardson make their way to the House of Representatives for the presentation of the 1991 budget. Richardson was from the radical wing of the National Party, which promoted individual liberty and small government. This was reflected in the budget, which severely cut government spending, including on welfare. Richardson proudly proclaimed her plan as the ‘mother of all budgets’, but such was its unpopularity among voters that it – along with high levels of unemployment – nearly cost National the next election.

Acknowledgement of image: NZ Herald

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Ironically, Ruth Richardson herself was a beneficiary of New Zealand’s then near-free tertiary education system. In 1972, she graduated from the University of Canterbury with a Bachelor of Law  (Honours).  She immediately went to work – debt-free – for the NZ Department  of  Justice  (NZ).

She has made herself a Limited Liability Company, ostensibly to minimise her tax “liabilities”.  According to her website, her husband is General Manager of “Ruth Richardson Ltd”.

Some Recent History: 1986 – 2010

Though the tertiary education system was far from perfect – for example polytechnics could charge higher student fees – it offered near-free higher education and taxpayers were ultimately beneficiaries of a system that produced doctors, engineers, scientists, and other skilled professionals to take New Zealand into the 21st Century.

Even those who went overseas in pursuit of lucrative work gained valuable experience which benefited the country as a whole, upon their return.

Unfortunately, the social contract between generations was broken as the Lange-Douglas Labour Government implemented neo-liberal policies that included user-pays as a new concept upon which to base State/individual transactions.

Labour did not implement user-pays in tertiary education – but it laid the fertile ground for the following Bolger-Richardson National government to radically change University funding for course fees.

For the right-wing Labour (of the 1980s) and National, smaller government meant tax-cuts, and from 1986 there were no less than seven cuts to taxation;

1 October 1986 – Labour

1 October 1988 – Labour

1 July 1996 – National

1 July 1998 – National

1 October 2008 – Labour

1 April 2009 – National

1 October 2010 – National

Each cut to taxation has meant less revenue for the government and resulted in either reductions to social services, and/or increases in user-pays.

The ballooning of “voluntary” school fees to over a billion dollars since 2000 is the clearest example yet of  tax-cuts making way for the covert rise in user-pays for what is supposedly “free” schooling in this country.

The under-funding of schools and desperate need for parents’ “donations” has become such a pressing problem that Patrick Walsh, of the Principals Association of New Zealand,  has openly suggested that the ideal of  free education should be abandoned;

“I think the basic principle is you undertake a study … of what it costs to actually run a school, all the operational costs including staffing, and you either fund it to the level it actually costs, or you say the pie isn’t big enough to support that and we will now allow schools to charge parents for some of the services.”

Perhaps Walsh has a point. It would at least acknowledge the current semi-user-pays system as a reality, rather than fooling ourselves with dishonest and quaint notions of “school donations”.  Only then might New Zealanders clearly comprehend how we have arrived at a toxic mix of tax-cut bribes and implementation-by-stealth of user-pays in education, and other state services.

Education is not the only state service suffering from lack of adequate funding, as recent media reports from Canterbury and Waikato DHBs indicate. The increasing waiting times for public operations, and painful suffering of people with debilitating medical conditions,  is a telling indicator that our health care system is ailing through lack of funding.

A September 2012 Treasury paper,  “Average Marginal Income Tax Rates for New Zealand, 1907-2009“, revealed;

In 1900 tax revenues were approximately 8% of GDP. They rose to 28% of GDP during WWII and to a high of 37% in 2006. Currently tax revenues make up around 29% of GDP.

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government-tax-revenue-by-source-1903-2011

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Source

Taxation has fallen – as have once-free services which New Zealanders took for granted. At the same time, population growth has put pressure on (reduced) government revenue and spending.

In 1984 the population stood at 3,175,737 (as at 1981 Census).

By 2013: our population had swelled by over a million to 4,242,048 (as at 2013 Census).

We are spending less, for more people, to meet expectations that are simply unrealistic after seven tax cuts.

Rather unsurprisingly, the consequences of successive tax-cuts have been predictable, and well-reported in the media;

According to the most recent data, taken from the 2013 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook, 44,000 Kiwis – who could comfortably fit into Eden Park with thousands of empty seats to spare – hold more wealth than three million New Zealanders. Put differently, this lists the share of wealth owned by the top one per cent of Kiwis as 25.1 per cent, meaning they control more than the bottom 70 per cent of the population.

New Zealand’s wealthiest individual, Graeme Hart, is ranked number 200 on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires, with US$7 billion. That makes his net worth more than the bottom 30 per cent of New Zealanders, or 1.3 million people. 

The Progressive Response

January 31st marked a giant step Kiwi-kind that – if endorsed by voters – could prove to be the the first nail-in-the-coffin for user-pays.

Labour leader, Andrew Little, announced a policy that, while seemingly radical in the 21st century, was common-place policy in this country pre-1980s.

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Labour's announcement welcomed and slammed

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Little proposed;

“… that the next Labour government will invest in three years of free training and education after high school throughout a person’s life.

[…]

Three years of free skills training, of apprenticeships or higher education right across your working life.”

He then pointedly explained not just where the money would come from – but that bribes in the form of  successive tax-cuts had under-mined our once-proud cultural expectations of state-provided services;

“The money is there – the Government just has it earmarked for tax cuts. We will use that money instead to invest in New Zealand’s future.”

In effect, this would be a massive admission of failure in user-pays, and the beginning of rolling back thirty years of New Right doctrine.

The Neo-Libs Strike Back

The response of the National Party and it’s front-organisation, the so-called “Taxpayers’ Union“, has been utterly predictable.

From Tertiary Education minister, Steven Joyce, came these two ‘clangers’ via Twitter;

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Steven joyce - tertiary education - hypocrite

Source

Source

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Judging by the angry responses on Joyce’s Twitter account, his comments were more provocative and self-defeating, than achieving any ‘hits’ on Labour’s policy-announcement.

John Key fared little better after his jaw-dropping gaffe on this issue;

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John Key draws flak after questioning why waitresses' taxes should fund students

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Aside from the usual tactic of playing on low-paid workers’ dire plight to criticise free education (or free anything provided by the State), links were quickly drawn to Key’s on-going assault on waitress Amanda Bailey, in Auckland’s Rosie Cafe;

Prime Minister John Key has drawn a barrage of criticism after questioning if Labour’s fee free study policy was fair on waitresses who would be paying tax to subsidise students.

His comments also drew a quick response from some critics on social media who drew the link with Key’s repeated pulling of Auckland cafe waitress Amanda Bailey’s ponytail.

Key’s rhetorical question attempted to paint free tertiary education as unfair on low-paid workers;

“How much should the waitress.. how much of her taxes should go to a student who will absolutely earn a lot more?”

The question could equally be put;

“How much should the waitress.. how much of her taxes should go to…”;

  • National Ministers  gifting themselves 34 new BMWs. The last batch – bought in 2011 – are to be replaced only after about three years’ use. Cost? Unknown. According to National, the price is “commercially sensitive”. (Code for *politically embarrassing*.)
  • Subsidies and special tax concessions to Warner Bros for ‘The Hobbit‘, and to other movie companies? Cost – ongoing.

But the main question should be;

“How much should the waitress.. how much of her taxes should go to paying for tax-cuts for the top 1% of  New Zealanders.”

When National cut taxes for high-income earners in 2010, and raised GST from 12.5% to 15%, this was essentially a transfer of wealth from low-income earners to the uber-wealthy. Low income earners pay disproportionately more in GST than the wealthy.

People like Ruth Richardson can structure their tax-affairs by registering as a limited liability company (or using Trusts and other accounting trickery) – which allows her to claim back on GST – this puts the rest of us at a distinct disadvantage.

Other companies such as Facebook and Apple have made big profits in New Zealand, but paid minimal tax. Facebook paid $23,034 in 2013/14 (out of alleged revenue of just $846,391), whilst Apple paid $5.5 million in 2012/13 (out of $571 million revenue).

As for criticisms from the so-called “Taxpayers Union” – this is a front-organisation for National. It’s organisers are party apparatchiks from National and ACT;

Jordan Williams is closely connected to the likes of David Farrar, Cameron Slater, and Simon Lusk – all of whom are hard-Right National/ACT supporters and apparatchiks.

Right-wing blogger, David Farrar, is one of the  Board members of the Taxpayers Union. He has been a member of the National Party since 1986, as his candid Disclosure Statement on Kiwiblog reveals.

John Bishop; businessman; columnist for the right-leaning NBR; and authored a “puff piece” on National’s Deputy Leader, Bill English; Constituency Services Manager,  ACT Parliamentary Office, April 2000 – August 2002, “developing relationships with key target groups and organising events”.

Gabrielle O’Brien; businesswoman; National Party office holder, 2000-2009.

Jordan McCluskey; University student; member of the Young Nationals.

Jono (Jonathan) Brown; Administrator/Accounts Clerk at the Apostolic Equippers [Church] Wellington, which, amongst other conservative policies,  opposed the marriage equality Bill.

See: A Query to the Taxpayers Union – ***UP DATE ***

Publishing criticisms from the “Taxpayers Union” is simply another PR statement from National, masquerading as independent analysis.

People’s Exhibit #1 – The Case for Key’s and Joyce’s Hypocrisy

Undeniably the worst aspect of National’s condemnation of  free tertiary education rests with our esteemed Dear Leader, John  Key, and Tertiary Education minister, Steven Joyce.

Both men were recipients of free, tax-payer-funded, University education.

In Key’s case, his  was obtained at Canterbury University, from 1979 to 1981;

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POLITICS - John Key - A snapshot - tertiary university education - free education

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Has Key re-paid any of his University education? One suspects the answer is a firm “no”.

And with seven tax cuts, neither did he pay for it with taxation, as high-income earners paid less and less since 1986 – five years before graduating.

In Joyce’s case, as first reported on 6 August 2015, in a previous blogpost;

  1. Steven Joyce, born: 1963.

  2. After completing a zoology degree at Massey University, Steven started his first radio station, Energy FM, in his home town of New Plymouth, at age 21 (1984).

  3. Student Loan system is started: 1992.

Joyce completed his University studies and gained his degree eight years before the Bolger-led National government introduced student fees/debt in 1992.

One wonders how Joyce reconciles his free tertiary education – as well as benefiting from seven tax-cuts, along with John Key – with justifying National’s  issuing warrants-to-arrest for loans defaulters;

Just because people have left New Zealand it doesn’t mean they can leave behind their debt.  The New Zealand taxpayer helped to fund their education and they have an obligation to repay it so the scheme can continue to support future generations of students.

Key and Joyce never paid for their free University tuition.

Yet they expect other New Zealanders who followed in their foot-steps to pay for theirs.

Or face arrest.

What does it say about us as a nation, when we elect hypocrites as our elected representatives, who bludge of the tax-payer?

If this does not fly in the face of New Zealanders’ values of fairness and giving everyone a fair go – then we are not the same people we once were.

Postscript

Tweet from Steven Joyce, condemning Labour’s policy for free tertiary education;

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Steven joyce - tertiary education - hypocrite - achieving nothing

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Can we take it from the Tertiary Education Minister that his own university education “achieved absolutely nothing”?

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References

National Business Review: Budget 2015 – student loans – does the government dare to act?

Ministry of Education: Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2014

Beehive.govt.nz: Celebrating student support under Labour

Ministry of Education: Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2015

The Wireless: Getting by on a student budget

IRD: Student Loan Scheme Amendment Act 2014 – Arrest at border

Fairfax media: Joyce defends student loan crackdown

Fairfax media: Student loan arrest could prompt others to address debt

NZ Herald: ‘I don’t think I’m a criminal’

Teara.govt.nz: National Party – The ‘mother of all budgets’

Statistics NZ: Annual unemployment rate has increased from 1987

Ruth Richardson NZ Ltd: Ruth Richardson CV

Ruth Richardson NZ Ltd: Home page

Fairfax media: ‘Free’ education cost set to mount to more than $1 billion

Fairfax media: ‘Human scandal’ as Christchurch elderly refused access to surgeries

Fairfax media: ‘Painful wait’ for surgery

NZ Treasury:  Average Marginal Income Tax Rates for New Zealand, 1907-2009

NZ 1984 Yearbook: 3A – General Summary – Increase of population

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census Usually Resident Population Counts

Oxfam NZ: Richest 10% of Kiwis control more wealth than remaining 90%

Radio NZ: Labour’s announcement welcomed and slammed

Andrew Little: State of the Nation speech

Twitter: Steven Joyce

Twitter: Steven Joyce

Fairfax media: John Key draws flak after questioning why waitresses’ taxes should fund students

NZ Herald: Govt backtracks on limo statements

NZ Herald: Complaints laid against Murray McCully over Saudi farm deal

Radio NZ: Saudi abattoir deal will proceed – PM

Fairfax media: NZ government shells out $11m on New York apartment for UN representative

Fairfax media: NZ diplomat involved in decision to buy $6.2m luxury Hawaiian mansion

Otago Daily Times: Smelter gets Meridian, Govt lifeline

Rio Tinto.com: Rio Tinto announces a 10 per cent increase in underlying earnings to $10.2 billion and 15 per cent increase in full year dividend

NZ Herald: GST rise will hurt poor the most

Fairfax media: Time to pay some tax, Facebook?

NZ Herald: Apple’s NZ unit coughs up 0.4pc tax

Kiwiblog: Disclosure Statement

Sunday Star Times: Politics – John Key – A snapshot

Wikipedia: Steven Joyce

National Party: Steven Joyce

Fairfax media: IRD monitoring 20 for possible arrest in student loan repayment crackdown

Additional

Salient: A short history of tertiary education funding in New Zealand

NZ Herald: Minister to students – ‘keep your heads down’

Other bloggers

The Daily Blog: John Key said WHAT about waitresses’???

The Daily Blog: Why does Steven Joyce hate education so much?

Previous related blogposts

A Query to the Taxpayers Union

A Query to the Taxpayers Union – ***UP DATE ***

Know your Tory fellow travellers and ideologues: John Bishop, Taxpayers Union, and the NZ Herald

Greed is good?

It’s official: Political Dissent Discouraged in NZ!

Shafting our own children’s future? Hell yeah, why not!

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

Budget 2013: How NOT to deal with Student loan defaulters

Budget 2013: Student debt, politicians, and “social contracts”

Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Week

Anne Tolley’s psycopathy – public for all to see

Letter to the Editor: Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Year

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 15: John Key lies to NZ on consultation and ratification of TPPA

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*Note: For New Zealand audiences, simply replace "Social Security" with Superannuation, and "Medicare" with public health system.

*Note: For New Zealand audiences, simply replace “Social Security” with Superannuation, and “Medicare” with public health system.

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 February 2016.

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