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First-time voters challenged with long-term view

First-time voters challenged with long-term view

Minister of Finance Michael Cullen laid down a tough challenge when he appealed to first-time voters at a university breakfast this morning.

The AUT Breakfast Club hosted the campaigning Minister where business students, AUT lecturers and business people rubbed shoulders.

Dr Cullen invited the students as future business leaders to take a broader view of the relationship between business and government.

“Fiscal stability is to business what clean air is to the human body,” he said. “In fact, what recent economic history shows throughout the world is that good government is a principal determinant of whether or not business thrives.

“Good government delivers macroeconomic stability, invests in infrastructure, builds a skilled workforce, supports research and development, promotes trade and provides quality public education, pensions and health care. Without these, it is hard to imagine any sustained economic growth.”

Dr Cullen said New Zealanders should remember the lessons of the 1990s when market forces dominated.

“We inherited a system in which trade promotion, science, higher education and the capital markets were all supposed to respond to market signals and work together. The reality was a lack of focus, dissipated energy and poor coordination.”

The veteran politician clarified Labour’s election promise of interest free student loans for graduates who stay in New Zealand.

“It is no accident that our first priority was to get a better focus on quality and relevance in the tertiary system. Education is an investment that is shared between the taxpayer and the individual.

“Our primary concern has been to ensure that good investment decisions are taken. Having made progress in that regard, we now feel able to reduce the financial barriers that students face.”

He said Labour’s opponents were advocating a “utopia of a low-skill, low-wage, high-profit economy”.

Labour had always believed New Zealand’s future was as a high-skill, high value-added economy.

“We have sought to encourage better quality in education and to create quality public services and a regime of employment standards that makes us competitive in a globalised labour market.”

Dr Cullen emphasised the Labour Government’s “subtle” manifesto: funding essential public services – health, education and police – and maintaining a skilled New Zealand work force by keeping skilled Kiwis and attracting more skilled migrants.

AUT Breakfast Club executive treasurer and first-time voter Cleo Muponisi says Dr Cullen’s words are food for thought.

“It is a challenge to think of the long-term view,” said the second-year finance student. “Dr Cullen is asking a lot.”

“He did confirm, though, the writing-off of interest loans for students. There’s been a lot about this in the media and it was gratifying from a student perspective to hear Dr Cullen say it.”

Cleo was pleased with the success of the event and thanked Breakfast Club members and the planning team, AUT and key sponsors for making it possible.


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