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Local candidates talk policy with Massey students

Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Local candidates talk policy with Massey students

A promise to bring back free university education was among policy messages aired at a political debate at Massey University’s Manawatü campus today.

Candidates from the two major and five minor parties outlined their core policies to around a hundred Massey students at a well-behaved lunchtime panel debate.

The Internet Mana party’s Palmerston North representative Dr Pani Farvid said her party favoured restoring free tertiary education, and would reinstate the postgraduate student allowance scrapped by the government at the beginning of last year.

Labour’s Rangitikei representative Deborah Russell, Green Party list member Gareth Hughes and New Zealand First party’s Darroch Ball also said their parties would restore the allowance. Before January 2013, postgraduate students were eligible for grants of about $240 per week. Since the grant was ditched, they can borrow only $173 a week under the student loan scheme - and it must be paid back.

Candidates were responding to a heartfelt question from a member of the audience who told them about the hardship experienced by many students since the sudden loss of the postgraduate student allowance.

Labour’s Ms Russell said her party’s focus was on ensuring all New Zealanders had access to decent health, education and welfare services, showcased in its policy to introduce free GP visits for under-13s and over-65s.

National’s Jono Naylor encouraged students to look at “life beyond university” and said paying for your own tertiary education is "investing in the future”. He added that National will invest $199m into tertiary education over the next four years, with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. He says the current scenario of the government paying 70 per cent of tertiary education and students paying 30 per cent is fair.

The Greens’ Mr Hughes praised students for showing the election catch-cry about youth voter apathy was not the case at Massey. And he congratulated Massey for being a step ahead of his party by introducing free buses for Palmerston North students. The Greens want to introduce free buses during off-peak hours for all tertiary students.

Conservative Party representative Mark Pearce, who is currently studying politics and economics at Massey, outlined his party’s top priorities as tackling law and order, holding binding referenda, one law system for all, and a tax-free threshold of $20,000.

Mäori Party representative for the Te Tai Hauauru electorate Chris McKenzie referenced the current “dirty politics” scandal, saying his was a “clean party” and will work with any other political party. He cited the party’s history of tackling addiction issues, particularly smoking, and joked that they supported "kittens, puppies, and the Warriors making the top eight."

New Zealand First’s Mr Ball descibed his party’s “history of success” in running for 21 years and of “being in it for the long haul" as the “watchdog that holds the Government to account”. It will focus on arresting the “current economic decline”, as well as issues such as asset sales, foreign ownership, increasing the minimum wage and protecting the vulnerable.

Internet Mana party’s Dr Farvid told the crowd that her party would pursue policies on social justice for “things that matter”, such as families being able to afford food and adequate housing. They also championed digital innovation and boosting New Zealand’s economic fortunes through technological advances rather than reliance on exporting raw materials.

Massey University Student Association (MUSA) President Linsey Higgins, who moderated the event, says it is crucial for her organistion to stress the importance of voting.

“Tertiary education is becoming unsustainable due to increased fees and rising living costs,” she says. “Our vote as students is able to directly influence this and lobby for change that benefits all members of society. We needed to provide a forum for politicians and students to interact”.


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