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Helen Clark Speech - Auckland Graduation Ceremony

Friday 5 May 2000

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister


Graduation Ceremony
Faculty of Business & Economics
Auckland University

Auckland Town Hall

3.45 pm
Friday 5 May 2000

Today's ceremony is one of celebration.

The effort put in and the dedication applied to earning degrees and diplomas in the Business and Economics Faculty has reaped rewards for everyone graduating here today.

The achievement in reaching graduation must not be underestimated.

To get to this point, everyone has made sacrifices.

In the first place, everyone engaged in tertiary study these days makes a considerable financial sacrifice - especially the full-time students.

The burden is often shared by the family.

But there's another sacrifice too. Successfully completing tertiary study takes an enormous amount of time. In the case of the part-time students, many will have had few weekends and evenings off since they began their course.

The reward comes today with the formal graduation.

The reward also comes in knowing that applying your time and talent to achieving a university qualification is of enormous benefit to you.

I want to say today that your achievement is also of enormous benefit to New Zealand as a whole.

We need more highly educated and skilled people. We need them for the intrinsic benefits which accrue to a highly educated society. And we need them for our future prosperity.

I believe that New Zealand is in the middle of a very important transition.

We have - and will probably always have - a significant commodity base to our economy.

But we are developing many other sectors as well, as we must.

We now have a huge visitor and hospitality industry.

And we are seeing new sectors develop, driven by education and skill, the application of advanced technology, and by innovation and productivity.

In these new sectors lie the key to our prosperity. Tate Electronics of Christchurch, for example, now exports more in value than our entire celebrated wine industry.

In London two weeks ago I launched a new high tech product from New Zealand in the British market.

Its company, based in Christchurch, joins another twenty or so high tech New Zealand companies whose products have succeeded in the United Kingdom.

New Zealanders have long been known for their creativity and ingenuity. Now we are adding value through higher education to what we can do.

Transforming the New Zealand economy requires us to bring a number of advanced skills together.

Our scientists, engineers, and technologists will invent and design new products. Across the professions we will develop advanced services.

And from this particular university faculty will come the skills to manage the production and processes, the promotion and marketing, and the financing of the new products and services.

The breakthrough I am now looking for in New Zealand is a growing belief in this country as a good place in which to be creative and productive.

In an age of fast communication business can be located anywhere, and products and services can be transported quickly.

We have the advantage in New Zealand of an incomparable physical environment and a rich and vibrant cultural life.

The challenge is to create an environment of opportunity which sees more of our talented and highly educated people building their future here.

That's why our new government is acting quickly to address some of the causes of the accelerated brain drain of the 1990s - like the student loan scheme as it was.

There is no doubt that the student loan scheme was unfair in extorting market rates of interest from students while they studied and had no capacity to service their loans. We said we would stop interest accruing while full-time students and low income part-time students were studying, and we have.

There will be fairer repayment terms too.

We will seek to improve the affordability of tertiary education as fast as we have the means to do so.

We are also building up the state's investment in science and research, in technology grants to business, and in facilitating access to seed capital and start-up capital for the development of new products and ventures.

We are studying how other western countries back their exporters abroad through export credit guarantees, with a view to introducing similar initiatives.

We do believe in the ability of this country to grow and prosper and offer opportunity and security to all.

You as graduates in the Faculty of Business and Economics can play a very big part in that future.

I wish you all the very best for the future and congratulate you on your achievement in graduating today.


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