On the campaign trail in Dunedin North with Victor Billot

Alliance Party blog

Posts Tagged ‘Education

Speech at the Great Tertiary Education Debate

leave a comment »

The Alliance supports free education.

We stand for the following policies:

Removal of tuition fees.

Abolition of the Student Loans Scheme and the immediate writing off of all loans.

A living allowance for all students at the level of the Unemployment Benefit.

Increased funding for public tertiary institutions, especially regional polytechnics, and provide adequate funding for libraries.

Cutting funding to private, profit-making tertiary providers.

Prioritising New Zealand public tertiary institutions over multinational education providers.

The Alliance Party agrees with the policy of NZUSA.

Our policies, unlike National’s tax cuts for the rich, are affordable. They are realistic. They are fully costed.

Free education can be paid for by progressive taxation. Those on low incomes pay less tax. Those on above average incomes like myself pay a little more. Those on high incomes like John Key pay somewhat more. With Alliance, John will still be able to afford his holiday home in Hawaii, and the young people of New Zealand get a free education.

We are all supposed to swoon in gratitude that after nine years the Labour Government has cooked up a generous offer, five weeks out from a general election.

This is like being mugged by someone who steals your wallet but leaves you the bus fare home.

Now we have a thoroughly dishonest National Party pretending they can hand out free money to everyone on the wrong end of a global financial meltdown, and not charge more for education and health.

I am happy to answer questions on the details.

But I would like to make a personal case as to why I support free education.

My first year studying at the tertiary level was in 1990 so I feel I have grown up with user pays education. I was at the University Registry over the road here the day police batoned students who were peacefully gathered in front of the building to protest user pays.

My observation is the generations who grew up in times of war and depression created a society which despite many flaws attempted to provide security and stability.

But the generation who benefited from these policies, the post war generation, did not pass on what they had received.

The inter-generational contract was broken.

John Key and Helen Clark are both leaders of the privileged post war generation who have rewarded their own generation and class, at the expense of the next generation.

The Fourth Labour Government destroyed free education in New Zealand in 1989. The succeeding National and Labour Governments have left students, many of whom are young people, with a crushing mountain of debt.

This has impacted most severely on those from low income backgrounds, women and minority groups.

Many of my generation have found out the hard way what student debt means. The sad fact is most teenagers attending tertiary education for the first time do not understand the implications of debt. In many cases neither do their parents. Especially, once again, if they do not come from the privileged level of society.

Many young people today did not experience the economic troubles of the 1980s and 1990s. We are about to plunge into a history defining depression. What will happen when the jobs dry up and the debt is still there? We will see a convergence of debt, of student loans, private loans and credit card debt and unaffordable mortgages. We are heading for a crunch and there are going to be a lot of people badly hurt.

What have I noticed? People waiting to have families until they are financially secure, because that is what you are supposed to do. To pay off the debt. To buy the house.

Some wait too long and now they will never have families.

My wife, who comes from a provincial freezing works family, came to University in her late twenties. Her life savings went into paying for her education. Because she is a woman she is financially disadvantaged if she wishes to have a family which requires time away from the workforce. User pays education is especially unfair to women, who are expected to be both childbearers and workers in a society where the two income family is the norm.

In a few months I am going to become a parent for the first time. I would like to be part of a generation that reforges the contract we have with our society, with our next generation. I do not want my child to grow up in a selfish, harsh place. I believe my generation have been let down. I believe we have to do better for the next generation. That is the choice we have to make.

Some people seem to think that running a country is like running a business.

I believe that organizing a society, organizing a nation, is like having a family. You don’t do it make a profit.

In my family, my parents went the extra mile for me. Shouldn’t we be doing that as a society? Going the extra mile for our young people?

Aren’t we all part of a larger family, a larger community? When I look around here, I don’t see competitors or economic production units. I see my fellow citizens.

It seems to me as if there are two voices in this debate. There is the voice that says, what do I care about anyone else? It’s my money. I want to hide away and watch my thirty inch plasma TV behind locked doors. 

Then there is the other voice, the voice of our better selves, which quietly says why are we here? We are here to help one another.

This isn’t just a matter of maths. It’s also about listening to that better voice.

Free education, barrier fee education, is right. It is economically right, it is socially right, and it is morally right.

To achieve free education, we need to stop pretending that asking National or Labour nicely is going to work. It hasn’t worked in the last twenty years. Maybe it’s time we changed tactics and realized who our friends are.

I invite you to vote for the Alliance Party for free education. If everyone in New Zealand who agreed with our policies did this, we would be back in Parliament, and we would be making a difference. It’s time to support the people who will support you.

Written by Victor

October 4, 2008 at 3:46 am

The Great Tertiary Debate – my rankings

with 11 comments

Today was the first real debate of the season. The Great Tertiary Debate was held as part of the NZUSA national students conference at the Dunedin College of Education Auditorium today at 3pm.

I arrived early after a hectic day getting radio and print advertising sorted out, and getting in some work on the Maritime Union magazine I edit as well. Student delegates from throughout New Zealand were milling around and I spoke to a few which was fun and relaxing as they were a pretty mellow bunch.

On to the debate. Well, we all know there was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing to get onto the panel but I am pleased to say NZUSA did me right in the end. Lined up were Conway Powell (National, Dunedin South), Hilary Calvert (ACT, Dunedin North), Joe Burton (United spokesperson), Meteria Turei (Greens, Dunedin North), Pete Hodgson (Labour, Dunedin North), and a woman who had travelled up from Invercargill for the Maori Party, whose name I didn’t catch in full (hope to update this when I find out.)

The debate was run smoothly enough with the two NZUSA co-prezzes on site and Marian Simms from the Pols Department adding her inimitable dry Aussie humour to her duties as Chair.

And of course yours truly.

Here are the results, once again in the interests of fairness I have not rated myself but have uploaded my speech to You tube for you to rate it yourself. (E-democracy?)

Conway Powell (B-)

Mr Conway, as the Otago Daily Times refer to him, must be the unluckiest candidate on the planet. Not only did National send him into Dunedin South where he has fruitlessly doorstepped every pensioner in the vain hope of finding a stray vote, they then put him at number 563 on their list. Cruel blow follows cruel blow.

Now the Tories latest insult to Mr Conway is to send him along to get a pounding at a student forum, probably to let Mr Smooth, their Dunedin North candidate, off the hook so he doesn’t tarnish his John Key Lite image. (John Key Lite – yes, it is possible. Lite lite.)

Anyway Mr Conway knew he was on to a loser from the start and tried to jolly along the audience, even at the expense of making jokes at his own Party’s lack of policy on anything. Maybe he is beginning to sense he has been left out as sharkbait. Conway is a nice guy, and as we all know, in the National Party Universe, nice guys finish last. However God loves a trier and CP is certainly that. We grade him on his sincere but plodding efforts.

Hilary Calvert (-9000%)

I don’t usually give out complete failures, but since the ACT Party want to return to traditional pass/fail educational standards, I feel I can make an exception in this case.

Hilary gave the worst presentation possible. Even I was surprised at her total, resounding lack of any clues about how to deal with this debate. 

I will ignore her politics entirely, for I simply fail to understand how any civilized, modern human being could subscribe to such a half-baked mash of gruesome social darwinism and basic gut-level greed worship. So it would be unfair of me to judge her on her politics.

On her presentation, however, some basic notes:

1. Do not start your speech by telling everyone how they will probably disagree with you. In ACT Party language, a loser attitude will get you a loser result.

2. Do not tell your audience they are stealing money off taxidrivers and grannies. This indicates a sort of political self-destruction urge.

3. Try to find common ground with the audience and present your philosophy as motivated by some kind of positive vibe that connects you with the human race, rather than Nietzsche without the sense of humour.

4. Do not repeat tired cliches like money doesn’t grow on trees or there is no free lunch, because people resent being talked to like they are thickos.

This was always going to be a tough debate for ACT, but someone like Rodney Hide would have bulldozed his way through like a rhino on steroids. Oh well. 

Pete Hodgson (Must try harder, just coasting)

Skeletor” was only going through the motions today. 

His speech only featured a few of his characteristic snarls at the audience and his habit of using punctuation marks in his sentences is becoming increasingly strange.

(i.e Vote for Labour, brackets, vote for Pete Hodgson, close brackets, comma, ampersand, full stop.)

He gave a depressingly empty explanation of why the Government was subsidizing Cadbury’s to set up their new chocolate crumb facility in Dunedin, although I would have picked Pete as more of a compulsive minty TicTac chomper than a chocolate crumb man.

However Pete was in a chipper mood beforehand with the other candidates and is probably looking forward to his relaxing new job as opposition spokesperson for veterinary affairs.

Joe Burton (PhD candidate)

Joe Burton is the United pointsman in Dunedin. A highly qualified Englishman, quietly spoken and personally likeable, Joe’s main problem is that he is in the wrong party. I believe this is dawning on him slowly.

Metiria Turei (7.6 feelgood vibes)

Metiria was her usual cheery self and had loads of supporters with those stupid “I only date boys who vote Green” stickers. No wonder they all look like depressed vegans.

Trouble is with these greenies is none of them actually seem to realize that to fund the Green promises you would have to completely reverse capitalism, which would result in a massive backlash from the rulers. 

The Greens would last about as long as the Happy Valley Snail under a coal truck in such circumstances, because they don’t seem to have any appreciation of these political realities. Why can’t we all just get along, maan?

I actually challenged Meteria on this point during the debate, as to where they were getting their cash from. I think her answer was a little bit of a porky actually because I am still to see any convincing taxation policy from the Greens.

However that’s why I’m not a Green and it was obvious that the liberal hippy crew loves the brand. And of course, it’s hard to dislike these shaggy peaceniks. Hell, some of my best friends are Greens, including my old mate Quentin Jamieson who lives with his tribe of kids and organic chickens next to a swamp in downtown Karamea. (Now that’s a real Green!)

The people who really irk me are ex-Alliance voters who are fudging around supporting the Greens because they don’t have the spine to get back where they should be in a proper democratic socialist party like us. However, some of my best friends are also Alliance refugees hiding in the Greens until someone else does all the hard work of getting the Alliance steaming along again. We’ll get there. But it would be a lot quicker if you guys saw the light . . . 

Maori Party candidate (Pass)

I can’t remember this ladies name, but she was from Invercargill (that’s a start). She had a nice demeanour, seemed genuine and had her heart in the right place.

Politically though I thought she didn’t really have a clue about anything and to be honest I can’t actually recall anything much she said about policies. If the Maori Party cut a deal with National, they deserve nothing but disdain for selling out their people.

Finally I was pleased to see the Jim Anderton’s Hi I’m Jim Anderton and I used to be a relevant politician and this is my little kingdom the Progressive Party flunking out as usual, they couldn’t even get someone to the debate. They are probably too embarrassed by their hideous new website to show their faces in public.

Written by Victor

October 3, 2008 at 11:34 am

Pete Hodgson moves to the left

leave a comment »

Labour Minister Pete Hodgson has reconsidered after hearing me today at the Tertiary Student Forum in Dunedin. Well, no actually, but it is a good photo.

Written by Victor

October 3, 2008 at 7:50 am

Fun and games at the University Union

with 5 comments

I get invited to most debates in Dunedin. Community forums, unions, even church groups invite me along. But we seem to have real problems getting our voice heard at student events.

That’s right. You heard. Wild crazy students, radical longhairs chanting for the destruction of Western Civilization. Well, once upon a time.

Apart from a few slightly hazy protests about dope smoking (not really the most pressing issue) it seems students just ain’t interested these days. It would help if the Students Association did some serious advertising and ran proper multi-party forums and this is an issue I took up today.

I went along today to the University forum thinking there was going to be a mass debate due to a particularly confusing poster. Unfortunately it was just ex-United MP Judy Turner, a nice lady who sympathized all the poor students while explaining how she was going to “incrementally” change things. The only incremental thing I can see is a $10 billion student debt, it’s getting incrementally bigger while everyone says how terrible it is, but won’t actually do anything about it.

Well that’s all well and good but my point here is that I was not invited to speak at these forums. Despite being told by the current Student Prez that I “added something to the debates” earlier in the year, it seems perhaps I was adding too much because it looks like I got left out. Oh, yes, that’s right, we only want “parliamentary parties” to tell us about how great student fees are, even if they have no local candidates, no local profile and have done absolutely nothing except piddle around the edges or even work against free education.

What a waste of a plane fare! She had to come all the way from Auckland to speak to 20 people. Most of whom were eating their lunch, sprinkled with a few Alliance and Green supporters and a table of bright eyed and bushy tailed Labour Party youth hacks working busily on their future careers as professional yes men in Wellington.

So I took up the issue with the Student Prez there and then, in a fairly direct manner.

I look forward to my invite to speak at Otago University.

We’ll wait and see.

Written by Victor

October 1, 2008 at 1:55 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

Success! Victor is on the panel for education debate

with one comment

I received a phone call this afternoon from NZUSA co-president Liz Hawes who gave me a formal invitation to join the panel at this Friday’s education debate (3pm at the Dunedin Teacher’s Column Auditorium).

I have accepted with thanks and look forward to speaking at the debate for free education for all.

Thanks also to OPSA who earlier offered to take me along as an official guest.

Written by Victor

September 30, 2008 at 4:42 am

Posted in Post

Tagged with , ,

Let Victor Speak . . . at the education debate

with one comment

Update 2: I have been invited to join the panel!

Update: I have a campaign group for this issue on Facebook

The OUSA and OPSA, the two Dunedin student associations, are hosting a student debate. Victor Billot will not be allowed to speak in favour of free education – at this stage. Let’s change the mind of the people who run these things! I want to speak and I want a place on the platform.

Here’s the background from OUSA President Simon Wilson in the latest Critic:

“This Friday 3 October, starting at 3pm, OUSA, OPSA (the Otago Polytechnic Students Association) and NZUSA (the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations) will be hosting a Tertiary Education Debate in the Teachers College Auditorium. So far Pete Hodgson (Labour,) Meteria Turei (Greens)
and Hilary Calvert (Act) have confirmed their attendance. We will have a representative from the National Party and there should be someone there from the three other parties with MPs in parliament as well. The MPs will be debating the future of tertiary education in New Zealand. They will be given a short time to speak and then you will have a chance to ask your questions.
I look forward to seeing you there.”

Gee – my invitation seems to have got lost in the mail.

There’s going to be representatives from Labour – who introduced user pays education in the 1980s – and National – who hiked fees in the 1990s – and did I mention Labour, under whose rule student loans have crashed through the $10.3 billion barrier.

In fact, it seems all the parties who support user pays education in one form or another have got an invite.

But that leaves out one party. The Alliance. Who support free education.

We pay for this through progressive taxation. It means people like John Key and Helen Clark will have to pay a bit more tax . . . like well off people used to . . . which is why we used to have free education. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victor

September 29, 2008 at 4:02 am

Posted in Post

Tagged with , , ,