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Experience : What have you learned from failure & how would you apply it? Labour Leadership Q&A #13

Posted by on September 13th, 2013

14 Questions for 2014

Virtual Hustings Meeting – Question 13

Experience : What have you learned & how would you apply it?

Question : To ensure a victory in the 2014 election we need courageous leadership. Failure is part of courageous leadership. Tell us about a time that you failed as a leader. What did you learn from that experience and how would you apply your learning in the future?

Submitted by : Dalene Mactier, Southbridge

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Explanatory Note: From September 10th to 14th 2013 as part of the official selection process for a new leader the New Zealand Labour Party is holding a “Virtual Hustings Meeting” hosted by Red Alert and organised by Scoop Amplifier. Over 7 days questions were solicited from eligible voters in the election. The questions and answers are now being posted as a set of 14 posts at the Red Alert Labour Party Blog. This started Tuesday 10th September, and continues till Friday 13th September. At Red Alert all-comers are welcome to discuss the answers in the comment section of the blog. The candidates are expected to participate in these discussions at times over the five days till Saturday 14th September.

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LABOUR LEADERSHIP CANDIDATES’ ANSWERS

Answer from Shane Jones

Prior to becoming a Parliamentarian I was the Leader within Maoridom that bought the fifty plus tribes together and resolved the Treaty fisheries dispute.

This took great courage.

Obviously I enjoy a florid style of speaking. This campaign has been a lesson to me about softening some of my rhetoric.

Immoderate remarks have offended some women and I realise I need to improve.

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Answer from Grant Robertson

The best example in my life came from time as a leader of the student movement in the 1990s.

After fighting rising fees, cuts to allowances and massive interest on student loans for several years, we were struggling to get people involved in our campaigns.

Re-igniting the movement required going back to the first principles of what we were fighting for (equality of opportunity) and knowing that whatever happened we had to keep fighting.

We took inspiration from the civil rights movement saying “Keep your eyes on the prize, keep your mind on the struggle.” We kept the faith, and it was great to be part of working on Labour’s policy many years later that saw interest removed from student loans.

The lesson being – always remember why you are doing what you are doing, and never, never give up.

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Answer from David Cunliffe

I have learnt some hard lessons about leadership in the past year. I have listened to colleagues and supporters, buckled down in my portfolio, and worked hard.

Going through hard situations can really prepare you well for the future, and as Labour’s leader I would want to put the lessons I’ve learnt to really unifying and energising our party to win the election in 2014.

ENDS


Keep Our Talent

Posted by on December 3rd, 2012

It’s no exaggeration to say that almost every day I get a letter or email from a postgraduate student who is facing the prospect of not being able to finish their study next year because of the National government’s abolition of student allowances for postgraduate study. I have been working with a number to try to find a way for them to keep studying. Many of the letters are copies from people imploring Steven Joyce to change his mind. There seems to be no chance of that. A number are from students who thought they would be allowances next year as they are part way through their programmes. With a few exceptions (those with dependents who have same course code as this year) this is not happening. Steven Joyce’s confused communications about the issue have not helped.

A group of students affected by the cuts have undertaken a nationwide survey of those getting allowances to see the impact. Good on them for this initative. Amanda and the Keep Our Talent team have come up with some important and disturbing conclusions. 40% of those who responded said they were re-considering post-graduate study becuase of the cuts to allowances. 20% were looking at going overseas. As one respondent put it

I will not be able to do my PhD in New Zealand meaning I am less likely to do research on a topic that is relevant to New Zealand. I am sure others will be in a similar situation and this will severely disadvantage New Zealand’s knowledge and expertise.

The situation is particularly dire in long programmes like clinical psychology (which I will write about in another post). This really is one of the most heartless and short-sighted tertiary policies I have seen in 20 years working in this sector.

And worse of all. Steven Joyce won’t even meet the Keep Our Talent group to discuss their survey. Gutless.


Give students back their voice

Posted by on October 22nd, 2012

When the Tertiary Education Commission was being set up in 2002, the Minister in charge Steve Maharey was not all that keen for there to be student representation at the Board level. He argued it was not a representative body, and if students were given a seat as of right then that would open up the argument for too many other groups.

With the input of Nandor Tanczos and NZUSA a decision was made that there should be a non-voting student member of the Board. As is the way of these things Simon Power as the then Opposition Spokesperson tried to simultaneously claim credit for, and trash the idea.

And since the TEC has been established there has a been a student representative (in TEC speak a Non Voting Learner Representative). The role has been filled by a range of people and the feedback I have had is that the person has always given useful insights and behaved in a professional way.

So its a real slap in the face that the decision has been made to abolish the position. A double slap because there was no consultation, and this only emerged because NZUSA dragged the information out from the TEC. And it adds to a pattern from this government of taking away student voice (Polytechnic Councils, VSM, proposed reform of Uni Councils).

The TEC are dressing this up as being a reflection of their changed role with the policy function for tertiary education moving to the Ministry of Education. While that does represent a changed role, the tasks they still undertake remain important enough to students to justify the continuation of the position.

There is no better example of this than when the TEC considers at its next Board meeting the applications from Massey and Victoria universities to go beyond the maximum allowable fee increase (4%) to reportedly 8% for some courses. This is exactly the kind of discussion where a student perspective would be helpful, and in fact the right thing to have.

So, it comes down to Steven Joyce. He has the ability to direct the TEC to reinstate the position. Its time he channelled a bit of Simon Power’s enthusiasm for a student voice from a decade ago and did the right thing. Or is this a further nail in the coffin of the democratic traditions of supporting the right for dissenting voices. Your choice Steven.


Look to Local Success for Maori and Pasifika students

Posted by on October 11th, 2012

Attending the Raise Pacific Education Conference held at the Auckland Museum was an opportunity to consider what success looks like for the growing number of Maori and Pacific young people. I highlighted the importance of looking towards local exemplars in our public schools that are working and improving the engagement, retention and achievement of Maori and Pacific students. There are alot of great examples in our local schools in Auckland that are raising the bar and showing the way such as Otahuhu College, Kia Aroha College, Massey High School and Western Springs High School to name a few. The problem is that they are spread out and it takes a long time to roll these innovations across the system so more students benefit from ‘what works’. This is an exciting time to be Polynesian and living in the country’s largest city, the growing reality is that the demographic mix is becoming more diverse and more polynesian. So our communities, schools and city of Auckland will have to shift the way in which planning for the future incorporates Maori and Pacific values and identity.
Its important to recognise that in education more should and must be done to lift achievement outcomes for all our children. There are two distinct paths, under the current Government, National standards, league tables and performance pay will seek to push polynesian kids down a path that will create winners and losers. It will create a culture of teachers “teaching to the test”, ultimately schools will treat all kids the same as if they are forcing round pegs into square holes. This is not the model for a high performing system.

Its disappointing that the government is using private sector models like charter schools as a solution to the challenge. All those schools will do is take from the public purse and privatise profits with little or no real gain in outcome for Maori or Pacific kids. Its time to dismiss empty rhetoric and invest in quality public education. By tackling the causes of poverty and inequality Labour will bring together solutions that exist outside the school gate to support the good work that teachers and school communities achieve to support their children within the school gates.

Getting more parents involved in their local Boards of Trustees and owning educational outcomes can make a huge difference. We must guard against the inclination of the Government who wants to pull decision-making back to the centre and tell parents and communities what works best.

We need only look at the sweeping reforms being proposed for the children of Christchurch to see that the Government is not serious about consulting with the community for the best schooling opportunities for children.

It looks like the ‘one size fits all’ creep could be a real prospect for young people in South Auckland if that behaviour continues.

Labour is looking to the future and wants to work constructively with parents, teachers and communities to ensure that every child no matter where they come from can be assured of a great education in their local community. The future for New Zealand urges us to think and act differently to ensure that success in education belongs to all our children. That does mean a different way of doing things and it will mean shifting the ‘norm referencing’ that currently occurs in our education system.


Government Mandated Data Promotes “Shon-key’ League Tables

Posted by on September 28th, 2012

The media need to be more accountable to parents who are looking for robust and reliable data about how well their children are doing in school. Over the past two weeks the media have collected national standards and compiled this information as a league table ranking local schools – sadly the information used is ‘ropey’ and will not give an accurate picture of what really matters to parents.

The Minister is pushing ahead with her agenda to report ‘ropey’ national standards data, she is stepping back from any responsibility for league tables being promoted by newspapers and will push to have performance pay based on limited student achievement data.

I received a concerned email from the Principal of Porritt School in Hawkes Bay. The figures used by Hawkes Bay Today (HBT) were very different from the actual data held by the school. In reading for example the media derived figures reported the level at 37% when the schools verified figures were 77%. In reading and math HBT reported 42% when in fact the verified data was 84%.

Sadly the damage has been done, the impression of where Porritt School ranks alongside other schools will be negative and this is the unfair aspect of ranking schools.

Parents deserve reliable and robust data about how well their child is doing at school, parents also deserve good information about how their local school is catering to the education needs of their children.

National standards and league tables will do nothing to improve a child’s learning or tell the real story about what happens within a school.

For Porritt School the need to set the record straight is important because their children deserve the best. Instead they are in damage control trying explain to parents how badly their school information has been misrepresented.

National’s agenda in education to establish national standards, league tables and performance pay will erode confidence in the public education system – in readiness for a Charter School model that will privatise profit from the public purse.

Join our fight to expose this destructive attempt!


To their fullest potential

Posted by on September 20th, 2012

Tonight at Waikowhai Intermediate in my electorate Gifted Kids are holding a Sharing Night.  It’s about showcasing the projects they have been working on and I’m looking forward to attending.

The goal of Gifted Kids is to let our talented and creative children, particularly those from low socio-economic communities, develop their talents, strengths and abilities to the full.

Way back in 1938, at the time of the First Labour Government, then Education Minister Peter Fraser gave a landmark speech.  He said the Government’s role in education was to ensure all people, whatever their ability, wealth or place of residence, enjoy a free education to enable them to achieve to their highest potential.

That is or should be the on-going core principle governing our education system.

We want no-one to fall short of their potential because they come from a disadvantaged background.  We want those who have gifts to be fully extended and to achieve excellence.

It’s about individuals being the best they can and the community collectively benefitting from what they can achieve.

Gifted Kids at present give 600 young people attending 150 mainly low income schools the opportunity to be challenged and to develop their skills to the maximum.

What I can’t understand is why in the last two years the National Government has halved the budget for Gifted and Talented Education as a whole and given no funding at all to the Gifted Kids Project since 2010.

When they are putting more money into private education for the most advantaged, where are their priorities?


Does size really matter that much to you Mr Joyce?

Posted by on September 5th, 2012

Steven Joyce has decided to continue his fight with universities over the size of their Councils. Since May of this year he has sent signals that he thinks the Councils are “large and unweildly” and need to be more “entrepreneurial”. Most recently he has added that they are ‘slow to react’, not pursuing commercialisation of research as ‘effectively’ as they could and ‘lagging’ in international education initiatives.

The Universities have finally hit back at the latest accusations noting that we have the fifth highest rate of international students in the world, how they do well in innovation and that there is no evidence that the size of Councils is holding back institutions.

But make no mistake about what is really at stake here. This is about exerting more control over one of the pillars of a free and democratic society. By law, and in practice, universities have autonomy and academic freedom. They have this because they play a vital role in challenging and questioning what happens in our country and world. Their role as independent critic and conscience of society and their responsibility to the wider community will be undermined by greater Ministerial control over the membership of their governing body.

Of course we don’t know exactly what Mr Joyce wants to do because he has not been prepared to release any of the papers that he has received on this issue. I have requested them under the Official Information Act, and not only have I been denied access to the papers, he has even refused to tell me the titles. The Ombudsmen is currently considering that decision.

We can however, take a pretty good guess given what the government did to Polytechnics. They dramatically reduced the size of Councils, removed guaranteed representation from the community, including students and staff, and controlled the appointments of the leadership of the Council. With Polytechnics the Minister now appoints four people, who then in turn appoint another four. And they get to decide who is the Chair of the Council.

Despite not releasing any proposals, the Minister has been communicating with universities about the size of their Councils. I understand he has been trying to see if he can convince them to reduce in size without changing legislation. I don’t fancy his chances.

No one is trying to pretend that Universities have or should have carte blanche to spend taxpayer money as they please, but their independence and responsibility to the community should be sacrosanct.

The place and role of univeristies in New Zealand is delicately balanced in law. The Education Act gives them autonomy and academic freedom, but their strategy and funding are managed through the Tertiary Education Strategy (TES) and the investment plans agreed with the TEC. Steven Joyce passed up the opportunity at the start of this year to alter the TES, and so its vision and goals stand. Interestingly it does not emphasise the issues he is now accusing the Councils of failing to focus on sufficiently.

Beyond the point of principle, is this really the most important thing that Steven Joyce can come up with in terms of making univeristies a driving force of our economic and social development? He would be better served to be working alongside the sector on how it is going to provide the quality research and teaching that will drive innovation and academic excellence in the coming decades, and using the powers that he has to work with the sector to deliver the outcomes he wants.

Univeristies are not immune to change or to being given some direction, but launching a coup on the governing bodies of the institutions is a threat to an essential independent check and balance in our democratic infrastructure. It does not respect the role of universities in our society, nor is it in the spirit of the system that governns them. Back off Mr Joyce.


What’s fair Mr Joyce?

Posted by on June 21st, 2012

At the estimates (budget) hearing for Vote Tertiary Education yesterday there were some interesting exchanges. The ones around the lower than budgeted spend on skills training in Canterbury (despite the many offers/bids from training providers) has been well covered in the media.

We also quizzed Mr Joyce on the impact of abolishing student allowance for postrgraduate students and limiting eligibility on long courses. What this, and the written questions that we and the Greens have asked of him, show is the remarkable lack of knowledge about the impact of the policy. The best we can get is an approximation of the number of students who will be affected. No idea of the affect of the impact on particular groups such as women, nor any information on the reasons why people had extensions to the 200 week limit for allowances.

But the thing that really struck me about the answers Steven Joyce gave was when I asked him if it would have been fair to have “grandparented” all students currently enrolled in courses where they entered with the expectation of an allowance been available, so that they could finish the course under those conditions. After an ” I guess you could look at it that way”, we get a nod from Mr Joyce that he thought it was fair enough that those students would now not get an allowance.

Even if the government thinks cutting allowance eligibility is a good idea, I really think they could have looked at grandparenting everyone who is currently enrolled in a course where they would have got them. They are extending eligibility for some people (those with dependents) for a one year period. It would have been fair to have extended that.


Clear as mud

Posted by on May 31st, 2012

Hekia Parata was asked a number of questions in the House today about her decision to increase class sizes, particularly for intermediate schools. I’ll blog a bit more about the insights we got from these questions over the weekend, but for now you can take a look and judge for yourself.


Ministers just didn’t do the work

Posted by on May 30th, 2012

It took nearly 10 minutes of back and forth in the House today for the Education Minister, Hekia Parata, to admit that she hadn’t even asked for a list of the schools that would lose or gain more than one teacher as a result of her changes to teacher:pupil ratios before she took her proposal to Cabinet.

Quite frankly, this is just not good enough. Hekia Parata took a policy to Cabinet, and it was approved and announced in the Budget, without any Minister taking the time to look at what the actual impact would be on individual schools. If that’s the level of scrutiny the National government are applying to their cost-cutting proposals, it’s no wonder it’s all turning into such a mess.

It simply defies belief that Hekia Parata would come up with a policy that could spell and end to intermediate school education as we know it without doing the most basic analysis. And this from someone who has spent a lifetime as a senior public servant. She should know better. Too much more of this and she’ll end up making Anne Tolley look positively competent by comparison.


The ideal class size

Posted by on May 21st, 2012


Answering questions on loans and allowances

Posted by on May 8th, 2012

I have been getting heaps of questions about Mr Joyce’s announcement last week. He does not seem of a mind to get into any details, so this is what I have been able to piece together. Feel free to get in contact with further questions. I have put quite a few in through the written question system where we have not been able to get other answers.

Is future eligibility going to be four years of allowances or 200 weeks?

Steven Joyce caused huge confusion last Thursday by talking about allowances stopping after four years. This was wrong. It is clear that the change he is proposing is to restrict allowances to 200 weeks. This would equate to five years of allowances for most undergraduate courses. This has acted as the default rate of allowances unless you were doing a “long course”. This includes most degrees, postgraduate and longer courses. If you were doing these courses you were eligible for another 50, 100 or more weeks worth of allowances depending on the length of the course. That is now gone.

If you have used up your 200 weeks already does this mean you will be ineligible for future allowances?

I asked Mr Joyce about a case such as this in Parliament today. He said the “final transitional arrangements will be confirmed in the Budget”, but he did go on to acknowledge that the example I gave (a real one) of a student who had used their 200 weeks already and was in the first year of a two year Masters programme would not be eligible for allowances next year.

How many people will be affected by the allowance changes?

Half an answer today as Mr Joyce admitted 4000 to 5000 postgraduate students would no longer be eligible for allowances. He did not give the number of those who would not get allowances because of the changes to parental income thresholds.

Can the government change the terms of student loan contracts that have already been signed to increase the repayment rate to 12% without the agreement of the borrower?

Sadly, yes. Clause 203 of the Student Loan Act says that the Act will override anything that is in a loan contract. The Act contains the repayment rate, but also has a clause 37(3) that says that if the rate is changed by regulation then that rate is deemed to be the rate rather than the one listed in the Act. So, basically the government can do anything it likes to a loan contract as long as it is in the Act. One small caveat is that, through Clause 20, they do have to inform borrowers of any changes to their loan contracts within seven months of the change. Let’s see if they manage that.

There have been a number of questions about limited full time students and how this effects them, which I am chasing up with the Minister. Will come back when I get the results.

As I said the other day I can not believe that Steven Joyce would make these announcements without more information being available. Its simply not fair on students, graduates and their families.


An irresponsible and cynical announcement

Posted by on May 3rd, 2012

Today, Steven Joyce as Tertiary Education Minister announced changes to the student loan and allowances scheme. When I say announced, I mean that he held a media conference at which he told the assembled reporters about the changes. He did not produce any paper, apparently could not offer much in the way of figures to back up his announcement and gave some vague answers. He has finally late this evening released his notes which shed only a little light on proceedings.

This is irresponsible and cynical. Pre-budget announcements are nothing new, I know that, but if you are going to do do them, how about actually giving details about what you are going to do? Student support is one of those areas where the details matter to individual students and their families. Many students live financially fragile lives, and little changes mean a lot. For families trying to support their children and plan their future, announcements like this have significance. Judging by the questions I am getting on email and on Twitter people are confused, and it is no wonder.

The reason it is cynical is that this is about getting the bad news away before the Budget so that on the day Mr Joyce can show how he is putting some more money into research and certain courses. The robbing Peter part of the equation out of the way, it will be time to pay Paul on Budget Day.

As to the substance of the announcement, they are giving all graduates with loans a pay cut by increasing the repayment rate and they are cutting access to allowances, including limiting eligibility to four years. This is significant. This means no allowances for people in later years of studying medicine, engineering, architecture, veterinary science or for post graduate study or double degrees. In short the very things the government says it wants.

There are still loads of questions unanswered about the detail of the announcement (such as what happens to those in the middle of longer degrees, do four years of allowances at any time in the past make you ineligible from next year?) but the overall message is clear; this government simply sees tertiary education more as a cost to be cut than an investment in our collective future.


Slow Jam with the President

Posted by on April 26th, 2012

Barack Obama and Jimmy Fallon in fine form last night in this sketch from Jimmy’s Late Night show. Fallon has a regular ‘slow jam’ segment, and has Obama as his special guest on this one. Very funny, and great work from the President. The issue here is a proposal to increase the rate of interest on student loans, which the President is opposing. As he says

Now is not the time to make school more expensive for our young people

Let’s hope Steven Joyce is listening to that come Budget time.


What’s going to happen to student loans/allowances?

Posted by on April 4th, 2012

Earlier in the year the Prime Minister said the government was going to rein in the student loan scheme “big time”. He refused to say what this specifically meant, but it is clear the government has plans. Having decided that they can’t do what they really want to do in terms of getting rid of the interest free part of the scheme they have made a number of changes to limit eligibility, such as stopping those 55 and over borrowing for the living costs portion of the loan.

But there is more to come. In answer to a written question I put in about reports that the Minister of Tertiary Education had received about changes to student support, came this answer from Steven Joyce.

I have received many reports and briefings regarding future student support arrangements since 1 August 2011, if the Member would care to be more specific I will endeavor to provide a response. However, the Member should note that many of these will relate to future Budget decisions and therefore will not be released prior to Budget day.

So students can expect changes to be announced on Budget Day. Rumours abound as to what the changes will be. I have heard talk of major changes around allowances that would effectively wipe them out in favour of loans. This would be hugely controversial and create major equity issues. Moreover it would have the effect of massively increasing the student loan balance which would seem to be the opposite of the government’s policy objective.

More likely is an implementation of National’s election manifesto statement about student loans that

Ensure students who borrow from the scheme are working towards qualifications that can attract an income that allows them to pay back the loan.

This relates to the already announced plans to publish the salaries of people with particular qualifications. It raises huge concerns. What courses will not be eligible for student loans? What time scale will be used to identify the income? Will other factors will be taken into account to assess the value of a course?

I am all for ensuring that tertiary education plays a major part in providing the skilled workforce that we need. I also think we need to keep a careful eye on the quality of courses, but that is not the same as saying students can only borrow for courses that attract a particular income. The salaries earned by graduates are not the be all and end all of the value of tertiary education. Bob Jones famously once said he would rather employ an arts graduate than a commerce graduate because they had been taught to think.

We need to have a wider view of the value of tertiary educaiton, firstly for the individuals concerned and what they learn, but also for society as a whole of having people who have undertaken a range of courses. We want musicians, designers, artists or whatever it might be that the Minister considers is not earning enough, don’t we? They might not have huge financial benefit, but they are important in a civilised society.

Budget Day could be very interesting, and possibly disturbing ifor students and future students.


Allan Peachey … a man who put kids first

Posted by on November 7th, 2011

It was both very sad and a surprise to hear about Allan Peachey’s death today. I worked on the Education and Science Select Committee with him, some of my family taught at Rangitoto College under his reign.

He impressed me with his deep understanding of education and real commitment to getting the best for kids. Ultimately for him that was the test. He was no friend of National Standards. For his passion and understanding alone, he should’ve been the Minister.

He chaired the Select Committee in a true spirit of bipartisanship and was unfailingly polite to those who came before us. We differed in our politcal views – sometimes quite a bit – but that’s politics. We are poorer for his parting.

Our condolences go out to his family.


Restoring the Refugee Study Grant

Posted by on October 15th, 2011

In Labour’s tertiary education policy announced by David Shearer earlier this week was a small, but very important commitment from Labour. If elected to government we will restore the Refugee Study Grant. This grant was canned by the National Government in the 2009 Budget with effect from this year. When I was Tertiary Education Spokesperson for a while I met several people who had greatly benefited from the grant, and I am so pleased that we have committed to restoring it.

What the grant has provided is support for refugees mainly for bridging courses or other courses to meet pre-requisites. While as permanent residents refugees can access student loans, many need support to get to the level to be able to undertake tertiary study. Not having the support can mean that opportunities are missed and refugees dont get the kick start that can allow them to achieve their potential.

Mohammed Amri is one example. He was one of the Tampa boat boys. A bright guy, but with little experience of English or learning in a New Zealand environment, who took language, reading and writing skill courses that got him his start on the way to a degree. Another example is a young woman I met, who’s story is included in the publication by Changemakers Refugee Forum as part of their campaign to see refugees recognised as an equity group. She was 19 and still at school here trying to catch up with her peers. She did well, but was not ready to do tertiary study. She was losing motivation for school, doing long hours working at a supermarket, acting as an interpreter for her family, and wanted to get on with her life. She accessed the refugee study grant, got the support to lift her literacy skills, understand the pecularities of New Zealand langauge, and gain entry to a degree at Victoria University. She’s doing really well.

All of this came from a fund that used about $1.3 million a year. In the grand scheme of the Budget, not that much. But it was a lower priority for National in that particular Budget than extra funding for private schools. I am really proud that Labour is saying we will give some extra support to people who have had to flee their homes, who have endured hardship, so that they may achieve their potential, have a fair go at owning their future, and fully contribute to our society. Its the right thing to do.


A note to those who supported VSM

Posted by on October 13th, 2011

Massey Unniversity has responded to the Voluntary Student Membership Act by increasing its fees next year by an amount about equivalent to that paid by students to their Student Associations.

Just to note:
- it seems like the fees are compulsory
- the government will have a big say on what the increase can be used for – not even the university
- it looks like students through their association may be able to negotiate with the university about what services are kept – but no guarantees
- it’s likely to be the model that will spread across NZ – I was in Waikato University yesterday and they are looking at something similar

So all those who backed VSM will still pay the same, but you won’t have any real say about how your money is spent – even less if you decide not to belong to the student association. Taxation without representation it’s called.

And now you don’t even get the choice of a referendum.
What was wrong with an opt-out clause and accountability around association spending as we suggested?

Well done. Everyone loses.


Labour’s Tertiary policy announced

Posted by on October 10th, 2011

We have just put out Labour’s tertiary policy. It follows on the big effort that we’ve made to lift skills in our workforce. No need to remind people that times are tough and it’s tough getting any new money. But I think we’ve got a pretty solid mix here that will make a difference.

The key aim is produce the best graduates we can – and keep them in NZ – to help us grow a smart, high-value economy.

The policy has some specifics targetting some of our smartest. It puts back the post-doctoral scholarships for scientists who finished their PhDs that was canned last year. This is critical for not only keeping our best here and giving them time to consolidate their studies, but bringing some of our best back. After all, we’ve already invested massively in these people.

We’ve also put additional funding aside for funding our very best where they are world beating. The ‘brilliant scientist’ concept is simple – give sufficient funding to our best scientists and academics to employ the staff they want, buy equipment they need and then let them get on with it. Smart people attract others – from around the world. Backing our best with resources will grow expertise in core areas where our talent is top shelf. And we DO have some fantastic talent. Those researchers will receive funds personally and are free to choose the NZ institution – or business – where they want to set up.

Other parts of the policy: we must maintain and raise the levels of our universities. Recent results show we are slipping in the world rankings and there’s little doubt that funding is a key part. We run universities that are some of the most efficient in the world, where an extra dollar can really make a difference. Our policy maintains our level by inflation proofing our universities and sets our commitment to increase it.

We need to maintain the affordability of our tertiary institutions so all NZers that reach the standard can access a high quality tertiary education, no matter what background they come from. There’s aspects in the policy here for that too, fixing tuition increases at 4% and restoring $2 million to the Training Incentive Allowance to give a lift to those who want to get a tertiary education – solo mums for example – to get some support. Remember this is the one that helped Paula Bennett before this government axed it.

And we’ve put back the money for adult and community education. Cutting $13.5 million and collapsing it was a travesty. More than 150,000 people no longer access night schools who once did. This is a no-brainer for people wanting to get back into learning.


National MP Opposes VSM Bill

Posted by on September 28th, 2011

Here is a video taken of Michael Woodhouse at a public forum at Otago University in July. He quite clearly states that he is opposed to the Bill in its current form (ie the form that it is in right now). Today, in the Third Reading Michael Woodhouse and other National MPs will vote to pass the Bill into law.

Michael also goes on to assure people that the Bill in its current form won’t pass into law this year. I have heard from other students that is the same commitment they got from other National MPs. This was misleading students and the National MPs should be ashamed of themselves. They heard the evidence at the Select Committee, and they know that tertiary institutions do not want the Bill, the vast majority of other submitters do not want the Bill, but they are still supporting the ideological crusade of their crumbling coalition partner.

Michael also suggests that Labour should promote the ‘opt out’ compromise solution. We did. It was rejected by ACT and National.

So the question for Michael Woodhouse (and other National MPs) is, why will he vote to pass a Bill today that he does not support and that he knows will destroy student services and advocacy?