Young people are crucial to our party. They are crucial to New Zealand. They are adventurous, they are entrepreneurial and they are aspirational. They are open, progressive and benevolent. This party, more than any other, has the most potential to turn these young people’s aspirations into young people’s futures.
In the first part of my address, I’ll talk about fair tertiary policies. Secondly, and just as importantly, I'll talk about keeping young talent here in New Zealand.
In presenting these issues to our audience, the youth of New Zealand, we will be able to offer a platform for establishing our country as a desirable place to live.
Act on Campus is very excited about the future and we support Banksie in his work so far on issues that will significantly affect young Kiwis, such as tertiary education.
The tertiary policies we’ve been left with by governments in the last 10 years have encouraged more and more young people to take up tens of thousands of dollars in debt for degrees which offer little or no economic benefit to themselves or New Zealand.
We agree with John, when he characterises the current arrangements as a reverse Robin Hood scheme - redistributing the wealth of the poor for the benefit of the middle class. It is a mystery then that such a scheme is regarded as an equitable solution for upskilling young Kiwis.
With the removal of Interest on these loans, we see the increasing burden of debt taken on by government to fund student loans expand with little end in sight. The taxpayer ends up footing the bill until the loan is paid off - which is a problem for the debtor if what they earn after getting the degree doesn’t even meet the threshold for repayment.
These problems indicate that we have a system which encourages irresponsibility in life choices. We don’t wish to tell people not to pursue their dream of getting an Arts degree in underwater basket weaving, but the person who wishes to follow this dream should be making such plans very carefully, in a system where their choices pay off - not add up.
Voluntary student membership is quite possibly the most significant achievement of Act on Campus to date. There are many within and outside our organisation that deserve our sincere thanks.
However the fight is only half won. Presently student associations around the country are using loopholes to maintain their revenue streams and remain unaccountable. Students’ associations have reacted to VSM by getting their parent tertiary institution, in most cases, to offer a Service Level Agreement which pays the association to provide services. The students then pick up the tab through their compulsory student services levy.
Voluntary membership in trades and industries aided in the fight against obstructive and often oppressive unions. Similarly, voluntary student membership has made easier the fight against unaccountability and capricious actions of associations. To continue this fight to its rightful end, we rely upon the ongoing support of our friends within the Party and those outside.
At least, self-serving and coercive student unions are limited to the campus. The real issues that affect young individuals are much more serious.
Young individuals face a wider and more pressing issue which the Centre for Independent Studies has termed “the Flight of the Kiwi”.
Job prospects in Australia are phenomenally better than in New Zealand. It isn’t just a matter of being able to find work in primary industries, like mineral extraction in Western Australia. Almost any line of work one is capable of in New Zealand can earn better from doing the same thing in Australia. This applies to those that are schooled here with our taxes and publicly funded student loans.
The skills they get here, paid for by New Zealanders, go offshore. This is not just an issue because we think they should choose New Zealand first. With the job prospects so much better elsewhere, it’s no wonder everyone is fracking off.
Those who leave New Zealand shores are demonstrating what they can do with their skills by voting with their feet: currently, one in four of our skilled graduates lives overseas. We need to offer young people reasons for staying, or coming back sooner.
Act on Campus is committed to supporting policies that incentivise talented young people to stay here. Allowing young Kiwis and their families to acquire a direct interest in our economy is another essential part in making New Zealand their attractive option.
Two years ago the United Nations surveyed 18-35 year olds in 20 countries. They asked respondents to name their greatest fear. Young New Zealanders said that their greatest fear was being forced to live in an apartment.
We should be worried, because powerful forces are fixing to make it a reality. The Mayor of this city wants 75 per cent of future growth to occur within the current urban boundary.
All over this country land is being blocked off by a coalition of urban planners who think our lives are their experiment and property owning baby boomers who are only too happy to see supply constrained and the price of their assets rise.
Over the last 20 years, house prices have doubled compared to incomes. It is now easier to afford a house in England than New Zealand.
In 1936, half of all Kiwis owned their homes. By 1986 it was up to three quarters. Today the homeownership rate in Auckland is back to 52 per cent. We are getting back to the homeownership rates of the great depression.
What do we want? We want a fundamental change in the way we do urban planning. We want to go back to the assumption that cheap land should be available for our generation as it has been for earlier ones. Big dreams begin in big back yards.
Housing concerns form part of a larger issue which relates to our current economic situation.
Helen Clark began the dangerous trend of excessive government spending. This trend hasn’t been slowed down by John Key, despite his verbal assurances that government spending will be curbed. Not to mention his shared concern for the effects of NZ’s brain drain.
The failure to be realistic about the impending issue of superannuation will be detrimental to future generations with the burden of paying for it.
Young, talented Kiwis will not stay around long if they have to foot the bill for reckless government spending and our parents’ early retirement.
Business, especially small business, becomes more of a risk or just not worth the effort. The results are that incomes are lower and entrepreneurial spirit is discouraged.
ACT on Campus will campaign for smaller government and a prosperous economy, to keep young kiwis here and lure others back home.
Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t put our liberal boat out to sail as well. Being liberal simply means that we value the freedom to be ourselves as well as being economically free. What we are seeing with young people in New Zealand is that both go together. The social issues are increasingly becoming what swings the vote of New Zealand’s youth. If we are to take young Kiwis seriously, we need to start a dialogue within our party to include these concerns along with the very real, very serious economic ones.
We put this boat out to sail in hope that the wind will soon pick up and take us where we need to be.
For the sake of our Party’s future we have to be consistent with our key philosophy: freedom - and for that we need to be courageous..
Our party, more than any other, is in a position to capitalise on the votes of tomorrow’s leaders and turn their aspirations into futures.
Don’t forget, the young people of today are the leaders of tomorrow. As those young people of today, we are proud to be a productive element of the work that begins today, from which the benefits we all reap tomorrow.