Speech by New Zealand First Leader and Northland MP Rt Hon Winston Peters: Higher Education Losing Its Soul As Bean Counters Rule

Speech by New Zealand First Leader and Northland MP Rt Hon Winston Peters
Otago University
640 Cumberland St,
12.30pm, Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Higher Education Losing Its Soul As Bean Counters Rule 

The English writer G. K. Chesterton said: “Education is simply the soul of society as it passes from one generation to another.”
That should be the essence of education.
New Zealand First believes one vital role of government is to adequately fund and support universities, polytechnics and schools to ensure this happens.
But this has sadly been eroded and lost in New Zealand.
Education has become a “bums on seats” enterprise run by bean counters.
And while there are many professional private education institutions, there are also too many using education as a racket.
It’s all about the dollars.
The under-funding of education by National has led to cuts in the very subjects which go to the inner heart of what higher learning is all about.
These are the humanities.


The Humanities help people to think creatively, critically, logically, reasonably and to develop an inquiring mind in search of the truth.
A study at Oxford University in 2013 found employers desperately wanted candidates with succinct and persuasive written and verbal communication skills and the capacity for critical analysis and synthesis.
Here in New Zealand, businessman Sir Bob Jones and his company make an effort to recruit graduates in the humanities.
It’s been disappointing for education in New Zealand that all eight of our universities have recently cut humanities programmes.
There will always be the need for universities to adapt and change – but they must not lose their very soul.
Otago University is going through a trying time with a review and an axe hovering above you.
The bean counters must be reminded that this university has long been a prestigious and respected centre of learning.
And the humanities must be allowed to both survive and thrive here.

With National saying they will lift the age of eligibility for NZ Super to 67 your national students association says any discussion about retirement and NZ Super must address student debt.
Students feel they are going to take a double whammy:
Debt over their student loans and having to work longer to get NZ Super.
Isn’t it a paradox: the young are more alarmed about the Super age shift by 2040 than the aged are?
Don’t be taken in by this doom and gloom.
First, NZ Super.
NZ First says raising the age of eligibility is unnecessary.
NZ Super is affordable.
NZ Super’s actual net cost to taxpayers is around 3.8 per cent of GDP.
NZ Super as a percentage of GDP will stay the same even with an ageing population, if NZ doubles its GDP by 2050 and we improve our productivity.
The way to maintain NZ Super’s affordability is increasing the size of our economic cake.
And education is critical in restoring productivity.
That and focused, controlled immigration that brings in people we need, not people who need us.
It’s that easy – other First World nations understand that. Why don’t we?

New Zealand First understands the stresses students face living on just $180 a week as their student loan grows.
We know how daunting it must feel for you wondering how you can enter the property ladder when you leave here.
This is a leaflet which we are handing out to your university today.
It shows how New Zealand First will get rid of the student loan for Kiwi students staying and working here in NZ after they finish their studies.
The only requirement is that you work for the same number of years as you have studied.
So three years in tertiary education requires three years in the workforce - five years tertiary means five years in the workforce.
But if you leave for a big OE, and decide to work overseas, you will have to pay back the cost of your tertiary education.
Where you have a current student debt then the system changes to our dollar for dollar policy.
For graduates with skills required in the regions, like teachers, nurses, doctors, police and other much needed regional skills we plan to use a bonding system.
We will also introduce a universal student allowance.
These are our practical solutions to the huge debt mountain you face.
The government might try and brainwash you into believing that what we propose can’t be done that there is no other way but theirs.
There is another way and this plan outlines it.

Here is a headline in a recent issue of your magazine Critic.
Winnie Blues: Winston Peters on Yet Another Anti-Immigration Rant.
First question, who was the unreconstructed, four flushing moron that wrote that article?
Second question, and how did he or she get into this university?
Despite all the downsides of mass immigration where students are concerned - high student rents, crammed accommodation, tens of thousands from overseas with work permits competing for your work, and depressed wages and conditions- someone at this university wrote that article.
Despite all the downsides was this article about the numbers of international students coming to New Zealand. No. It was about how whenever New Zealand First talks about immigration, it’s a rant.
When others say the same thing our critics say, it’s OK.
The Dominion Post in an editorial a few weeks ago said:
“Large numbers of migrants who arrive first as immigration students before becoming permanent residents is odd and troubling. Export education should never have come with a residence carrot attached.”
Was the Dominion Post flooded with emails and letters condemning them for an anti-immigration rant?
Were they called racist?
We are portrayed by the “commentariat” as the anti-immigration party.
They’re wrong.
We are the “focused, controlled immigration party”.  Just like every country in Asia.
We want immigration that is good for our economy and our society.

- We want quality educational institutions not private training establishments that graduate cooks who can’t boil an egg as is happening in Auckland.

- Anu Kaloti of the Migrant Workers’ Association says a lot of overseas students are not coming here to study or acquire skills. “It’s their way of escaping,” she says.

- Who can blame them, but we have 139,000 New Zealanders unemployed.

- We have a further 150,000 New Zealanders seeking more hours of work.

- We have more than 90,000 young New Zealanders aged from 15 to 24 who are not in jobs, training or education.

- What is happening to them while 30,000 plus international students are estimated to be working in Auckland alone?

- Having near 72,000 plus net immigrants settling here permanently every year is way too much for our small society.

- We want immigration pulled back to 10,000 net per annum.

And we want what your education should provide, the opportunity for fair treatment and reasoned debate on issues like immigration, not knee jerk, irrational, illogical, bigoted twaddle.