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October 2, 2011 | by  | in Features |
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ACT Party

Former ACT leader Rodney Hide summed up the ACT Party the best: as a party standing for “individual freedom, personal responsibility…and a quality of life that is the envy of the world”. To a student, that sounds pretty bitchin’. But has ACT managed to maintain this stance in the lead-up to the general election? Salient contributor Doc Watson talks to ACT’s candidate for Wellington Central, Stephen Whittington about the policies that students should really consider if they want to vote for ACT.

Doc: I want to start by talking about the biggest elephant in the room when it comes to students voting for the ACT Party which is Heather Roy’s VSM Bill. How do you think students will vote following the passing of this bill?

SW: I think for the overwhelming number of students, they don’t really care much about their student associations. There is a small group of student politicians that care very much about [the Bill], there is a small amount of people that feel they shouldn’t be required to join the Association. But if you look at the number of people who turn out at elections, not that many people are engaged in student politics. I think the reality is most students won’t really notice a huge amount of difference. Obviously there are a small number of students who will be particularly supportive [of the Bill] and in that respect I feel they will be the ones more likely to vote for ACT.

Doc: With the global financial crisis beginning to take its toll on New Zealand’s economy, something that is inevitably going to be increased is university fees. Does the ACT Party have any particular plans to help circumvent these increases in costs?

SW: Realistically speaking, the only person that has benefited from my own tertiary education is me, so the ACT Party supports people paying for their own tertiary education. The effects of increasing subsidies for tertiary education is to take money away from low income people and give it to people whose future incomes are likely to be higher. Another thing that happens with increased fees is that students demand a lot more from their lecturers when they feel they are paying a significant cost to be there, and I think that’s a good thing. Something that is missing from the tertiary education market is consumers who are willing to decide which courses to do on the basis of what it provides them rather than the course that is easiest.

Doc: A more recent announcement from the ACT Party is the potential reinstating of youth minimum wage between the ages of 15 and 19. Victoria’s undergraduate population falls into the high end of this minimum wage bracket—what do you think this will do to their employment opportunities?

SW: The Bill would allow the Government to reinstate youth minimum wages for those aged 16 and 17, so it would be unlikely to affect university students. It would be most likely affect school students who work part time or people who had left school and were working.

Doc: Are there any other significant policies that you would like undecided student voters to consider when they finally choose to vote in the general election?

SW: When parties talk about policies that are going to benefit students, people get wrapped up in facts and thinking about the massive personal benefit that these policies are likely to give them, such as interest-free student loans. What I have realised in my time in ACT is that these policies are specifically targeted at particular groups and they are all short term actions. The main thing I would say to students is to look 20 years into the future and ask what kind of New Zealand they want to live in. Major political parties like Labour and National don’t really have any solution for inequalities in the education system—they will just keep trucking through with what we are already doing. If you think about what kind of New Zealand you want in 20 years, you want it to be economically prosperous, you want it to be freer in a personal and economic sense and you want it to be a fairer society. If that’s the kind of New Zealand you want, there is really only one choice and that is the ACT Party.

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  1. Fannie says:

    Great coommn sense here. Wish I’d thought of that.

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