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October 2, 2011 | by  | in Features |
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United Future

Let’s face it: very few, if any, university students will be casting their vote for the United Future party this November. Often regarded as simply consisting of Peter Dunne and social conservatives, United Future has never really been a student-orientated organisation. However there is no denying that Peter Dunne is a politician with a long history of parliamentary service and involvement in government. Salient writer Gerald Lee talked with party leader Peter Dunne about what he truly stands for.

Gerald: VSM has been a highly contentious issue amongst students. Why did you support VSM?
Dunne: People have a right to freedom of choice. We have widely accepted the principle of voluntary union membership in the private and government sectors. I don’t think that student associations are any different in that respect and I think it is for students themselves to choose.

Gerald: Do you think that student associations will suffer, in terms of service provision?

Dunne: I think that it depends on the way in which they market themselves to their members. I’m a strong supporter of students associations; in fact I’m a life member of UCSA. I think that VSM will provide opportunities for students associations to market themselves to students in new ways, and to become stronger.

Gerald: What policies are you offering that will benefit students?
Dunne: I think the main one is the policy on student fees. We effectively want to abolish student fees and cut by about sixty per cent the amount of money that students are required to borrow. We would fund that by abolishing student allowances. The net effect of that would be that the amount students borrow each week would be accommodation costs only. The maximum student debt per year would be around $6800, and that would cut student debt in half.

Gerald: Recently, within an international ranking of universities nearly all of New Zealand’s tertiary institutions had fallen. The researchers cited low public investment in tertiary education. Do you think the government is investing enough in tertiary education and what would you change?
Dunne: No, I think they need to invest more and my policy of a change to student allowances and fees would encourage greater government investment. I also think that the universities need to do much more to market themselves, to each other, and to the wider public. I think our universities have a lot of skill and talent within them, and there is a lot of very good research being done that isn’t being widely recognised.

Gerald: Many of your critics allege that you are an opportunist, who is willing to work with any party as long as they give you a ministerial post. How do you respond to this?
Dunne: Well I think that it’s a very silly criticism. I’ve always believed in being constructive. If we can reach agreement, then it is far better to work constructively to achieve policy outcomes rather than just sit forever in opposition. United Future has supported the government for twelve of the last fifteen years and we have achieved a lot of our policies as a result.

Gerald: In the past your party has been seen as being populated by social conservatives, the most notable being Gordon Copeland. How would you characterise the image of United Future today?

Dunne: Well those people no longer have any part in our party and I am delighted that they have gone. We are a centrist party which comprises people with a wide range of backgrounds and views. We are, in that sense, very much in the mould of the Liberal Democrats in Britain.

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  1. Doug Stevens says:

    I thought this was a very good (I could say even,”salient”) interview. What I would like to add is that although UnitedFuture can be described as conservative it is the very nature of some of these conservative policies that are in fact quite radical. By wanting the country to take a conservative approach to the environment for instance, it will be attacking those that wish to change our landscape and environment for the worse. I urge all young people to look at the UnitedFuture policies about the outdoors and our environment – they will see that they are sound and in fact designed to protect New Zealand for the future. In many ways they out-green the Greens and are worthy of consideration.

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