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Internet Mana would introduce free tertiary education under its tertiary-education policy, released first to Salient.
The policy would fully fund course fees, introduce a universal student allowance, and progressively write-off existing student debt, which it says would cost “less than ten per cent of the total new spending promised by Labour and National in the 2014 election campaign.”
There would be no fees at public tertiary institutions, wānanga and Māori PTEs under the policy, alongside a review of fees at private tertiary institutions. Internet Mana said this would cost $568 million, and would be instituted immediately.
Student Allowance would be universal, and the value of it would be reviewed “to eliminate student hardship”. The postgraduate Student Allowance would also be reinstated. This would all come at a cost of $570 million, and would also be immediate.
In order to fund the package, Internet Mana supports changes to the tax system, including increasing the top tax rate to 40 cents in the dollar for earnings over $110,000, as well as a carbon tax, a capital gains tax and “reallocating money from other areas.”
One of these areas would be ACC, which Internet Mana proposes changing back from the current full-funding insurance model to a pay-as-you-go funding model.
Internet Mana says it is “widely agreed that ACC’s reserves are overfunded even for this purpose”, and the change would “release substantial reserves for capital projects, including student debt relief.”
While the party says the policy is “a top-level priority”, it admits its ability to deliver on it will depend on its negotiations with other parties.
David Cunliffe has said Internet Mana would not be part of a Labour-led government, but has not ruled out a confidence-and-supply agreement with them.
Cunliffe also told Salient that it would be “brave and probably foolhardy of us” to promise free tertiary education, but that tertiary education “should be accessible to everybody and it should be affordable.”
John Key told Salient that “any political party can go on the stump and tell you that they’ll give you something for nothing”, and that voting for Internet Mana would be a “pipe dream”.
Internet Mana was polling at 1.7 per cent in the most recent Reid Research poll, but is predicted to win at least one electorate seat in Parliament.