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March 13, 2017 | by  | in News Splash |
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Fake News: Winston Peters and Tracey Martin speak at the university

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and MP Tracey Martin spoke at VUW last Tuesday about their party’s policies.

The talk was geared towards student issues such as student loans. Tracey Martin cited a past Salient interview with Phil Goff as the beginning of the normalisation of student loans.

She encouraged attendants to read NZ First’s policies, and emphasised that any questions could be answered by emailing her directly. Their goal, Martin stressed, was to eliminate the need for Studylink, and to widen the internships available for graduates.

Winston Peters linked problems like the housing crisis, poverty, and unemployment to immigration, claiming that no one from New Zealand was being trained for jobs, and that New Zealand was relying upon Irish and Filipino workers “everybody but New Zealanders coming in.”

Peters stressed that he had nothing against the Irish (“it’s a great country!”) and that his party was not anti-immigrant, but instead claimed that New Zealand was taking in an unprecedented and unsustainable amount of immigrants.

At a panel discussion hosted by Victoria University in February, “Migration and populism in the 21st century”, Dr Kate McMillan, a Senior Lecturer in Comparative Politics, stated that immigration was “very low” in the agenda of concern for New Zealanders as per 2016 polling by Roy Morgan.

She reflected that the most commonly cited issues of concern for New Zealanders were poverty, the gap between the rich and the poor, housing affordability, and homelessness. “Combine those  issues with the news of Indian students with fraudulent visas, and you have the potential for [someone] like Winston Peters to shape these separate issues into a populist agenda with a strong anti-immigrant and xenophobic tinge to it.”

Peters and Martin continually stressed the apparent unreliability of New Zealand media. Martin questioned why “mainstream media” had not reported on the release of NZ First’s tertiary policy, and encouraged students to join their youth wing.

RNZ, the NZ Herald, and Stuff reported on the announcement of the policy last September, which allows students to potentially pay off their education debt if they work in New Zealand as graduates.

Peters called political polls released by the New Zealand media “total crap,” and compared them to those prior to the Brexit referendum and the US election. When asked what alternate sources students should use to get reliable information, Peters answered “you’re in the right place now.”

Both speakers talked about other political parties. When questioned why other parties hadn’t proposed similar tertiary policy if it was so simple, Martin claimed that “philosophically, the two main parties do not want to give you what they themselves had.”

In a previously reported conversation with Salient, Labour Party leader Andrew Little discussed Labour’s Future of Work policy, which includes three years of free post-secondary education for all New Zealanders, and suggested Labour was looking at a scheme in which “if you work in the public sector or in hard-to-recruit areas, that you get some sort of debt write-off.”

Martin encouraged students to think critically about the student-related policies on offer, warning them to not “be distracted by shiny objects.”

As for other, younger parties? According to Winston Peters: “[They are a] bit like a flower in some desert place where the rains come for the first time in five years they bloom and blush, and die unseen and they’re gone.”

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