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July 24, 2017 | by  | in News |
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Candidates Debate

The Victoria University Politics Students’ Society (POLSOC) hosted the electoral debate for Central Wellington Candidates on July 19 at VUW.

Organiser and POLSOC member Chris Nixon said the purpose of the evening was “to educate students on each of their choices for the coming election and local candidates in a neutral way.” He wanted to provide a way for people to hear about issues “straight from the horse’s mouth.”

Over one hundred students attended the debate, which was held in the Hub.

The candidates who took part were The Opportunities Party’s Geoff Simmons, Labour’s Grant Robertson, National’s Nicola Willis, Greens’ James Shaw, and independent candidate Gayaal Iddamalgoda from the Migrant and Refugee Rights Campaign.

Education was the first topic of the debate. Simmons began by discussing the importance of early childhood education as a stepping stone towards tertiary study, citing The Opportunity Party’s Education for Life policy as a way of ensuring that New Zealand children have access to free full time early childhood education.

In regards to tertiary students, Simmons discussed the Unconditional Basic Income (UBI), which would provide $200 per week for all New Zealanders between the ages of 18–23. “The tertiary sector is going to have to be reshaped,” he reflected, “and the UBI is one of the steps needed to make sure people can undergo the retraining they need.”

Robertson called for “a massive injection of money” into education, referencing Labour’s Three Years Free plan, which would fund three years of tertiary education to all New Zealanders.

Robertson agreed with Simmons regarding the need for education policy to consider the changing nature of work. He discussed Labour’s proposed “revamping” of careers guidance in secondary schools, through a policy which would provide qualified advice and careers planning to all secondary students.

“When it comes to tertiary education, we are going to keep backing you the way we are now,” said Willis. “82 per cent of the cost of you being here [at university] is funded by the taxpayer.”

Willis also discussed National’s changes to the accommodation benefit, which will increase the maximum benefit from $40 to $60 per week for eligible students. “We don’t need more debt, like these guys want,” she concluded, gesturing to the other candidates.

“Education should be free, and can be free,” began Iddamalgoda, who spoke to the degradation of student unionism in recent years in New Zealand. “We should not look so much to politicians for positive change when it comes to what students need, but to organise this change through student unions, once again.”

Shaw discussed the Greens’ immediate focus of ensuring students have got enough to live on while studying, increasing the accommodation benefit and focusing on affordable, healthy flats in Wellington. “We need to make public transport affordable, […] and we need to fix the broken housing market,” he said.

Although the candidates had differing views on a number of areas, they agreed on the importance of student involvement in this year’s election. As Simmons said, “we don’t care who you vote for, just get out there and vote!”

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