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January 9, 2009 | by  | in Online Only | [ssba]


I was amused during John Key’s first Address-in-Reply as Prime Minister to hear him call the new leader of the opposition ‘so transitional that he is known as “Phil-in”’. A cheap one-line stab IS probably not the best form from the leader of our country, but maybe the truth hurts sometimes.

I was in the process of cleaning the Salient office yesterday morning so I went downstairs to get the VUWSA vacuum cleaner. I had shifted some of the furniture around and there was dust, fuzz, food scraps and lots of small coinage (best $2.75 I have ever earned) under the desks and couches. Not to mention Keith Ng camped out under one of the desks.

A kindly old gentleman who works at a secondhand store in Karori was in the VUWSA office chatting to Carey at the VUWSA front desk. As it turns out, a lady had come into the store with a bound copy of the 1989 Salient. Her son (the gentleman didn’t catch her name or her son’s name. Just like I didn’t catch his. Shame on you, Jackson!) had been editor or at least deeply involved with Salient at some point. She had been cleaning out his room when she found the volume. It just so happens that our library of old editions had been missing the 1989 volume. Mystery solved.

A bit later in the afternoon after an abortive attempt at vacuuming, I sat down and had a flip though the mag. Low and behold, I find this very interesting cartoon:

The cartoon was with the first feature of 1989: ‘down, out and a loan‘of 1989 by Rebekah Palmer, daughter of Sir Geoffrey Palmer. It was about the bleak reality of user-pays tertiary education and centered on Goff’s announcement of the Student Loan scheme. The plan announced in ’89 was intended to make students pay 20 per cent of their course fees or $1800 per year of tuition (roughly $3000 today adjusted for inflation). There was no interest, but an anual fee would be pegged to the inflation rate. Students would not start paying the loan back till the year after they finished studying and only then if they were earning “close to or above the average income”. You wouldn’t have to pay more than 3 per cent of your gross income.

This was all in the name of creating 10,000 to 17,000 more placements in New Zealand universities and ensuring adequate funding of those placements. Borrow for today, pay back tomorrow for a brighter future. Well, maybe not. The article says “Student Groups are suspicious it will mean the introduction of a much tougher scheme once the initial loan system was put in place.” And boy, were they right.

Enter Lockwood Smith and the threshold for the student allowance went from age 20 to 25. In 1996, an interest rate was set at the average of past and prospective 10 year bond rates plus a margin of 0.9 per cent, under Minister of Education Wyatt Creech.

Somewhere along the line something went wrong.

Twenty years later we have $10,000,000,000 of student debt. A figure which is getting bigger and bigger. Another scary thought is that Goff and Smith are still in Parliament!

It is good to see Grant Robertson, who was involved with student politics, Jacinda Arden, the youngest MP who might even have a have a student loan since she started at the University of Waikato in 1999, and Carmel Sepuloni, another young MP, in Parliament. But they are unfortunately on the wrong side of the house to affect any change. National has Simon Bridges born in 1976 and Nikki Kaye (1980) and a few others who graduated between 1990 and 1992 who may have come through the student loan scheme. But do any of these people have an insight as to how to get rid of the existing debt as well as ensuring that such a massive amount of debt doesn’t accumulate in the future and at the same time balancing the needs of the universities in terms of funding. I sure as hell hope so. As a generational shift happens these people are soon going to be at the forefront of their parties. I hope they are not just fill-ins before substantial reform of the student loan scheme can happen.


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The editor of this fine rag for 2009.

Comments (1)

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  1. Winston Hucks says:

    I love that cartoon. It is still as pertinent today as it was 20 years ago! Fuck you Phil Goff. Fuck you.

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