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March 28, 2011 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Grey Power Peters Out

Taking time out from the Grey Power circuit, NZ First leader Winston Peters spoke to students at Victoria University last week, and an audience of about 50 students took the opportunity to question Peters on issues facing students today.

“You’re graduating into the toughest times of our life,” Peters told students. With current high levels of unemployment, students face bleak employment prospects, and Peters believes the government should help with funding until the situation turns around.

Peters criticised successive governments’ handling fo tertiary education, claiming that “domestic students are losing out to commercialisation of the education system”.
He called the withdrawal of funding for educational training programmes “short-sighted” and believes the 7 Equivalent Full Time Student (EFTS) cap on student loans is “unenlightened and won’t work”.

On the topic of voluntary student membership, Peters was indifferent. He would see taxpayer funding ensure that students are represented at universities, regardless of whether VSM is implemented or not.

NZ First is in favour of increasing the drinking age to 20. However, when asked whether his position would change if students opposed the rise, Peters dodged the question.
One point Peters was adamant about was that this year’s general election would see a return to parliament for NZ First. Despite recent media polling which sees Peters’ party not reaching the 5% threshold, he believes they have a future. According to his own polls, NZ First has 9.7% of the party vote.

Peters received a mixed response from the audience. His stance on civil unions and gay rights was called into question, as were his past controversies regarding political donations. Several students, including ACT on Campus President Peter McCaffrey, arrived brandishing copies of Peters’ notorious ‘No’ sign.

McCaffrey criticised Peters for the donation scandal and Peters retaliated by referring to ACT as “goneburger” and saying it had no future.

Students spoken to by Salient had differing opinions on Peters’ possible return. While some expressed criticism, others were more enthusiastic. One student thought he could “provide a voice for students that the current government doesn’t”, and another thought he was “quite inspiring” and would consider voting for him.

Peters was a special guest for the re-launch of the Education Action Group, which will see further guest speakers brought to students this year. VUWSA Campaigns Officer Josh Van Veen hopes that students will engage so they can make informed decisions come November’s election.


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