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March 19, 2012 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Presidential Address

You is kind. You is smart. You is important.

Our Prime Minister is an important man. He makes many important decisions. He smiles a lot. He attends a lot of meetings and makes important speeches.

An example of this was at a Colliers international event last week. He talked to the group about the government’s commitment to the retention of interest free student loans, despite student debt currently exceeding $12 billion. National’s support of interest-free student loans is not new—it was party policy in the lead up to both the 2008 and 2011 elections. However, what is concerning are the condescending and arrogant remarks he made in relation to young people, particularly students, and their engagement in the political processes that operate in our country.

Key stated that it was ‘politically unsustainable’ to put interest back on student loans. He explained that interest- free student loans were ‘about the only thing that will get [young people] out of bed before 7 o’clock at night to vote’.

Now I don’t know about you, but I find the above comment to be both demeaning and completely incorrect. Furthermore, voting on Election Day is not the only way to get involved in our democratic processes. We’re living in a dynamic time and students are engaging with the political process in a number of different ways. The forms of engagement, what is being discussed, and how students are discussing it are all changing and evolving. You need only look to Generation Zero’s flash mob during O Week or the amount of signups, our political clubs on campus had during Clubs Week to see that it is far more than just interest free student loans that will get young people to the ballot box on Election Day. Students are concerned about the world we are living in and they are taking action.

With that point in mind, I would like to let you know some ways that you can get involved with some work VUWSA is currently involved with around gathering student opinion and feedback.


The Electoral Commission is very interested in hearing from students regarding the current MMP electoral process. Their interest is particularly piqued by the fact that students and young people voted overwhelmingly to keep MMP (70-75 per cent compared with 58 per cent for the population as a whole) and with the referendum result it is likely to be the system that current young voters will have for the rest of their lives. It is intended that the group discuss an arranged set of questions, e.g. the importance of ensuring proportionality, the basis for eligibility for list seats including thresholds, the ordering of candidates on the list etc. So if you’re a bit of an electoral system ‘geek’ and would like to get involved, give me an email at


The TEC are interested in finding out what sort of information students need to make informed and wise choices
as to institutions, papers, courses of study, and so on. This will be extremely important in informing what is likely to lead to requirements imposed upon institutions to report and may also lead to an opportunity for the TEC to publish collectivised data that will assist students in some of the choices they face. Once again, if this is something you are interested in, please give me an email.

These are only two current example of how you can become involved in
our political processes and make your voice heard. There will be plenty of opportunities to be involved in consultation at both an institutional, regional and national level this year. Some important documents that will be coming out for consultation later this year include the Wellington Bus Fare Review, and Wellington City’s Long Term Plan for 2012-2022.

John Key may be an important person, with an important voice. But don’t forget that you are too. Collectively, students can bring big change to this country—so get involved, get active and help shape a country that you want to live in.

And don’t forget that it’s only through us that people like John Key become that important.



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