By AZARIA HOWELL and ETHAN GRIFFITHS
After days of the public waiting for New Zealand First Leader, kingmaker, or in this case queenmaker, Winston Peters has finally decided on who to lead the next government with. Coalition negotiations had occurred for many days before Peters could make his choice, and he said that it was “a hard choice to make.” The public were on the edge of their seats waiting for a decision to be made from the New Zealand First leader.
The announcement came at 7:40 pm on October 18th. After 26 days of negotiating and deliberation, Winston Peters decided to side with the Labour Party, making 37-year-old Morrinsville native Jacinda Ardern our next Prime Minister; the youngest in over 160 years, and the third youngest world leader currently serving.
We spoke to Labour list candidate Corie Haddock, who said the decision was “outstanding news.”
“We have good policy and great people who can collectively work together with other parties to bring about positive change for New Zealand and for youth.”
On the other hand, talking to leader of the ACT Party David Seymour last night, he said this election campaign has been about “personalities, not politics.”
“The good ship of Aotearoa has a bright future, but a 1970s Peters Government will hold it back.”
However, the ACT Party does not have youth policy explicitly stated on their website, and David Seymour did not comment on the effects this new Labour-led government would have on youth.
Without focusing on politics and possibilities, here is a list of things that at least one of the three parties governing NZ have promised in the last election campaign.
It is hard to argue that youth will have the same or less representation with the youngest Prime Minister in 160 years. Jacinda has remained very vocal in regards to youth issues throughout the campaign, and many of her party’s policies echo that. She also said to us when talking to her earlier in the year, “we believe youth need more representation in New Zealand.”
Major education policy changes
In addition to Jacinda being the youngest NZ Prime Minister in years, it has also been a campaign promise that Labour will ensure free tertiary education, starting with the first year free, but eventually phasing into a first three years free policy. The Labour leader has also promised subsidies for trades training courses.
Moreover, Labour announced on their 2017 campaign that they will ensure that school leavers have a “toolkit” so that they can prepare for future study or employment. Labour say “[the toolkit] will help students learn to drive, understand practical budgeting, be equipped with workplace skills, and learn how our political system operates through civics education.” Labour also promised that this will be available in every secondary school across the country.
The Labour Party have also promised a school nurse, counsellor, and a careers guidance specialist for every school.
To add to the list of potential education policy changes, the Green Party have also promised voters that national standards will be dropped in the next Greens-Labour government. However, they did not comment on whether New Zealand First agreed. This would mean that schools would focus on students’ overall learning, rather than if they are meeting a standard set by the Ministry of Education.
Currently, the Ministry’s website states national standards as “[they] aim to lift achievement in literacy and numeracy by being clear about what students should achieve and by when. This will help students; their teachers and parents, families and whānau better understand what they are aiming for and what they need to do next.”
The Greens disagree with this. It is unlikely whether the new government will agree to completely scrap national standards, especially since the policy was launched by now former Green MP Catherine Delahunty. It is likely that the Greens and New Zealand First will have to come to a compromise on National Standards, perhaps scrapping them at primary school level. The New Zealand First policy states that they want to “Replace National Standards at Years 1 to 8, with children’s progress and achievement being assessed against level bands within the New Zealand Curriculum.” If implemented, this would be a huge change for education.
Free public transport for youth
The Green Party have promised this election that if they were in government, they would introduce a policy making public transport free for under 19s. Transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter also promised that there would be a policy implemented to ensure free off-peak public transport for tertiary students. The party said that they would give students a “Green Card” to subsidise all bus and rail journeys. The Greens claim that the cost of giving all young people this card would be around 75 million dollars, which is the cost of only a kilometre of the motorways National promised to build if they received a fourth term in government.
It is definitely doable, and surprisingly not very expensive, so we would find it odd if the new government disagrees to this.
Lowering the voting age
Talking to then-Deputy leader Jacinda Ardern and leader Andrew Little earlier this year in a central New Plymouth pub, I asked about the Labour policy on lowering the voting age. Although not explicitly published on their website, Jacinda said that the party was open to lowering the voting and it’s certainly something that the youth wing of Labour pushed for.
Whether or not we will see it in the next three years or not is unknown, but hey, if you’re fifteen or sixteen now, you’ll be voting next election anyway!
The Green Party had also hinted a lower voting age in their campaign. New MP Chlöe Swarbrick and candidate Jack McDonald said that lowering the voting age would benefit New Zealand. This is not a new concept to the Greens, however, as in 2007 then MP Sue Bradford launched a members bill to lower the voting age to 16.
At the moment, people are unsure where New Zealand First really stand in terms of lowering the voting age. Their current policies tend to make people think they are against it, but this is only speculation. Nevertheless, it is an issue we should expect to see around the caucus tables at some point.
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