As the Government grapples with the problem of lifting our economic performance, it has largely ignored the role of tertiary education in driving a better quality of life for all New Zealanders.
While the Government has been concerning itself with finding a silver bullet in the form of mining our national parks or creating a cycleway, the long-term solution for creating a more educated and skilled workforce is getting second-rate treatment.
Evidence all around the world suggests prosperity and harmony of a country depend on the quality of its post-secondary school education.
Yet, since coming into office, the National-led Government has taken hundreds of millions of dollars out of Tertiary Education. This began with the cuts to night classes, which are the stepping-stone for many people going into Tertiary Education.
Tens of millions of dollars will be taken out funding for Polytechnics from the beginning of next year, while student loan scheme restrictions will see nearly 20,000 fewer people supported.
We have almost every university in New Zealand announcing that it will restrict enrolments for the second half of this year and/or next year.
While the government will claim it has increased the overall amount of money going into Tertiary Education, the reality is that from next year, there will be many capable and desirous New Zealanders would not be able to undertake Tertiary Education.
I believe this is wrong and bad for the future of New Zealand.
This Government is fond of looking to Australia for a comparison.
In its last two Budgets, Australia has invested an extra $1 billion into Tertiary Education and lifted the cap on enrolments as a measure to combat unemployment.
In New Zealand, the government has done the opposite.
Labour believes that we need to invest in our future as a country by making access to Tertiary Education a priority.
We need to ensure that every young person is in work, education or training.
We need to make sure that people receive support if they lose their jobs or want to retrain. These measures would lift our productivity and economic performance.
It is not a short-term idea but a long-term investment that will benefit us all.
Grant Robertson is Labour MP for Wellington Central and the Party’s Spokesman for Tertiary Education.