She’s the woman with the biggest smile and the biggest chance of knocking National off its seat at the head of the table, there is no doubt Labour’s Jacinda Ardern has tipped this election upside down. Her approval ratings are near that of Bill English yet the girl from Morrinsville has only been in Labour’s top job for a matter of weeks. Massive’s Adam Pearse managed to steal a few moments of her time, asking her hard questions around tertiary education all while discussing her mad DJ skills.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing students at the moment?
One is a long term and one is an immediate issue. Those who have left [university] talk about the burden of debt and also the impact that has on their decisions around what they study, where they study, so that’s one issue. The other is living costs. So, the fact that people are only able to borrow a certain amount to live or access a certain amount through student allowance so we see two issues frequently raised. It often depends where people in the education system are as to what they raise with me.
What is a broad overview of Labour’s plan to deal with student debt and living costs?
One is actually in the long term to bring in three years of free education so that would at least mean that students are borrowing nearly as much over the course of their study. It also feeds into our plans to help the population retrain with the future of work and all of the challenges that brings. So, it helps us with two issues. So, that will make a big difference but otherwise, we’ve said that we just want to take a little bit of time to see what PREFU (Pre-Election Fiscal Update) delivers, see what’s available to do a little bit more in that space.
How do you think three years of post-school education is going to work when universities are already strapped for cash?
Some of that pressure we can deal with in other ways but actually some of that is [universities] wanting to keep their student numbers up as well. We expect that we’d see an uplift in perhaps 15 per cent in terms of student numbers and of course that makes a difference, that makes a difference to the viability of tertiary providers.
Are these the reasons you would encourage students vote for Labour?
It’s one of the reasons I hope students would at least consider our policies but ultimately, I still think young people look well beyond just their immediate needs. I think they look at what we are doing on bigger issues like inequality, innovation so they’ve got jobs, environmental issues, I think people look at a whole host of things.
I want to talk about the ‘Jacinda Effect’.
Well I don’t know what it is so you can ask me but I don’t know what it is.
Do you think that it will carry you through the election or are you going to need to push your own policies so you set yourself apart from the other parties?
I would be happy for this to solely be a contest of vision and ideas because that’s what I’m campaigning on.
I know there has been a lot of speculation on whether you will start a family as Prime Minister, what I want to know is are you going to have any pets as Prime Minister because they take time to feed and walk and I think the New Zealand public deserves to know.
I think the New Zealand public deserve to know and I think you’re asking the big questions. I have a cat already and I believe in owning a pet I have demonstrated my ability to multi-task and maintain my leadership responsibilities whilst ensuring my cat is fed. I think it’s a sign of true leadership.
What DJ set are you planning on spinning if you win?
I would rather see an ensemble come and take over instead of a DJ set, I’d love to see and I’ve already talked about this, I think that Parliament’s lawn could just fit Fat Freddy’s Drop. I’d love to see an ensemble of some description otherwise you’re just a lone wolf up there DJ-ing by yourself.
What is your final message to students and young voters?
A: This is the moment where we either have a future where the next generation is worse of or better of, and we’ve always been proud of the fact that everything continually gets better for the next generation and I think this is the moment where that either changes for better or for worse so please vote. No matter what you do, just vote.