Josh Chandulal-Mackay is the current Youth Officer of the Palmerston North Labour Electorate Committee. Josh moved to Palmerston North in 2013 to study a BA in Politics and Psychology. He is currently wading through a postgraduate diploma in Politics. Josh was coaxed into some online intercourse with Massive, and discusses everything from life in Palmerston North, his views on public nudity, why Labour are better for New Zealand students, and what he most admires about the National Party.
- What’s the best and worst thing about living in Palmerston North?
Best: Being raised in Whanganui meant I grew up expecting to bump into friends and acquaintances every time I went into town, I appreciate the same atmosphere in Palmy, particularly down at the local markets or when grabbing a coffee on George St.
Worst: My favourite bakery closes at 2 p.m. which makes grabbing a post-2 p.m. snack difficult. But I guess that’s the bakery’s fault – not Palmy’s.
- What are your views on nudist clubs? Would you be comfortable getting naked in public?
Quite honestly, it’s not something that’s ever kept me awake at night. If there’s a market for them and they’re well-regulated and licensed, then my immediate reaction is not to have an issue with them. As for getting naked in public, there was a pretty well-established student tradition at my old school known as ‘the naked acre’ that nearly all Year 13 students did as a way to celebrate the end of our schooling years – aside from that, I think, as a general rule, I’d rather keep my clothes on.
- Away from study and politics, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Where do I begin? I’m active in the Catholic Church and lead a number of youth groups and attend a young adult group run through the Palmerston North Diocese. I also sit on the Diocesan Justice, Peace and Development Commission and a number of its offshoots. I’m involved in a number of non-governmental organisations and volunteer at a retirement home every now and then. I prefer bars over clubs and try to head down to the Celtic or Brewer’s Apprentice on a Friday night to catch up with mates if I can. My schedule’s almost too busy to fit in any exercise these days but when I can I like to go for walks to unwind. I spend a fair bit of time back in Whanganui where I work one day a week managing compliance for my Dad who is an investment adviser, and I’m about to start on a three-month contract dealing with governance and youth engagement with the Whanganui District Council.
- What does the Labour Party mean to you?
Labour is the political movement responsible for New Zealand’s signature social and economic programs that delivered security, opportunity and progress since the First Labour Government was elected in 1935. From the 1938 Social Security Act, to the consolidation of state housing under the Third Labour Government, to strong foreign policy stances against nuclear arms and apartheid, Labour has been the Party that has stood up and fought for bold legislative change over the past 100 years.
A while ago I was asked what my ‘bottom line’ would be if I was to get into politics in future – for me it’s very straightforward and it’s the main reason I became involved with Labour two years ago. The state should always serve in the interests of the most vulnerable – and that means working to provide more New Zealanders with opportunities, stability, and security, which lead to happiness and a sense of participation and inclusion. It precludes trusting for-profit companies with the provision of social services and means that there is always an important role for the state in regulating and steering the economy.
The simple reality is that the economy does better when all people feel they have a stake in it, that they’re being treated as more than just a cog in the wheel or a means to an end. One of the fundamental principles of the Labour Party is the idea that our economy should be built on cooperation rather than competition. These values are really appealing to me.
- Do you think students would be better off under Labour? If so, why?
Absolutely. Whether they realise it or not and regardless of their political preferences, thousands of students all over New Zealand have benefitted from Labour’s policies. Labour views improving support for youth and education as a long-term investment rather than a cost, one that will leave New Zealand better off further down the track. One of the signature policies of the last Labour Government under Prime Minister Helen Clark was the introduction of interest-free student loans, a policy so progressive that not even Bernie Sanders is suggesting it! So far this year Labour has announced a number of policies that it will take into next year’s election which will provide students with the ability to study and train for the future without fear of crippling debt and/or insecurity in a rapidly changing job market.
Labour’s Working Futures Policy would provide three years’ of free post-school education across a worker’s lifetime, a pretty significant move considering that under the National Government, access to vital student loans has been restricted, with over-55s now ineligible for livings costs loans or loans for course-related costs. This means that although many New Zealanders have the versatility to adapt to new forms of work, student loan restrictions made by the current Government mean that the required training is financially unattainable for many.
Innovative, ideas-driven young people will be supported under Labour with the recently announced Young Entrepreneurs Plan (YEP) which would make 100 annual grants of up to $20,000 available along with a mentor programme for entrepreneurial young New Zealanders. Finally, under Labour student representation within the university system will be viewed as a priority, rather than as a barrier to efficiency.
- What do you most admire about the National Party?
The National Party is an incredibly well-oiled political machine, they’re politically well organised and that organisation appears to extend right down to local party branches which always seem to be very well resourced. On a personal level, I think it’s important to acknowledge that in the vast majority of cases, politicians and political parties do desire the best for New Zealand and New Zealanders. While we may disagree on policy and on how best to improve New Zealand, I think that anyone who devotes a career to public service deserves some level of credit.
- What are your personal views on students’ associations? Should students have to be a member of their association?
Stronger student representation is always better, and by removing automatic student association membership we not only weaken individual student voices, but also the associations themselves, their ability to secure funding, and to function independently. My personal view is that student association membership should be automatic, with an opt-out provision available.
- Would you consider running in the MUSA elections this year?
It’s something I’d definitely be interested in if I had fewer commitments. At this stage I think I’d be spreading myself too thin if I was to run.