Hooton on Labour’s free fees

Matthew Hooton writes in NBR:

The year’s first polls are disastrous for beleaguered Labour leader Andrew Little.

According to Roy Morgan, the Labour/Green bloc is stagnant on 41.5%.  Arguably worse is TVNZ’s Colmar Brunton poll which has the axis down 3% to 40%.  This is not quite the Brashian 17% boost Mr Little hoped when he rose outside Auckland University last month to announce Labour’s ‘free’ tertiary education policy.

The policy was classic Revenge of the Nerds. Mr Little and his finance spokesman Grant Robertson began their careers as presidents of the New Zealand University Students’ Association in the 1980s and 1990s. Their belief has never been shaken that the taxpayer should pay all the expenses for school leavers to do arts degrees in political studies, philosophy and public policy as they did.

Almost every major spokesperson for Labour in this area is a former student union president.

This is only the start of Labour’s problems with the failed policy.  Right now, the party is making much of its so-called Future of Work Commission in which Mr Little and Mr Robertson are trying to decide what sort of jobs we’ll all have in 2035.

The initiative is similar to one by Social Credit in the 1970s when it worried about the impact of the computer and is utterly lampoonable. The idea that anyone – least of all a bunch of Labour luminaries – has any real insight into what economic and technological changes the market will deliver over two decades is self-evidently absurd.  For evidence, just re-read similar claptrap written about the 2010s ahead of the turn of the millennium.

In 1995 there was no commercial Internet industry. Any predictions in 1995 about future jobs would have been pretty out.

Finally, just remember the ‘problem’ the new policy is meant to solve. In data out this week, we learn the median student loan balance is $14,421. Half of students and former students owe less than this. It doesn’t really seem like an issue worth closing all your other fiscal options to address.

And the average extra income from a degree is $1.5 million so a damn good investment.

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