Setting it straight on user-pays in tertiary education – one letter at a time



Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking


Labour’s promise of a return to (limited) free tertiary education appears to be unsettling some, for whom the last thirty years has been dominated by the implementation and bedding-in of user-pays (often gradually, so as not to spook the punters) ; reduced-tax; and minimalist-government ideology;


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I replied to Ms Usher’s public expression of “guilt twinges”…


from: Frank Macskasy <>
to: The Wellingtonian <>
date: Sat, Feb 13, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor


The editor
The Wellingtonian


Sue Usher defends user-pays in Universities, asserting, “anyone who takes out a loan on anything surely knows that there’s no such thing as a free lunch; you are not given money, you are lent it”. (letters, 11 Feb)

Prior to 1992, there were no student loans/debt. Tertiary education was paid from taxes, with the expectation that graduates would, in turn, pay for following generations.

That was the social contract.

That contract dissolved when successive governments introduced user-pays, with seven tax cuts in 1986, 1988, 1996, 1998, 2008, 2009, and 2010. The burden of higher education shifted from society, onto individuals. By 2014, student debt reached $14.8 billion.

Ms Usher admits this unfairness, “I acknowledge that repaying a loan and trying to buy a first home is a mighty challenge and feel slightly guilty that my generation did not have any such system”.

John Key and Tertiary Education minister, Steven Joyce, should also feel a twinge of guilt. Both obtained their University degrees free, paying almost nothing.

Those who parrot the cliche that education is a “private good” should consider if our doctors, scientists, engineers, teachers, et-al, all decided to pack up and move overseas.

Or if none of us could read and write.

Education benefits us all, which user-pays fails to recognise.


-Frank Macskasy


[address and phone number supplied]





Salient: A short history of tertiary education funding in New Zealand

Ministry of Education: Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2014

IRD: Student Loan Scheme Amendment Act 2014 – Arrest at border

Fairfax media: Joyce defends student loan crackdown

Fairfax media: Student loan arrest could prompt others to address debt

NZ Herald: ‘I don’t think I’m a criminal’ National Party – The ‘mother of all budgets’

Sunday Star Times: Politics – John Key – A snapshot

Wikipedia: Steven Joyce

National Party: Steven Joyce

Related blogposts

Letter to the Editor: Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Year

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 16: No one deserves a free tertiary education (except my mates and me)



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  1. All those useless ministers and other politicians we have, who obtained tertiary education when there were no or only very low fees charged to study, they must surely feel useless, as their education must according to the “logic” of John Key and Steven (joyless) Joyce also be “useless”, as they cannot have valued anything that came to them as virtually free education.

    And for this whole new discussion now, it is absurd how people, including media persons and commentary writers defend student loans and interest charged on them (if they are out of the country for long). It just shows how conditioning and brainwashing works, you endlessly repeat something, you set rules and firmly impose them, no matter whether they are fair or may make sense, and then you attack the ones who challenge the “new realities”.

    Dissent was fought from the beginning when student loans were introduced, same as the Employment Contracts Act was initially fought against. But with the neoliberal governments we had, starting with a Labour one in the mid 1980s, that turned out to be full of turncoats and traitors among the ranks, we were forced all this onto us. The younger generation knows nothing else than having to face years of financial bondage, with student loan debt and other obligations around their necks.

    So naturally some will turn around and argue, why should others after me get it for free or much cheaper?

    It is the result of divide and rule, which has turned so many of us against each other, and continues to enable this government to rule and push further with their agendas. I wish people would wake up and see the actual insanity of putting students into tens of thousands of dollars of debt to pay off at some distant future point.

    And for those that argue that tertiary education would not be valued if there are no or only low fees, it used to be done like this: You learn and study hard at school and prove you have skill, talent and capabilities to do more, and dependent on your good results, that helped qualify to get you into university. This is the way it is done in places like Germany. You get help when you make the effort and deserve to get a leg up, because it will also serve the whole of society to have more doctors, teachers, engineers, architects and what else may come out of finished university study.

    They will earn more than many others and with some higher, I say fairer taxes, they will express their thanks for the good qualification that others help finance by paying higher taxes.

    It is so simple and makes so much more sense, but we seem to have ignorant “leaders” who rather wish to see future generations locked into decades of financial bondage and slavery. I wonder why?

  2. Indeed – and if the morons at Treasury had got a little more education we might not be losing $20 billion a year in pursuit of their crypto-fascist fantasies.

  3. So Key, Joyce, etc got a free university education?

    Damnable hypocrites, how do they sleep at nights!!

    Every citizen has a moral duty NOT to repay any student loans! Not until every politician who benefitted from free education pays for theirs!

  4. CONTINUED… Which sounds very ethical until we see the real motives… that of an interlocking global government whereby the status of a former sovereign nation is reduced to a ‘regional identity ‘ that no longer has true sovereign legislative powers independent from other nations.

    The culmination of this process are ‘deals’ such as the TTPA and TTIP,… and from there… the introduction of a cashless common currency . This being enabled by yet another orchestrated ‘world economic crash’.

    So this is why New Zealanders have been subjected to this, as we were in fact the guinea pig nation originally.

    It is for this reason that Labours introduction of free tertiary education is raising so many hackles among the neo liberals…it not only smacks of the Social Democratic method , … it effectively undermines part of the goals these wretches have been steadily working towards at least in this country… for the last 32 years.

    And if enough groundswell of public opinion were to build in favour of free tertiary education , they know this movement could also very quickly spread to those other areas they had meticulously dismantled.

  5. Guys

    How about we start coordinating some marches / rallies for free education. Get out views on free education out in the media to try and counter the garbage that is being spun by the government.

    Surely students alone would deliver massive numbers to such rallies, and when you include those of us who believe free education benefits everyone, a strong message wolf be delivered!


  6. Tertiary education ‘back then’ was NOT ‘free’ inasmuch as text books were priced outrageously, travel and accommodation still had to be met regardless of bursaries and scholarships.

    There is little point to proposing ‘free education’ at any level – from kindy through to the University of the Third Age – unless it is also required of our ‘representatives’ that they persistently improve the economy.


    So students can gain real employment and the security of a savings cushion against hard times over the term breaks, and have choices of career-building experience here as well as overseas after graduation.

    So far our economic charlatans have failed dismally to provide one of the fundamentals of governing. And our wondrous ‘private enterprise’ is little more than same old same old. Not much use for innovative thinking and education, except for a few glow worm flickers.

    Marching might be exhilarating but it’s the relentless drip on the stone that creates the tension and cracks. Or haunting with mozzies. With the same relentless on-message marketing that has brought us to this sorry state – let’s likewise deal to our predator crew. Measured by how quickly the narrative changes – in our favour.

  7. Tertiary education ‘back then’ was NOT ‘free’ inasmuch as text books were priced outrageously, travel and accommodation still had to be met regardless of bursaries and scholarships.

    I never claimed tertiary education was 100% free, Andrea. I’ve nearly always referred to University tuition as “near free”.

    As well as scholarships, there was also a student allowance, and part time work to top up living costs.

    Text books were available second-hand – I recall a thriving cottage-industry in graduates selling their books to new students.

    The result was that students pre-1992 did not graduate with massive debt hanging over their necks. Key, Joyce, and Ruth Richardson are prime examples.

  8. Trying to argue that because previous generations received something from the Government means the existing generations should also is nonsensical. It would be like stating that Angela Merkel should promote the sort of social and economic policies promoted by the East German Communist party because she grew up under such a system. Times change and so too should policies.

    • So Gosman, you approve of hypocrisy then? As long as it suits your right-wing agenda?

      Your moral compass is a bit askew when you’re okay with some politicians being benefactors of taxpayer largesse, but object to it when it might be applied to others. You seem very concerned for the well-being of the 1%.

      Times change, indeed. In which case you won’t object to Labour re-introducing free university education, right?

    • “Trying to argue that because previous generations received something from the Government means the existing generations should also is nonsensical”

      That’s not the argument. The argument is that:
      – the policy was good
      – there was no sound reason (economic, educational, or social) for
      changing it
      – it was changed because a generation that benefited from it no longer wanted to pay for it but preferred to award themselves tax cuts
      – that generation denied subsequent generations advantages they had enjoyed, in order to simply pile on more advantage for themselves
      – therefore they were greedy hypocritical, liars who dressed up their moral decay in neo-liberal tosh about it being unaffordable, etc.
      – that the whole ideology of neoliberalism is an exercise in finding a bogus intellectual foundation to justify selfishness
      – that it is only the people’s extraordinary mixture of restraint, politeness, apathy, and fear of disorder that stops said neoliberals being strung up.

    • It is always interesting in a morbid kind of way to hear the perspectives of the typical neo liberal wretch.

      To understand the historic enabling of the neo liberal wretch in this country means understanding its genesis and methodology…

      Prior to 1984 we had Social Democracy , Keynes based economic system and a more progressive taxation scale.

      The enabling of our current situation drew upon a particular form of objectives designed to dismantle our former system.

      Under the Business Roundtable ( now the NZ Institute) lobbying, reports and recommendations , the first plank was to privatize State owned enterprises…and to do this they needed a mechanism.

      This mechanism came in the form of appointing pre selected panels and ‘experts’ to deliver to their backers data that was statistically slanted to produce a result. Usually , the plan of attack was to provide these statistics outlining ‘waste’ within govt and state owned enterprises. Once justified , – and using the fear of national debt – policy’s were then introduced in the sell off of our national assets.

      ( It is interesting to note that currently we are now in many billions – not millions – of debt due to the Key led National party’s borrowing for tax cuts for the most wealthy Nz’s despite much our assets being sold off by prior neo liberal govts…)

      Despite widespread protests and opposition , legislation was hastily passed to enable this first stage. The selling off of these assets achieved two things for the neo liberal wretch.


      1) SOE’s were sold off to the lowest bidders – usually foreign corporations – to which many of these wretches procured shares and received dividends from these sales directly. This included certain NZ bankers , politicians and prominent business leaders – particularly those of the Business Roundtable.

      To make this more acceptable to the public, the catch-cry’s at that time…and even to this day … was that it will introduce more competition and thus lowered prices for ‘consumers’ ,….knowing full well that the exact opposite would be true in a small localized economy such as NZ ,… and that profits would now be increased for those who had invested in the now privatized former SOE’s…


      ( Euphemisms of this era of dismantling Social Democracy in NZ included such terms as ‘ level playing field’ , ‘Restructuring ‘, ‘Privatization ‘, ‘efficiency’ , ‘streamlining’, ‘outsourcing’ , and ‘sense of entitlement ‘ applied to social democracy among others… )


      2) Broadly speaking, this set the stage for the second spearhead – that of dismantling dissent by detoothing of the unions and the award rate and conditions. This not only had the effect of lowering wages but also of increasing profit margins for the corporate’s, and hence, vested interests in dividends of certain NZ bankers, business leaders and politicians.

      To do this they needed a form of legislation passed that would shift bargaining power from the unions into exclusively that of the employer. So once a suitable period of time had elapsed and the public had shown signs of resignation … the Employment Contracts Act was passed.

      Overnight… this struck off any remaining collective bargaining power the public had in trade unions and delivered power directly to the large corporate’s. Former CEO’s of SOE’s saw the opportunity in the new laws as they stood to be enriched while due to asset stripping and ‘streamlining ‘ workers now were required to work longer hours, on base pay rates , with less workers to share the load . ( One of the aspects of this process was mass redundancy’s… with many ending up on unemployment benefits – it was at this stage record numbers of NZ’s left permanently for Australia..) .

      Penal rates such as time and a half and double time were slashed , with no requirement on employers to recognize extra hours worked above the 40 hour working week.

      Once these two stages had been completed , this same methodology was advanced into other fields such as health and education. However , in these two areas the neo liberal did meet a more prolonged relative opposition , and so a different tack was needed.

      And so the introduction of student loans was introduced , and met with the same results as before – mass ongoing student protest .Yet as before – the same belligerence in ignoring public sentiment was displayed and hence many tertiary institutes were effectively privatized…and it should be no surprise that a certain woman in the Business Roundtable at that time who owned private education schools helped to oversee that planning…


      In tandem with these developments , corporate tax rates were slashed , GST was introduced meaning on both counts the wage earner pays far more proportionately than these corporations. It is for this reason that these ‘ certain bankers , business leaders and politicians ‘ have such disdain for a much fairer progressive tax structure -and that despite their penchant for a ‘level playing field ‘…


      And so we see the origins , methods and motives for the neo liberal wretch.

      It is also worth mentioning that the concept of national sovereignty is anathema to the neo liberal because of the regulated and balanced trade and geopolitical restrictions imposed by the strong sovereign state.

      Therefore the neo liberal wretch is by nature a globalist. And globalists hold in contempt the concept of centralized govt’s and national sovereignty. Proof of this comes from our own politicians such as Bill English and his counterpart neo liberals in the Labour party . Whereby English stated ” the concept of the sovereign govt is a dying one and soon will cease to exist ”…with words to that effect.

      This is why the neo liberal favors small govt , and this is why we see the progressive breakdown of our social services through funding cuts… but why we also see the corporate’s interests looked after by low taxation and in fact huge tax cuts.

      Therefore …the introduction by Labour of a policy designed to free up tertiary education by use of tax funding that was designated only to benefit the corporate’s and extremely wealthy is seen as a regressive step by the neo liberal,… in fact a very dangerous one.

      Because if it isn’t nipped in the bud quickly , … it will not be long before the general public starts to question just why other areas cannot be treated in the same manner … and that extrapolating onward’s… just why in fact do the corporate’s and extremely wealthy not pay a realistic amount of tax in this country…and it will be at that point that the 32 year rorting of the commons wealth will be exposed and the real motives of these wretches made loudly and abundantly clear.

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