Vincent Schumacher is a fourth year student at the University of Otago studying towards an LLB and a BA in Politics and Philosophy.
Question 1: What three issues facing youth today do you feel particularly strongly about?
I think the first and most important issue currently is the level of poverty among children in New Zealand. I feel strongly about this issue because I believe that we as a country ought to be ensuring such poverty does not exist. As a first world country with a wealth of opportunities, there is no excuse for poverty to be prevalent in our society. As for the exact manner in which one goes about alleviating poverty, I am not sure. Food and utility prices, access to education and jobs, a well-structured and fair welfare system – these are all key to the overall picture.
Closely linked to the first issue is that of the state of education in New Zealand. A comprehensive education system that is varied and offers the best possible start to life is essential to the success of a nation and its people. Poorer, rural communities should not be disadvantaged because of wealth or locality when it comes to the quality of education – which is undoubtedly, and unfortunately, the current situation in New Zealand. There must be equal opportunity to access high quality education from a young age, all the way through to tertiary education.
The last issue, which faces not only youth but everyone in New Zealand, is the economy. I am not satisfied with the direction our current government is proposing to take us. I feel strongly about this because I believe that this issue is directly causing the above, especially poverty. Under National’s tax cuts, the rich have become richer, with the poor still left to struggle with the ridiculous cost of living. A recent news article showed that a person earning over $150,000 was around $150 better off a week, while someone earning below $30,000, was $16 better off. This seems counterintuitive, bizarre and outright wrong. While I understand the current climate makes it difficult to stimulate growth, there must be more balance that makes life easier for those who are struggling.
Question 2: What changes would you like to make to the way New Zealand is governed?
I think that ‘structurally’ New Zealand has a very robust and democratic system of governance. MMP has introduced a diversity of political views outside the mainstream centre-left and centre- right, which is key for a democratic government.
I don’t see the need for any changes in how the country is governed, beyond minor tweaks to the MMP system of voting which are outlined below. As for how the country is currently governed, I’m not content with the current National approach to the economy, welfare and education. I think Labour’s recent campaigning on policy is brave and is a step in the right direction for a more fair and balanced society.
Question 3: What actions, if any, are you planning to contribute to the constitutional review?
I think there is one main problem with MMP that has been highlighted with the bizarre happenings in the Epsom electorate. Voters ought to be voting in their electorate for who they want to be represented by in government. That is the purpose of an MP elected through the electorate vote. However, this purpose is expressly subverted when deals are made such as the current one between John Key and John Banks. It is clear that Epsom voters do not actually want to be represented by Banks, but due to pressure from the party they support, he has every chance of being elected and bringing in with him some extra ACT candidates.
As for how this can be remedied in terms of constitutional review, I am not sure. I am not sure whether any public law reform could legislate against such deals. However, the public must be able to vote for exactly who they want to see in Parliament without the pressure of the prime minister.