Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 24, No. 13. 1961.
The Challenge of Change
The Challenge of Change
The challenge to the first pioneers of New Zealand was to colonize and build. To our generation it is the "Challenge of Change". This is an age of progress, an era of freshly found nationalism for Africa and Asia. The vitality of any nation is found in its people and the hope for the future in the strength of their youth. To me the challenge is to meet this surge of progress within New Zealand in this new passage of prosperity.
Geographically Australasia is an outpost of European civilization and we must learn to live and work with our near neighbours of Asia. Today the very existence of many of these countries as political entities is threatened by the cancer of communism. Economic and political strangulation, subversion and force—their price for freedom will be expensive.
It was England who joined issue with Germany for the future of Europe and it was our parents who fell in along the battle fronts. Equally our future presents a fresh challenge, it is the battle for the hearts and minds of men. If you believe in liberty, in the right of men to think and act within the law, then there is a place for you in the battle in which we must fight; it is the conflict of ideas not arms.
New Zealand has been surrounded by the protective walls of the Welfare State, secure but isolated. We must first turn to our own house and place it in order. To build and grow we need a solid foundation and in so developing our nation we will be able to help our neighbours.
We are faced today in New Zealand with a multiplicity of economic problems. There is the threat of a long recession in our agricultural industry, of England joining the Common Market, and a projected drop in overseas earnings.
New Zealand has to date been fortunate in having one of the highest standards of living in the world, a high population projection and full employment. However, these attributes may only be temporary. To provide for the future it is necessary that we re-examine our economic emphasis. The move must be made from a reliance upon the sale of our agricultural products to a balance with manufactured goods. It will be necessary for our high cost structure to be removed so as to enable us to market our products competitively on the overseas markets. New capital is required to support growing industry and nourish newly formed enterprise. At present our tariff structure and customs regulations deter this. The acute shortage of labour also provides a strong deterrent to new industry and natural population increase can not answer the problem.
To cure these sicknesses will require a radical realignment of thinking by the politicians and community, and we may endure hardship during the change. A realistic immigration programme from European countries is necessary if we are to take these economic leaps. This would direct new skilled labour into our industry and encourage foreign enterprise. Admittedly the temporary strain of supporting this artificial growth of population would be reflected in the national finances—but we must regard it as an investment. This would gradually reduce our high cost structure enabling cheaper and more efficient production.
Within the New Zealand economy there exist a great number of repetitive manufactures. In the shoe industry there are over fifty individual concerns. Many people regard the local product as often inferior to the imported article. However, there is a great waste of capital and labour that could be better utilized leaving one or two of these manufacturers to play the market.
These productive reforms may be implemented by the relaxation of import duties and restrictions, but they must also be balanced with our projected increase in overseas revenue account. By firm control of import schedules, young industry would be encouraged and attain competitive status.
Mention was made earlier to a transfer of economic emphasis from agriculture to industry. I am well aware that our present prosperity is due largely to the returns from agriculture. Future returns for primary produce are uncertain and subject to fluctuation because of restricted markets and their subsidised economies. For this reason a new balance must be achieved between agriculture and industry.
Where are the markets for our new production? The answer is with our neighbours, the countries of South East Asia, with over half the world population. The attainment of higher standards of living in the years ahead indicates an increasing market for our produce. We must instil into our educational system the elements of this now emphasis. There must be greater awareness of our historical background, political and economic. Youth should be introduced to the country's position in relation to South East Asia. For an educated population is an enlightened democracy.
This is but part of the challenge which faces us as a nation. How then does this selfish building for economic prosperity help us in the struggle against communism? "You cannot build a strong house without a firm foundation." Similarly, it would be impossible to accept our full responsibility in this conflict with the potential enemy of our Asian partners, if we were not politically and economically stable ourselves.
We should accept an increased number of students from these countries and educate them. More opportunities should be offered on mutual short term exchange fellowships; the immediate advantage of which is to give them a first hand working knowledge of our conditions and attitudes. This would consolidate the work carried out by the Colombo Plan and, in a more restricted degree, Seato. For if we are to make sacrifices by contributing to the economy of these Asian countries, then the peoples of these nations should be aware of our efforts. It is important that the man in the street should be aware of our endeavours in this direction, for it is they who have the power to determine our future.
It is the weak but growing democracies of our South East Asian partners that Communism infiltrates. For these countries to be strong they require their peoples to have a vested interest in their future. This requires the knowledge to work the land profitably, for to raise their standards of living experienced technicians and mechanical aids are required. Many of these countries do not possess the source wealth of natural resources and must direct their attention to industry. But this requires money. Here we are afforded the opportunity to aid by directly injecting capital and new industry.
Communism has directed its attention to the failings of the government policies in these countries with increasing strength amongst the youth and the poorly paid worker. It is to us, the more developed nations, to assist them through this difficult and formulative period. For on their future depends their survival.
Communism offers the doctrine of Peaceful Co-Existence. This is a very real political issue because of the Communist interpretation of Co-Existence—a state in which the communist and capitalist societies compete peacefully with each other but which tho communists believe will result in tho eventual triumph of their form of society—a proposal accompanied by violence, propaganda, slander, lies and subversion, which is interpreted by them as being a development of the notion of peace.
This is the challenge to the youth of today. Tomorrow's parents and leaders. We must seek to build and share our prosperity. Our ideas must grow with changing times to survive the challenge of the future.
—Foss M. Shanahan