Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 5. 1965.
Earnest, Early, Sympathetic Consideration
Earnest, Early, Sympathetic Consideration
The following is the statement made by the Hon. Arnold Nordmeyer to the student demonstration on April 8, 1965, on accepting a petition of Victoria students to Government. It is a complete transcript made by a Salient reporter from a tape-recording.
Mr, President, ladies and gentlemen, let me say first of all how much I regret that the Prime Minister or the Minister of Education has not found it possible to meet you today. On the other hand, I can well appreciate the fact that your deputation here may coincide with an important engagement which apparently both of them have. (Boss). In their unavoidable absence (Cheers) I have been asked to receive this petition and to pass it on personally to the Prime Minister. I shall have pleasure in doing so (Cheers).
Let me first of all comment on the paper on which the petition is printed—a most neutral colour (laughter), neither red nor blue— but at the same time I do commend you for the restrained way in which you have presented your requests. It does seem to me that most of these requests merit the earnest and early and sympathetic consideration of the Government, (Cheers).
There can be no doubt whatever as to the need particularly in Wellington—and I understand the same situation applies elsewhere— for the need for more adequate student accommodation; and Halls of Residence would seem to be the best means of overcoming the present difficulty. Some of those Halls of Residence must necessarily be built by the government, others by Churches and other organisations that are prepared to accept the responsibility for raising some of the funds necessary and for running the institutions.
I think the programme that the Labour Party had at last elections was one that should commend itself to most people who are interested in the problem (Cheers).
We undertook, and I think this is a most reasonable approach, that the government would find 80 per cent of the cost of the structure, 10 per cent would also be advanced if required by way of loan, the other 10 per cent to be found by voluntary donations to be found by the organisation concerned.
I would think that only a generous government subsidy of that kind will achieve the purpose desired. As to the need for more adequate university buildings I personally deplore the fact that— however necessary it may be for Government to curtail its building programme—that the axe should fall on university buildings (applause and cheers).
Having regard to the present very considerable upsurge in student population it does seem entirely unreasonable that of all Government projects, or private projects for that matter, the one that should suffer should be university building—a need whose acuteness must be obvious to everyone.
On the matter of student bursaries and allied questions let me say this: There can always be made out a case for an increase in student bursaries and I have no doubt that at the present time a very good case indeed can be made out for an increase. That is a matter which Government itself must look at and I would hope look at sympathetically in the light of the representations made. It does seem to me that, particularly for those students who must necessarily live away from home, the present bursary, together with the boarding bursary must be regarded as pitifully inadequate to eater for the needs of most students (cheers, applause). It is in that field where it appears that much more generous treatment should be provided.
Now I want to say that as Leader of the Opposition it will be my duty and responsibility to place this petition in the hands of Government. It will be for Government (Interjection: "Read it for them") in the light of its appreciation of the facts to make its decision.
Let me assure you that as soon as Parliament meets no opportunity will be lost by the Opposition of drawing the attention of the Government to the desirability not merely of studying the question but of doing something about it (applause and cheers). The Government—and it is not for me to say fortunately or unfortunately, that is a matter of opinion—the Government is in office for another 18 months (Interjection: That's all) (Cheers, laughter and applause)— You could be right and naturally I hope you are. But on the other hand I do want to say this to you that I sincerely hope that during that period and preferably in the early part of that period Government will take action and I hope urgent and sympathetic action to deal with the very moderate and reasonable requests that you have put forward.
May I conclude, ladies and gentlemen, by congratulating you again on the orderliness of your procession, on the way that you have conducted yourselves, upon the reasonableness of your requests, and let me again repeat that I shall be happy to place your petition, together with my strong support of it, before the Prime Minister at the earliest possible opportunity.