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Salient. Victoria University Students Newspaper. Vol. 38, No. 4, 1975

Who will pay for Bursaries?

Who will pay for Bursaries?

Peter Dunne & Dennis Rockell, Presidents of CUSA and LCSA, Canterbury.

Dear Peter and Dennis,

I have heard from a couple of sources that you have both decided to' oppose the suggestion that a Standard Tertiary Bursary be financed by a corporate tax. This proposal was originally raised by me last year at some student forums, and I advanced it at the 1975 NZUSA Mini-Council. I wish to give you some of my reasons for advocating that corporations should foot the bill for a Standard Tertiary Bursary. I hope that these reasons will pursuade you to reconsider the decision you have made.

But first, why raise the question of who should pay for a Standard Tertiary Bursary? I feel that the question of 'who pays?' is a legitimate question for any outsider to ask the Association, and that to give an answer the Association must have policy decided by its members. If we have no answer to this question it is assumed that the bill for the STB will be met from normal taxation revenue, as far as we are concerned. From my estimates this will mean an extra $16 million per year that will eventually have to be found. If we advocate that taxes should cover the STB, or if we advocate no position, then we are placing the burden of paying for an STB on the majority of New Zealanders - the working people who pay most of the taxes.

My first reason for advocating that corporations pay is that the majority of New Zealanders can ill afford the present tax burden, let alone any extra to pay for the STB. I currently work in a large factory; the situation of the workers in this factory should illustrate why working people cannot afford to pay for a Standard Tertiary Bursary.

My second reason for advocating that corporations should pay for the STB lies in the very nature of our education system and society.

Those who own capital have determined the way in which our economy and state apparatus that services the economy is run. It suits their profit system very well to have technical and managerial skills monopolised by a few. The school system selects those who go to Techs, T Cs and universities to acquire these skills. People who have these skills get higher wages and salaries than those who don't - because of their monopoly over their skill.

A managerial and technical elite is not necessary. If our tertiary institutions stopped producing graduates, production and society would not collapse. Working people would be forced to learn the necessary skills on the job to keep enterprises running. This would be a dangerous situation however, as it would also teach working people that the elite is not necessary. Their dependence on this elite which they assume is necessary would be exposed.

It is for this reason that those who own capital want tertiary institutions, and want graduates who will perform skilled functions in government and business. This system suits profits very well. For example: General Motors was one of the first to cut its workers' pay - in November of 1974. While they cut their employees income by $15 at one blow, their profits for that year amounted to 33% of the capital they had invested. These profits ultimately leave New Zealand for the United States. At this rate of profit making. General Motors recovers the capital invested every three years. Obviously General Motors and many others, are doing very well out of this system which the current education system serves.

Most workers in the factory where I work, and they are not atypical, have had wage cuts of $18 - $25 this year. All overtime has been eliminated and $5 on the cost of living order has not been received. These measures have reduced the gross pay of 1000 workers to below $90 per week. Although income has dropped, we are still paying between 20-25% of our income in direct tax (not to mention other taxes on the commodities we buy). This means that take home pay is under $70 per week for most.

Before the pay cuts, wages were already so low that many wives had to work to make ends meet. With the current poor economic situation many married women workers have been laid off, or put on shortened weeks.

While income has been drastically cut prices still keep on soaring, For rented housing in Wellington it is now normal to pay $20-$30 for a single bedroom flat. One worker I know is paying $54 for a three bedroomed house. There are three families living in this house (seven children) paying the rent. This is necessary to cover the bills and have some money left over to remit to Samoa to relations.

To advocate that a STB be paid for out of taxes, or not to advocate a position, is gross irresponsibility. In 1972 the New Zealand poverty line for a family with four children was $71. In 1975 many of the people I work with have family incomes of less than this amount. If your position is that the people I work with should pay for the STB, then I will oppose it. If you have no position, and you require support from the unions to help press your claim (as you may well do), then I will oppose the giving of this support in my union.

The question of who pays for the STB is obvious. It is either the rich or the poor - I choose the rich. The demand that the STB be financed by a corporate tax is a way of highlighting the need for taxation reform so that the tax burden is placed on the shoulders of those who are getting the biggest cut out of the system.

In my term as EVP most of my efforts were directed towards a STB. I strongly believe in the system circulated by NZUSA Head Office. I support the STB because I believe in the provision for equality of opportunity at all levels of the education system. But if provision for equality of opportunity means taking more money out of the hands of working people, then I will oppose it. Because workers have already had their incomes cut in this crisis, their children will be more disadvantaged at lower levels of the education system. For students to advocate higher bursaries at the expense of workers' incomes and their ability to ensure that their children can continue in the education system is absurdly contradictory.

Any efforts I could make to oppose a STB that was financed by general increases in taxes would be of little significance. I would make these efforts though as I consider that such a bursary system would help compound inequalities and not reduce them.

Yours sincerely,

Graeme Clarke

P.S. I have forwarded a copy of this letter to student newspapers so that students may make a decision on whether to support the NZUSA proposal with some of my views before them.