It’s that time of year again, so on behalf of student activists on Victoria University of Wellington campuses, I’m going to say something about tertiary education policy.

I principally joined the Greens in 1999 in shock at the $3 billion student debt, with the realisation that the Green Party had the best idea of how crippling this was going to be for an entire demographic of young grad’s, for a good chunk of their future.
I have been gratified to see first Nandor, then Meyt, achieve gains in the areas of interest write-offs on student loans, then interest-free student loans (but sadly, not back-dated); and a constant policy of universal access to student allowances, which is still in the campaign for accessible education for all.

Having got that off my chest, here’s the latest from my Alma Mater:

The VUW Council is meeting at 3pm on Monday, 6th October, 2008 to discuss fee-setting for 2009. It is expected that a 5% fee rise will be put to Council members to vote on.

The Education Action Group (EAG) is calling for all students with an interest in this issue to meet at VUWSA, ground floor of Student Union Building, Kelburn Campus, at 2.30pm, on Monday 6th October, 2008, before proceeding over to the public gallery of the Hunter Council Chamber, to protest against this fee rise.

A 5% fee rise means an extra $186 – 309 per undergrad average years’ enrollment, or $235 – 274 increase for taught post-grad, $216 – 262 increase for post-grad by thesis. That’s a lot of lunch-money, or a couple of weeks’ worth of rent if you’re lucky.

Currently, Student Debt is at $10 billion*, with an expectation that this will tick over to $11 billion in the new year, before the fee rise mooted will take effect. Constant fee rises each year only exacerbate the rate at which the total student loan debt increases. Interest-free loans policy is only a palliative for this problem, which is keeping young graduates working overseas for longer and longer periods of their lives in order to keep debt under control.

Come and join the protest!

There will be a banner-making session at 5pm on Sunday, 5th October, in the foyer outside VUWSA reception; anyone interested please e-mail president@vuwsa.org.nz for further information on building access.

Volunteers wanted to help with leaflet drops and poster-runs; reply to same address if you want details of how to help with this.

*details here: http://www.students.org.nz/index.php?page=10_billion

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Warm-up for this event began in the Green Party Bowen offices, with a social atmosphere to Friday night drinks bringing in Russell and Meyt to have a glass of wine (or two), and discuss current issues as the room filled up with the YG’s who were coming on the crawl. Lots of wee side discussions kept us there ’til after 6pm, as the crew arrived in ones and twos.
Delicious pizza was provided, as our responsible hosts made sure that campaigning Young Greens were also sufficiently well-fed to be able to walk our talk around the Capital City’s CBD bars. Gareth Hughes, the indefatigable youth outreach co-ordinator, and a candidate himself, marshalled everyone down the lifts and out into the clear, starry night.

Our first stop was The Occidental, a favourite of lawyers, political staff and journalists, although it appeared to be a mixed crowd of after-work and more casual friday night drinkers. The staff gave us the thumbs up to offer coasters to the patrons, even posing for a photo with a few coasters themselves!

Occidental bar staff, only dating boys who vote Green!

Occidental bar staff, only dating boys who vote Green!


Vic Greens YG's in The Occidental

Vic Greens YG's in the Occidental

Then we carried on down Lambton Quay, deciding to head towards Featherston St, and split our group in two, half visiting Leuven, half going into the Black Harp.
This was our starter for quick forays, just popping a few coaster on tables, without getting into long discussions with bar patrons.

After a re-group, we then wandered onto the wharf and checked out One Red Dog, discretely coastering outside tables as we went around the Loaded Hog/Red Dog complex, and then moved on past Shed 5, towards the Events Centre.
At this point, most of the group was headed towards Mac’s Brewery, near the NZX building, but a couple of us peeled off to have a quick look at the WOW! exhibitors, and some stilt-walkers in amazing costumes who were strolling the area under the sails.

Very exotic, I may do a post about WOW! displays later in the weekend, as there are wandering WOW! exhibits scattered around Welli for the next few days & I may get some more pix to show.

We scooted along by Frank Kitts’ Park & caught up with the others, and a quiet drink and some debriefing and reflection on the campaigning ensued.

I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with Tara Forde, Green Community Board rep, up from Golden Bay for the weekend, and we both loved the irony of sitting a stone’s throw away from where an anti-war stunt in 2005 saw us ‘bonding’ with some 20 of our peers in activism.
We finished the night by strolling up Cuba Mall, her to find Mighty Mighty where she was to meet a friend, and myself to walk on to another friend’s birthday party.

I suspect that this may become a YG feature for the next few weeks of the campaign, everyone seemed to enjoy the experience, and it was a great change from street-leafletting and other forms of election-campaign behaviour used in the past.

I’m a little tired, I walked to Kilbirnie to support the locked out drivers yesterday – I had to go, I haven’t seen a lockout since Muldoon’s era – and bring some supportive messages from union women in my union (VUWSA, since you’re asking … although that’ll be PGSA & VUWSA, soon-ish), since I’ve just been celebrating union solidarity on Suffrage Day.

Many pages have been written and e-mailed and posted since the lockout began yesterday, so I’m not going to add a whole lot – today, you get ‘linky-love’, as defined by old campaigner Spanblather (she’s quit blogging, so I’m not linking to her page!):
http://indymedia.org.nz/feature/display/71951/index.php
http://indymedia.org.nz/feature/display/71952/index.php

and over at frogblog
http://blog.greens.org.nz/2008/09/25/walking-to-work-2/

There are some collections taking place to support the low-paid workers, who just lost a days’ pay (think of it in groceries – enough to feed the kids for a week?), so keep youe eyes open, and some of the pages above will have links to websites where donations can be made via paypal or credit card.

And if you’re taking a bus, tell the driver you support their action to gain a living wage!

I’ve realised I’m not getting the links to embed properly, so don’t tell me.
It’ll be sorted when someone else works out why it’s happening! 😉

I can’t help it, this will be a slightly irreverent look at our policy launch photo-shoot on Sunday.

I’ve held off to let Frogblog have the shine of ‘firsting’ the issue, and of course, posting the official pix.

As you might have noticed from the shot of Jeanette shown, it was grey skies, windy, and everyone was well rugged-up.

Gareth Hughes and his team had done a great job begging people to come down on a Sunday afternoon, and he’d found help from the WCC Events team (p.a. & sound engineer), Living Streets Aotearoa (fetching dayglo orange vests, for marshalls to wear), and of course, Go Wellington buses, for a nice big new yellow bus, and the accompanying very patient bus driver, who mostly stood around for a couple of hours while the crowd was marshalled, photographed, re-marshalled and re-photographed. There was also the use of a balcony on the 3rd floor of the NZX building, for the photographers to get the panoramic shots of the 7 X 7 grid of cars parked next to the bus.

There were greenies from all over, due to some out-of-towners gathering for important exec meetings; and a stray Melbournite of my acquaintance, whom I was very pleased to nearly stand on, thus shrieking and leaping to hug her!
There was much networking of those who campaign on various issues going on in the corners, so I’m sure it will go down in memory as one of the social events of the campaign trail. All-in-all, a great way to produce PR, with committed ‘extras’ who weren’t about to complain about any of the delays, or other wee situations, that ensued.
I jumped on my bike for the cyclists shot, which I then failed to take any pix of, so once more I’m keeping my face off the blog 😉

Jeanette soldiered on in the face of (by then) heavy wind gusts, and her worsening sore throat, to be supported by Russ as it appeared that wind, speech notes, a glass of water, and then trying to use her hankie, all got a bit much. The details of the policy (see frog’s post!) were well-received by the crowd, especially the ‘cheap fares for children, students, beneficiaries and the elderly’ policy.

A bus-worth of car drivers carrying banners!

A bus-worth of car drivers carrying banners!


Jeanette with co-leader support to launch transport policy

Jeanette with co-leader support to launch transport policy


A few green cyclists, after the organised bit was over.

A few green cyclists, after the organised bit was over.

AUS Status of Women Committee hosted a Fiesta day of events, in venues across Kelburn and Pipitea campuses, to mark the 115th Anniversary of Universal Female Suffrage on the 19th September 2008.

The events were varied, kicking off with a breakfast in the Staff Club to launch the Human Rights Commission’s NZ Census of Women’s Participation, with Dr Judy McGregor speaking on “If Universities were serious about EEO, what would they look like?”. This was a sellout session!

Followed up by speakers from the School of Gender & Women’s Studies in the first session, held in the Ian Gordon room adjacent to the staff club, discussing the place of Women and Gender Studies in a mass Tertiary Market, with input from Associate Prof Prue Hyman, grad Pia Titus, researcher Dr Anne Else, Shenagh Gleisner, the CE of Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and Celia Briar, a senior advisor in the Pay and Equity Employment Unit. Sobering but essential information was received by those who could stay on after the breakfast presentations.

Then we moved to a session of creativity, coffee & conversation – the all-important balance of life vs work time. Concurrently, a clothes swap was held in the Cotton Building Hallway.

Having de-stressed to a degree, we were then admonished to de-clutter in an inspiring workshop by Maria Dorothea from Christchurch, who is a professional organiser. Her workshop focussed on how to set aside time to de-clutter, and how to decide what to keep, and how to let go.
Basically boils down to: If you love it, keep it.
If it raises your energy to look at it, or it’s truly useful NOW, you can keep it.
Many archivists, librarians and researchers in the workshop found this to be ‘tough love’ to the extreme, as we made feeble excuses for keeping our outdated archives of research paraphenalia. The Beaglehole room was discussed as a repository of last resort!
Lunch was a breeze, catered by premise staff, and a welcome respite.

The group then broke, to travel down to Pipitea Campus, where cake and afternoon tea were served, and the seminars continued.
Financial Planning for Women from Alison Renfrew, a remarkable financial planner and courageous breast cancer survivor, was well attended by a variety of women, and two babies, just to skew the demographics a little!
She gave away a copy of her recently published biography to a lucky participant, and told us about the circumstances that allowed her to be treated efficiently in the private healthcare system, due to her prudent acquisition of effective insurance products. Another lively question time followed her presentation, covering many issues around financial planning for a variety of ages of women.

Then it was the Maaori Women Speak session, presented by Aroha Te Pareake Mead, who is a member of the International Union of Conservation of Nature, an NGO hosted in Switzerland, which is doing global work on biodiversity and other issues of sustainable development, as well as being on the staff at VUW lecturing in the areas of economic sustainability, and a past member of the National Maaori Congress in the 80’s and 90’s. She travelled with Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikahu, to the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, where Te Arikinui signed the Convention on Biodiversity on behalf of Aotearoa/New Zealand.
Her koorero to us was insightful and fascinating, and touched on recent Waitangi Tribunal claims such as the WAI 262 claim for indigenous ownership of biodiverse flora and fauna, negating foreign patenting of seeds or components of rongoa maaori.

The late afternoon break for wine and a quick refreshment was very welcome, and then the Candidates Forum commenced, introduced by Sandra Grey, one of the two organisers of the events. Maryanne Street represented Labour, Sue Bradford the Greens, and Katrina Shanks, for National. All spoke about their parties’ policies for women and workplace relations, and then the panel were asked questions from the floor.

Sue Bradford speaking

Sue Bradford speaking


Sitting MP's Katrina Shanks, Sue Bradford & Maryanne Street at the Candidate's Forum

Sitting MP's Katrina Shanks, Sue Bradford & Maryanne Street at the Candidate's Forum

Sue B highlighted the gains the Greens’ Private Members’ Bills have made in addressing youth rates, minimum wage, and conditions for mothers in workplaces and other areas. She also spoke about policy issues directly pertaining to students, around student allowances, interest-free student loans, and pay equity for graduate women starting out in the workforce.

This was a great end to a day of celebrating the rights women have accumulated in the past century, and gave direction to those of us who want to see improvements in some areas before the end of the next century!

Ok, so anyone who knows me, knows I don’t need a guided tour of Parlie. I get around the place far too much as it is… But today was sunny, and I like checking out the artworks ‘back-of-house’, so I grabbed my camera & went for a stroll downtown.

Big mistake! Not allowed to take photo’s. So here’s some from outside 🙂

Ushers at the Public Entrance

Ushers at the Public Entrance

This is what Parliament Steps look like ...

This is what Parliament Steps look like ...

However, there was more than enough bumph on offer, so I collected some quite nice free papers on my way around. I did discover some new things, too – like the education centre in the Beehive building, near the Theaterette where the Press Conferences are held. This is a purpose-built spot for schools to access information in a classroom-type setting, and is a big step up from how school visits were managed around 8 years ago or so. Lovely resources, some of which I snaffled for my nephews, who live out of town now. Lollipops!
Parliament TV was getting a lot of mention, so I’ll humour them.

http://www.parliament.nz

It’s on Freeview 22, SKY Digital 94, and TelstraClear Digital 94 as well, for those who like their politics on widescreen.

I visited the old Upper House chamber, which I’d last been in (I think) for Rod Donald’s Memorial; certainly made me wince, walking back in there! Also had a quick look at the State Hall (banquets!), and Bellamy’s, where a lively band entertained those who needed a breather. While I was meandering around the Beehive, I found the Electoral Commission stand, with all the local current electoral rolls, plus forms for people to enroll to vote, and (yay!) balloons, tattoos & lollipops. (So easily bribed, eh!).

Then a look at the Hansard offices, and a lovely chat with one of the Hansard staff. Lots of reprints were available, one of which made me chuckle – the PM having, on the 2nd March 2004, moved that the House record it’s admiration for LOTR gaining 11 Oscars, singling out Peter Jackson for a mention, and then going on to talk about Keisha Castle-Hughes’ nomination that year. Other more serious Hansard reprints were available, however – David Lange & Nandor Tancos’ Valedictory speeches, the Ministerial statement on 12 Sept 2001, about the World Trade Center attacks in the USA, and the Obituaries on 9 November 2005 of Rt Hon David Lange, John Luxton, Hon John Falloon, and Rod Donald (whew, was that a week in politics!).

I finished off with a quick walk-through of the General Assembly Library, which is where all MP’s send their researchers to find useful-to-know stuff; and where a friend of mine works. So I managed to find her, bundled up in a 19th C dress and bonnet, in her least-librariany look for along time, and had just enough time to look at the lovely gilded fittings in the upstairs librarians’ office, along with the beautiful stained-glass window in the upstairs hallway, then it was shut-down time. So Sy got me out through the security doors, as we had chatted past the security guards shooing everyone else out. It really is one of the most beautiful libraries in Wellington, I encourage everyone to go for a look sometime. (For those who are past staff, it’s had a huge facelift, it really is gorgeous now!)

Then I was let out through the main doors of the Parliament Foyer, so scooted into the sunshine to eat a banana sitting on the lawn, and contemplate my haul of promotional goodies. Once-in-a-while, I really relish my citizenship, and today was one of those days.

This being Wellington, we’re fond of stunts, and we like our city buses, so today, the Campaign began with leafletting in the CBD by travelling around in a bus, jumping on and off at stops to hand out fliers and stickers, and introducing some of the new candidates to the public.

Mp's Russ Norman & Sue Kedgley with new candidate Gareth Hughes

Mp's Russ Norman & Sue Kedgley with new candidate Gareth Hughes

Party on the bus - Vollies, MP's, candidates and muso's

Party on the bus - Vollies, MP's, candidates and muso's


We had entertainment salsa style from Batucada players, which caused passersby to pay attention as we sat at bus-stops.
Thanks to the Muso's

Thanks to the Muso's

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