Current Events: Student Loans and the Drinking Age Debate.

Two political issues have popped up in the last couple of weeks. Steven Joyce dropped some student loan-related bombs last week, while the long-in-the-making drinking age debate is in front of Parliament for the first time since last year’s election.

The Herald’s 2nd best asset (after Sideswipe).

If you’re a student then you’ve probably already heard the gist of the student loan changes; student allowance capped to four years and mandatory repayments upped from 10% to 12% of income over $19,084 p/a. The reasons behind the changes appear to be in response to the ballooning cost of maintaining interest-free student loans ($11 billion and climbing). The Ministry of Education has forecasted savings of $70 million p/a thanks to these adjustments.

The changes naturally affect those doing degrees that require more than four years of study; medicine, law/engineering conjoints and post-grad spring to mind. The Ministry response to this is that those students will be earning more post-study, balancing it out. This argument seems flawed when confronted with the thought that those on student allowances, more often than not, actually need the allowance to subsist during their study. The promise of future income does not pay for bus fares or mi goreng now, unfortunately.

It is understandable that the Ministry (and Government) is concerned with the debt burden that the current student loan scheme is creating. However, further burdening those graduating in what seems to be the toughest economic climate in modern times looks like a plan doomed to fail. Those charged with dragging New Zealand out of this economic slump have a substantial financial handicap from the get-go. In a way, the Government could be addressing more important issues in the battle to re-start the country’s economy.

“Puzzle time.”

Which brings us to the seemingly eternal debate over the drinking age in New Zealand. Never mind that under-age drinking is endemic to the New Zealand youth culture today; the Government appears fixated on the notion that an arbitrarily-determined age at which one can purchase and consume alcohol will change the country’s drinking culture. I don’t know what Parliament hopes to achieve by raising the purchase and consumption age to twenty; the point that societal change must happen in response to the drinking culture is made often enough but still rings true.

Good for Parliament that it’s doing something, but I get the nagging feeling sometimes that our taxes are going towards a 121-person, live-broadcasted debating club.

Also: Carter at first-five, second-five or bench (or squad) for the All Blacks? Thoughts?

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