NZ Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern Just Promised To Make Tertiary Education Free If She’s Elected

Jacinda Adern

Jacinda Ardern has been leader of New Zealand’s opposition Labour party for less than a month, and she’s already developing a reputation as a bit of a legend amongst the youth.

On her first day on the job, she nailed her response to idiot sexists who kept asking whether she plans to have kids. Now she’s committed to fast-tracking free tertiary education if her party is elected to government next month.

She What Now?

The policy could come into effect as early as next year, with Ardern announcing that “from 2018, everyone who hasn’t studied before will have their first year of study for free”. The full policy, which would eventually allow students to receive three free years of tertiary education, would be fully phased in by 2024. Adern also announced plans to increase student allowances by $50 a week.

Addressing students and media at Western Springs College in Auckland, Ardern said the policy is “maintaining a commitment to all of you — that when you are trained and educated, that benefits all of us, and our New Zealand economy as a whole.” The students met the announcement with huge applause.

Before the announcement, Ardern spoke of the future challenges of increasing automation and a changing job market, and the role governments should play in helping young people prepare for these things.

“Our job isn’t to sit there and try to use a crystal ball to predict the kind of work that you’re going to do, which is going to be amazing,” she told the students. “Our job is simply to make sure we’re helping you prepare for it. Making sure you’ve got all the skills you need to go out there and succeed.”

“We have an opportunity, to continue to be the country where we always hope to leave New Zealand better than we found it — where we hope to leave more opportunity, more choices, more hope for the next generation than the one before. That’s always something that New Zealand’s aspired to do,” she told students.

“But we’re at a bit of a crossroads, where we’ll either leave a better path for you, or we’ll leave a path that’s actually a little bit harder than perhaps the life that your parents led.”

Ardern also took the opportunity to speak about Labour’s other policy priorities ahead of the election, many of which are also targeted to appeal to young people — for example, addressing the grim housing market and combating environmental degradation. On climate change, she expressed a desire to “be ambitious, to be bold [to] show that New Zealand can actually lead the world rather than follow”.

Lead on, Jacinda Ardern. Speaking from Australia, we’d be more than happy for some of our politicians to pick up their socks and follow.