In 'da House | Issue 15
Being Critic editor was great preparation for being an MP. I learned how to put in long nights, manage staff, and be zen about a constantly overflowing inbox. Also, how to do a proper keg stand. That’s less relevant now.
Now, I get to “give back” to Critic by writing a column about life in Parliament. This is the first one. To be honest, I get plenty out of this too (i.e. a free political soapbox), but I promise to keep things at least mildly entertaining.
Fans of The West Wing (SO realistic) will know about “taking out the trash”, when officials release unpalatable news when no-one is likely to hear it. That’s what the Government did last Friday afternoon – before the school holidays, no less – when it released background documents from Budget 2012 into a big black void. Just in case you missed it, I wanted to share Treasury’s advice about student loan repayment rates.
As you may know, depending on how far ahead you’ve thought, you’ll have to start paying your loan back when you start working. Once you earn over $19,000 (less than the full-time equivalent of the minimum wage) you’ll automatically have 10% of your income deducted. With the changes in the Budget, this will go up to 12%. I think this is shit.
12% is a lot for someone working in retail or hospo while looking for their dream job. It’s also a lot for someone further down the track, in a more dream-like job, but trying to save for a house or support a family. It interacts poorly with policies like Kiwisaver and Working for Families, so that for many people it actually creates a disincentive to earn more.
When the announcement was made, I proposed a progressive repayment rate (you pay more when you can actually afford to, as your income increases) as an alternative way to achieve the Government’s goals without unfairly targeting new grads and young families. It was therefore nice to see this supported by Treasury in its advice to Ministers about the change. They called the change “poorly targeted”, warned that it could be a disincentive to earn more, and suggested that more analysis was needed. Only two days before the Budget, the Government was still deciding whether to increase the rate to 11% or 12%. Clearly a well-considered policy.
Still, Treasury’s advice on this rubbish policy went out with the rest of the trash on Friday, and with that dealt with, Parliament went into recess for two weeks. The confusing circular halls of the Beehive are strangely deserted. Select committees have briefly ceased arguing about whether they need a tea trolley in their meetings. A reporter wore some disco pants, and we all checked out her arse.
Welcome to Parliament!