Thanks to those who packed out the Evison Lounge in the Clubs and Socs building when my friend Jacinda Ardern came to speak about her vision for New Zealand, and the choice voters will have to make in September this year.
Despite the America’s Cup Victory Parade and, I’m told, a Highlanders’ eating competition occurring at the same time, you came and filled the room until it was standing room only.
I think at least part of the reason students want to hear Jacinda speak is her ability to get across the issues that matter most to young New Zealanders.
Like me, she wants everyone to have the opportunity to succeed, a clean environment, a plan to tackle climate change, and affordable healthcare.
Across the globe we are seeing young people reject ‘politics as usual’. They want a government that looks ahead and takes leadership on the issues facing future generations. More than that, it’s clear that they want a society that is equal, just, and looks after all of its citizens – not just those on the highest incomes.
We saw that in the recent UK election. Under Jeremy Corbyn, UK Labour ran on the slogan “for the many, not the few”. After seven years of Conservative government, with rising inequality, the degradation of public services and the decision to withdraw from the European Union, young people in the UK turned out in record numbers to vote against the government.
Going into the New Zealand general election in September, the current National Government has let us down in similar ways. Health and education have been severely underfunded, there hasn’t been an adequate investment in infrastructure, and the government has buried its head in the sand over climate change.
But none of these things will change if people choose not to enrol or don’t get out and vote. Not voting condemns us to a world shaped exclusively by our elders. Look at what happened with Brexit: 3 out of every 4 British people under twenty-five, who actually voted, opposed the move to split from Europe. Unfortunately, most young people didn’t vote, and thus the ‘wisdom’ of the elderly prevailed.
At our meeting with Otago students, Jacinda and I spoke about the key issues of this year’s election. We believe that the choice is simple: between another National Government which delivers tax cuts to the rich, or a Labour Government that invests in strong public services that create opportunities for everyone.
The decision is in your hands. And by being a voter you’ll have a stake in the outcome of the election, and the future of New Zealand.