Pre-budget Back Benches show with Ken Graham

Ken Graham, at the beginning of the show.

Ken Graham, at the beginning of the show.

Despite a rainy and cold Wednesday night, I had decided that this was going to be a major Budget in the annals of NZ history, so it would be worth a trip to the Back Bencher pub and a look at the show this week. Besides, I like listening to Ken, and it seemed that a panel composed of Louise Upston for National, Darren Hughes for Labour, Sir Roger Douglas for Act, and our Kennedy Graham for the Greens would have potential to be interesting, if not unintentionally outright hilarious.

I arrived just before the show was due to start, and not having arranged to meet anyone, ended up seated with a couple of guys who admitted to being old schoolfriends of Darren Hughes, who’d come down from the Horowhenua to see him perform on the show. They were pleasant and interesting folk, and were quite happy to have me perched on the spare edge of their table, in what was a rather packed public house – a scene I’d not participated in since the pre-election sessions of 2008.

The evening was just as funny as I’d anticipated, with the added bonus of Salient editor Sarah Robson (recently nominated for a Qantas Media Award) being given her 15 minutes of fame on the subject of budget cuts to VUW enrolments, which had just been announced this week.

Ken acquitted himself well in the ensuing melee, managing to plug the Mind the Gap green policy announcement very effectively.
(For a podcast of the policy announcement, go here.)

The full episode is available via TVNZ On Demand here.

Lacking class

One of the areas that got battered the most by the budget was adult and community education.  Throughout the election campaign the National Party signalled it’s dislike for any kind of education that was not either literacy and numeracy or jobs training.  (Although, ironically funding to those areas got cut as well).

So, the government has kept its election ‘promises’ (read as ‘threats’) in astonishing fashion – as Sabine Schneider states in here blog:

More than 200.000 New Zealanders enrol in adult and community education (ACE) courses each year, most of which will not be offered from 2010. This is because of the 80 percent cut in funding our new and not-at-all-improved National government has announced in their latest budget.

The Tertiary Education Union covers the dismissive attitude the minister of education, Anne Tolley, has for adult and community education, or, as she calls it, “hobby courses”.

The Wellingtonian has an interview with the Principal of the high school where I have taken several ‘hobby courses’, Wellington High School’s Prue Kelly:

“I find it ironic that the demands of parents of children in private schools have been put before community groups, community card-holders, and second-language learners/English learners, all of whom have benefited from subsidised courses at Wellington High. These are the people who will be adversely affected by this change.”

So much for hobby courses. Not that there’s anything so wrong with hobby courses that they need to be wiped from the face of the country. But, even if that were the aim, an eighty percent cut is hardly a very surgical way of making sure you only get the hobby courses and not other important adult education.

Catherine Delahunty covered this topic very well last week on frogblog:

Two hundred co-ordinators and two hundred tutors will lose vital part time jobs in this “reform” which will no doubt be justified by the Govt as necessary in the recession. If the Government had a vision of sustaining communities through hard times they wouldn’t cut these programmes.

Since then the Community Learning Association through Schools (CLASS) has set up a stop the cuts campaign page with a petition and postcard you can sign.