By: Nicholas Jones
Act leader David Seymour has delivered a billion dollars in mock currency to an education union today in an election stunt.
The mock currency features Seymour’s mug on a $20,000 note.
Seymour pushed a wheelbarrow of the money into the NZEI offices and up to the reception on the 13th floor.
He was slightly surprised when the receptionist accepted the offer, telling him to leave it by the desk. On the way out there was some discussion amongst staffers about returning to ask for the wheelbarrow back.
Seymour says the symbolism behind the stunt is the NZEI’s rejection of Act policy that would give schools $1 billion in bulk funding, to replace the current funding of teacher salaries.
*To be eligible, schools would need to choose to force teachers out of their collective agreements and then be bulk funded $93,000 for each teacher. Principals would then decide how much of that money each teacher is paid. Details of which can be found here.
This month Act announced policy to set-up “good teacher grants”, which would bulk fund schools for teacher salaries at a rate of $93,000 a teacher.
Schools opted into it would decide which teacher was paid what. The scheme would cost $975 million, and Act said it would give schools the ability to pay good teachers near $120,000.
Seymour today said there was a shortage of quality teachers, particularly in Auckland. A major secondary school recently told him no applicants for a vacancy were suitable.
“This is a crisis that is happening all over New Zealand … the only way to resolve that is to increase teacher pay and move beyond the failed union model that has seen their pay fall so dramatically.
“This is the first time the Act Party has advocated for a substantial increase in spending and we think for our kids it is worth it.”
A spokesman for the Reserve Bank said the fake “David dollars” were not in breach of the law.
“The main point of the law and our guidelines is to protect against counterfeiting. If reproduction banknotes are unlikely to be confused with the real thing, then they are of less concern to us.”
Education union NZEI Te Riu Roa president Lynda Stuart has said Act’s policy was “staggeringly out of touch” with what teachers say matters to them. She said teachers wanted a career framework rather than singling out a few for higher pay.
“This is straight out of Act’s playbook – undermine public education, undermine teachers, and undermine unions.
“However, it is good to see Act acknowledging that teachers need to be paid more. But with teacher workload growing, along with a teacher shortage, all teachers need a pay rise, not just some.”
Seymour is education under-secretary and his party established charter schools as a part of Act’s confidence and supply agreement with National for the past nine years.
‘People will be surprised’
With three days to go until the election Act leader David Seymour says he is confident his party’s vote on Saturday would defy polls that put it below 1 per cent.
“You could get despondent about polls. But I look at all the other indicators – our people have delivered 580,000 direct mail letters…our social media impact is we are interacting with 400,000 people a week,” Seymour told the Herald.
“I think on the night people will be quite surprised at how Act does. We have got to get 30,000 votes in order to get a second MP, 45,000 to get a third.”
Seymour said he felt there was no danger he would lose his Epsom seat, but said it would be a failure if he was Act’s only MP after the election.
He frequently clashes with NZ First leader Winston Peters – who he recently called a “charismatic crook” and who has in turn dubbed the Act leader a Chihuahua – but said he would be willing to support a coalition with Peters in it. Whether the reverse is true is another matter.
“Winston is dangerous and toxic. And I still think that. But what has become clear is that keeping Labour out is going to require everybody to take one for the team.”
Seymour was also critical of Bill English for urging voters this week to “cut out the middle man” and make a choice between National or Labour.
“That is the kind of stuff that loses elections. He should be recognising that after this election, just like the last the last seven MMP elections, we will be governed by a coalition.”
Source: NZ Herald
*Please note: this article has had modified clarification from NZEI