Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32. No. 25. October 9, 1969
Opinion: Year Of One Per Cent Aid
Opinion: Year Of One Per Cent Aid
Protest groups emerge with remarkable rapidity on and around university campuses. They also tend to disappear with equal rapidity but there are always others to take the place of those that end up on the dust heap of history. 1969, it would be fair to say has been the year for 1% AID. This group of dedicated students have spent many long hours trying to persuade Government and the New Zealand public that we have to take our international responsibilities a little more seriously than we have in the past. This group has been actively working for the NZ Government and people to acknowledge that we are part of South-East Asia, and that because of this we have a direct responsibility to be radically involved in the social, economic and political revolutions of South-East Asia and the Pacific.
To this end the group has endeavoured to persuade the Government and the population to rethink its responsibilities and national priorities. They raised 32,000 signatures for a petition urging the Government to increase the level of development assistance to 1% of the gross national income by 1973. And they managed to raise $7500 from university students for development work in the Pacific. Both of these actions were intended to persuade the Government that we have to be involved in the tensions and rising expectations of developing countries, but more that this they were also intended to demonstrate that many New Zealanders see the needs and are willing to respond to them in a tangible way with higher taxation and a lower national growth rate. However, although Government and all the political parties have accepted the 1% principle in theory in 1969 very little has been done to materially alter New Zealand's present level of giving. Apart from an increase in the Colombo plan grant which merely restored the grant to the 1956 level, the Government has not significantly increased development aid. How can we assess the significance of 1% AID? At the present moment the Government refuses to accept the $7,500 that it raised for the University of the South Pacific and despite solemn assurances from the heads of the political parties it doesn't seem as though either a National or a Labour Government would accept such money in the future. It would seem that 1% AID has reached an impasse and there is no doubt that it has lost its liberal illusions about the importance of parliamentary select committees and democratic processes.
It prepared a very detailed and highly sophisticated submission for the petitions committee, which was submitted by Professor I. D. Campbell. The sad thing about the petition's committee is the fact that they scarcely understood what was being said and if they did understand they didn't listen, thereby remaining oblivious to its importance. The Petitions Committee returned a favourable recommendation (which in parliamentary language is no recommendation) which did themselves more of an injustice than 1% AID. However what these two things demonstrate (i.e. the petition and the raising of the $7,500) is that as far as making people aware of the problems of development, and as far as any real awareness of responsibility is involved, New Zealand needs a good sharp kick in the pants. It is very apparent that normal methods of getting things done do not work where there is no immediate benefit to the nation and all that crap. What is important is that similar groups to 1% Aid form next year to try and bring New Zealand into the 20th century. By this I mean that it is high time that we as a nation stopped thinking in terms of paternalistically granting a little bit of money in order to placate our uneasy consciences and really started coming to grips with the real issues of world revolution which every other country is finding itself involved in.
As a political pressure group I think it is fair to say that 1% AID has been very sophisticated in its techniques and in its mode of attack, and because of this I think it has some useful hints for other student groups interested in actually affecting political change. As far as the long term effects of 1% AID, your guess is as good as mine. One thing is certain unless we can constantly keep the notion that we are one world entirely dependent on each other before the attention of our politicians then we will find that even in little old New Zealand we might find ourselves in the middle of a white, right anglo-saxon protestant backlash!