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About 150 students and members of the public packed the upper room of the Otago University Students Association Clubs and Societies building to hear Labour Party deputy leader Jacinda Ardern.
The MP, who replaced Annette King as deputy leader when King announced her retirement in March, said she had been community-minded since moving from Hamilton to Murupara as a child in the 1980s and seeing the consequences of economic hardship.
Having started university while students were required to pay tax on their loans during study, she was passionate about making tertiary education as accessible as possible.
"It became a very firm point in my mind that education is a public good and it should be treated that way."
Labour’s policy of three years free tertiary education would ensure education benefited everyone in society, she said.
Issues that inspired her to enter Parliament in 2008, including child poverty, global warming and affordable housing, were the issues she would continue to champion heading into the September election.
Following her talk, she fielded questions ranging from what New Zealand’s future use of fossil fuels should be to Labour’s stance on cigarette and tobacco tax.
Dunedin North MP and Labour Party health spokesman David Clark told the audience Labour hoped to deter smoking by putting more funding into supporting those trying to quit.