Did Steven Joyce fail economic papers?

I’ve often seen it claimed that Steven Joyce failed economic papers. This came up again on Twitter on Monday:

This circulated on Facebook:

A version of the meme which claims to show Steven Joyce's university transcript from the 1980s. Image/Facebook

The claims seem to have become somewhat embellished. He got a fail mark in one, and did not complete or withdrew from seven economic papers.

Joyce in a 2014 n interview with Victoria University’s student magazine Salient:

“I went to Massey University, from 1981 to 1985 in Palmerston North. I did a vet intermediate and didn’t quite make the cut for vet school so I did a zoology degree for two years,” he told the magazine.

“In the first three years I passed all my papers, I was very excited. And then I started in student radio. In my fourth year I was doing economics papers. I sat six and passed three.

“In my fifth year I enrolled for three and passed none. By that time I was fully into radio.”

That doesn’t quite match the student record – which is incomplete, it doesn’t show results from 1981 to 1983.

It was also was checked out by NZ Herald in September: Finance Minister Steven Joyce confirms he dropped out of uni economics papers

The Herald put written questions to Joyce, including whether the grades affected his ability to be finance minister.

His press secretary replied only that “Minister Joyce started but then withdrew from those papers because he was starting his radio company”.

Joyce and several friends, including More FM’s Jeremy Corbett, started New Plymouth radio station Energy FM in 1987.

He went on to develop a commercial radio empire and made $6 million when it was sold to CanWest.

Further details from Wikipedia:

After leaving university Joyce and a group of friends (including radio presenter Jeremy Corbett) started their own radio station, Energy FM, in New Plymouth.[4][5] With business partners, he built up RadioWorks over the next seventeen years, both organically and by acquisition, to a network of 22 radio stations and 650 staff. He retired as Managing Director of RadioWorks in April 2001, when CanWest purchased it, Joyce receiving $6 million for the sale.[5]

After RadioWorks he joined the New Zealand National Party, working as their campaign manager in both the 2005 and the 2008 general elections. He also served as CEO of Jasons Travel Media for two years until 2008.

That kind of suggests a lack of economic papers did not prevent Joyce from substantial commercial success. He became a list MP in 2008 when John Key led National into Government.

How important are economic qualifications for Minister of Finance?

Grant Robertson (current Minister of Finance, became an MP in 2008):

Studied politics at Otago, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in 1995. His involvement in the campaign against user-pays education led him to become President of the Otago University Students Association, and later Vice President and then Co-President of the New Zealand University Students Association.

After leaving university, Grant joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and was also posted to the United Nations in New York. On his return to New Zealand he became an advisor to then-Minister of Environment Marian Hobbs, then to Prime Minister Helen Clark.


Bill English (Became an MP in 1990, Minister of Finance 2008-2016):

…completed an honours degree in English literature at Victoria University of Wellington.

From 1987 to 1989, he worked in Wellington as a policy analyst for the New Zealand Treasury.


Michael Cullen (Became an MP in 1981, Minister if Finance 1999-2008):

…achieved an MA in history at Canterbury University. Receiving a Commonwealth Scholarshiphe then gained a PhD in social and economic history from the University of Edinburgh. From 1971 to 1981 he was a lecturer at Otago University, with a term as a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University from 1975 to 1976.


Bill Birch (Became an MP in 1972, Minister of Finance 1993-1999):

He was trained as a surveyor, and established a business in Pukekohe, a small town south of Auckland.


Ruth Richardson (Became an MP in 1981, Minister of Finance 1990-1993):

Richardson gained a law degree with honours from the University of Canterbury. After graduating, she worked for the Department of Justice.


Roger Douglas (Became an MP in 1969, Minister of Finance 1984-1988):

He gained a degree in accountancy from the University of Auckland in 1957. Afterwards, he was hired by Bremworth Carpets in South Auckland as company secretary. He married and moved to Mangere in 1961, becoming President of the Manukau Labour Electorate Committee. He began to run the Bremworth division individually after the company’s sale to UEB in the mid-1960s.


Robert Muldoon (Became an MP in 1960, Minister of Finance 1975-1984):

He left school at age 15, finding work at Fletcher Construction and then the Auckland Electric Power Board as an arrears clerk. He studied accountancy by correspondence.

Many Ministers don’t have relevant education for their portfolios. For example from the current Cabinet:

Kelvin Davis – Minister for Crown/Māori Relations, Corrections, and Tourism:

He obtained a Diploma of Teaching from Auckland College of Education (1985–1987) and taught at Koru School in Mangere (1988–1990), Bay of Islands Intermediate School in Kawakawa (1991–1993), before becoming principal of Karetu School (1994–1998). He then held employment with the Education Advisory Service (1998–1999) and the education improvement and development project Te Putahitanga Matauranga (2000). He was then principal of Kaitaia Intermediate School from 2001 to 2007.


Phil Twyford – Minister for Housing and Urban Development and Transport:

After studying politics at Auckland University, Phil worked as a journalist and union organiser before becoming the founding Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand. Phil’s strong belief in justice led to him becoming Oxfam’s Global Advocacy Director, based in Washington DC.


Dr David Clark – Minister of Health:

Clark undertook university study at the University of Otago and Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen. He completed degrees in German and theology before a PhD on the work of German/New Zealand refugee and existentialist thinker Helmut Herbert Hermann Rex.

Ordained in 1997, Clark is a Presbyterian minister.


Dr Megan Woods:

Worked as a Business Manager at Plant & Food Research. She holds a PhD in New Zealand History from the University of Canterbury.


Chris Hipkins:

Completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Politics and Criminology at Victoria University.

After completing his study, Chris worked in the industry training sector. Before becoming an MP he also worked at parliament, first as Senior Advisor to two Education Ministers and later in the office of the then Prime Minister Helen Clark.


Prime Ministers appoint MPs to ministerial roles based on much more than their academic background.

“Literally failed eight economic papers” is either deliberate dirty politics or a lazy attack line, and is a factual failure.

There was nothing dramatic or controversial in Joyce’s only budget as Minister of Finance in 2017.

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  1. PDB

     /  November 29, 2017

    “Joyce and several friends, including More FM’s Jeremy Corbett, started New Plymouth radio station Energy FM in 1987.

    He went on to develop a commercial radio empire and made $6 million when it was sold to CanWest.”

    This alone gives him more economic kudos than Cullen or English in terms of experience prior to becoming finance minister, and streets ahead of Robertson.

    • Blazer

       /  November 29, 2017

      No it doesn’t.Having business success does not necessarily translate into being an able minister.Look at the Thiel deal,does not bear any objective scrutiny and he o.k’d it.By your measure Jeremy Corbett is well qualified to be Minister of Finance.Ludicrous …conclusions.

      • PDB

         /  November 29, 2017

        Straw man argument (again from you) – the debate is about who has more economic experience/qualifications coming into the role of finance minister, NOT whether they made a good finance minister.

        • Blazer

           /  November 29, 2017

          so the debate is completely fucking stupid ..then.Bennett admitted she knew nothing about Climate change when made minister.It is irrelevant.

          • PDB

             /  November 29, 2017

            Considering the issue of Joyce not being suitable to be finance minister was brought up by a bunch of lefties then why are you surprised?

  2. robertguyton

     /  November 29, 2017

    No one cares about Steven Joyce. He’s in Opposition and powerless.

    • Trevors_elbow

       /  November 29, 2017

      No one really cares about the Greens…. hypocrites then to be ignored…… supporting benefit fraud, padding their cv’s or omitting relevant detail that doesnt fit the sjw profile, protest oil as a product while wearing products that have oil based components or flying to conferences to protest oil….

      See anyone can play your game Robert…..

    • Corky.

       /  November 29, 2017

      I agree. So PDB comment below rings true.

  3. Alloytoo

     /  November 29, 2017

    This appears to be a desperate atte,pt to distract the public from the shortcomings of the current government. Awfully early the cycle for that. Was it part of their 100 plan?

    • robertguyton

       /  November 29, 2017


    • PDB

       /  November 29, 2017

      Looks like a typical left-wing own goal though considering Joyce has a highly successful private business career behind him whilst the current finance minister has a zilch economic background.

      • Blazer

         /  November 29, 2017

        Cullen did a pretty good job,and English does not have any compelling credentials.Put many ministers ex or present under the microscope and they are easy to critique…

        • As usual Blazer, you can’t even get your facts right – relying on Wikipedia, even secondhand, shows you lack of skill. Bill English got a Commerce degree at Otago – that is why he got a job at Treasury.
          That is a lot more compelling credentials than anyone else there. Most trust accountants a lot more than economists.

          • Blazer

             /  November 29, 2017

            tell PG..then…
            Bill English (Became an MP in 1990, Minister of Finance 2008-2016):

            …completed an honours degree in English literature at Victoria University of Wellington.’Bol.

            • chrism56

               /  November 29, 2017

              I don’t need to. PG was honest and just quoted the incorrect Wikipedia entry in passing along with all the others that may or may not be correct. It was you who slagged off at Bill. But then that is your forte isn’t it. Telling lies for the cause.

            • Blazer

               /  November 29, 2017

              English handed the finance portfolio to a Zooligist….one that can’t count FFS.

      • Blazer

         /  November 29, 2017

        Mickey Savage TS…’https://thestandard.org.nz/joyces-multi-billion-dollar-budget-hole/