Labour leader Andrew Little says his party's new education policy comes down to a "question of priorities".
The Working Futures Plan is aimed at upskilling people whose jobs may become obsolete as technology develops.
Mr Little announced the policy at the party's State of the Nation address over the weekend.
"This is about dealing with an issue that is coming at us now, is going to reach its peak in the next 10-15 years, so we're getting geared to up to make sure that those people who are pushed out of jobs by new technology, and their employers, will have access to means to give them re-training," Mr Little told the Paul Henry programme this morning.
The plan, which would be phased in from 2019, is estimated to cost $265 in its first year, and $1.2 billion in total. It will cover education across a person's lifetime, though only apply to new undergraduate study and not be available for people who already have student loans and want to return to studying.
"We will have other measures to deal with people who have done post-school training," says Mr Little.
Despite claims by Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce saying it would cost much more than Labour's estimate, Mr Little is confident the country can afford the plan.
"I think we can, and I think if we don't the danger is of course that we have a whole bunch of people who are going to be pushed out of work, who don't have the means or access to re-training and education and that's going to be a cost itself."
He says "it comes down to a question of priorities" and there will be limits towhat people can study.
"We're very clear - it's not going to be homeopathy for pets, we're not going to be funding that sort of stuff. It will be stuff that's about making sure that people can get back into the work force or build a foundation that can lasts them for the rest of their working life. That's what this is about."