19th December 2016
Don’t mess with Superannuation
Any change of leadership can bring a period of anxiety and uncertainty. I know that from the ripples which went through the Grey Power family when I was elected as national president in May this year.
It took time and patience to assure people that their fears that some of the changes we introduced would be for the better. So far that has been borne out by results.
However when former Prime Minister John Key stood down to be replaced by Bill English there was a disturbing indication that the security of national superannuation could at least be under review.
While John Key was in office he gave a solemn promise that national superannuation would remain unchanged. Like his policies or not we knew we could trust him and he was as good as his word on that important issue.
Within days of Bill English being elected by his National Party colleagues to be the new Prime Minister there were indications that he might not be as willing to leave national superannuation untouched. There have been no policy announcements and nothing more than vague hints but they have been enough to set alarm bells ringing.
We know that national superannuation has been under almost constant attack by all sorts of people and groups, including the Retirement Commissioner, for the past year or more. Some say it is unaffordable and others want the age of entitlement raised from 65 to 67. In reality the scheme cost something less than four percent of GDP and Government had not made any contribution to the fund since 2008. The scheme is obviously affordable now and would be more so into the future if Government honoured their part of the bargain and resumed contributions.
It would be unthinkable to raise the entitlement age to 67, particularly for those involved in physically demanding trades. While academics and those who have never worked with their hands and backs might suggest people in manual trades could retrain for new, less demanding, jobs in their middle years, the reality is very different, For starters the Government has stopped funding adult education schemes and, regardless of qualifications and work experience, it is nearly impossible for anyone over 50 to get a job.
Not all people over 65 are in financial trouble but a significant number, particularly those who live alone and only have national superannuation, live in near poverty.
We know there are parts of the scheme which need a review and some tidying up but the basic entitlements of a universal pension for all New Zealanders at 65 is out of bounds for political meddling. The deduction system for people with foreign state funded pensions who applied for New Zealand superannuation, after ten years residency, was generous and basically sound but there were a few anomalies which need to be addressed and we are working with the Ministry of Social Development on those matters.
We have a firm policy to retain a state-funded, universal, non-means tested pension payable at age 65 years and that is our bottom line. It was a proposal to apply surtax to national superannuation which gave rise to Grey Power more than 30 years ago and we need to be alert to any attempt to dilute what is already a meagre pension.
The Grey Power Federation would rather not get into a fight with Government as we achieve much more by working with them on many important issues but there are limits to what we will tolerate.
If it becomes necessary to mount another public campaign like the anti-surtax campaign to protect national superannuation in the lead up to next years general election we will. Hopefully it won’t come to that.
Grey Power Federation
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Grey Power’s Aims and Objectives
- To advance, support and protect the welfare and well being of older people.
- To affirm and protect that statutory right of every New Zealand resident, to a sufficient New Zealand Superannuation entitlement.
- To strive for a provision of a quality Health Care to all New Zealand residents regardless of income and location.
- To oppose all discriminatory and disadvantageous legislation affecting rights, security and dignity.
- To be non aligned with any political party, and to present a strong united lobby to all Parliament and statutory Bodies on matters affecting New Zealanders.
- To promote and establish links with kindred organizations.
- To promote recognition of the wide-ranging services provided by senior citizens of New Zealand.
- To gain recognition as an appropriate voice for all older New Zealanders.
Grey Power Achievements
Brief Overview of some results that Grey Power have been effective in achieving.
- Removal of the Surtax
- Asset Testing Legislation being Phased Out
- Lower doctors’ Fees
- Lower Pharmacy Fees
- Removal Over 80’s Driving Tests
- Removal Simulated Driving Tests by Occupational Therapists
- Lower Tariff Electricity
- Superannuation Increased to 66% NATOTWW
- Rate Rebate Scheme re-vitalised
- Independent Superannuation & Income Centres
- Improved Regulations for Rest Homes
- Code of Practice for Rest Homes
- Abolition of Interest on Student Loans
- The National Superannuation Adjustment for the Tax Cuts in the 2008 Budget is a long awaited recognition by a major political party of the plight of the elderly reliant on NZ Superannuation
- Hearing aid subsidy increased
- Rates Rebate Scheme indexed to CPI. Amount now $580 (originally $500) and threshold now $23,240 (from 20,000 originally)
- Spot Audits for Rest Homes
- Retention of Graduating Doctors – (Student Loan)
- Lowering Electricity Increase for ETS
- Retention of SuperGold Card Off-Peak Travel
- Retention of SuperGold Card Waiheke Island Ferry Travel
The Student Loan achievement was recognised in a letter from the Co-President of the NZ University Students Association, Connor Roberts, and also by the Prime Minister in an address to the Students Association in 2006.
We are also mindful of the fact that there are many gains still to be made and that our members can be assured of our continued efforts on their behalf.
In addition to the above, Grey Power has been successfully involved in many outside committees in Energy and Health in particular. Hard of Hearing, Disability committees, NZ Specifications for conditions in Rest Homes,Community Support Services Industry Training Organization (CSSITO) for conditions for Home Care and Rest Home Workers, Health of the Older Person, (HOOP) and Electricity Commission Committees to give a few examples.