Pensions, Pot and other Political Groups

September 16, 2016

Tom O’ConnorTom O’Connor

There have been some developments with two very important issues for Grey Power members and we now need to be very careful how we progress them from here.

The first is the ongoing debate about medical cannabis and what we should be doing for our members who need or want these products. In discussions with the Ministry of Health we have now established a very clear distinction between pharmaceuticals professionally produced from cannabis and raw cannabis plants for smoking or including in home-made food products.

Processed cannabis based medicines are already legal in New Zealand but they are strictly controlled by the Ministry of Health and available only on prescription by a doctor. There is a case to make more of these products available and to have Government funding for them as we have for other medical products. We will be having high level negotiations with Government on that matter.

Home grown cannabis for self-medication or smoking is illegal and we see no benefit for our members in attempting to change that. Other community groups are free to pursue that matter if they wish but Grey Power will not be involved.

The second important issue is the complex problem of direct deductions from New Zealand superannuation for those people or their partners who receive state funded pensions from other countries. Under Section 70 of the Social Welfare Act all New Zealand benefits and national superannuation are reduced by the value of an overseas, state funded, pension. Where national superannuation is paid to a couple their joint incomes, either from New Zealand sources, offshore state funded pensions, are calculated as a single unit. That means the off shore pension of one spouse will affect the New Zealand national superannuation of the other.

We spent some time recently in discussions with Ministry of Social Development officials and they explained that, in the case of a high value offshore pension collected by one spouse it could in fact completely eliminate the New Zealand superannuation of the other. A number of reviews and investigations over many years had failed to address that situation. The intention of the deductions is to prevent people coming to New Zealand with a high value off shore pension, living here for ten years and collecting two pensions. That is called double dipping and we support Government efforts to prevent that from happening. We are also aware that, in a very few cases, there is an element of unfairness involved and we will be having further discussions with Government on that matter.

In the meantime the Legalise Cannabis Party has sought Grey Power assistance with their campaigns to make home grown cannabis legal and the newly established New Zealand Seniors Party has asked Grey Power to join them in overturning the Section 70 of the Social Welfare Act. We will not and indeed cannot become involved with either group. To do so would jeopardise our credibility as an objective and nonaligned lobby group.

These groups are free to pursue whatever campaigns they wish and individual Grey Power members are equally free to join them but they cannot do so under the Grey Power banner. As the general election gets closer there will no doubt be attempts to persuade Grey Power Associations to join one or both of these groups but affiliation to the Grey Power Federation prevents associations from getting involved with them.

Please be very cautious if you are approached by them and call the Federation office or me directly if you need advice or assistance.

Tom O'Connor
Former National President
Grey Power Federation

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