National Super Changes

April 3, 2017

Tom O’ConnorTom O’Connor

New Retirement Age

The recent announcement by Prime Minister Bill English, that the age of entitlement for national superannuation would rise from 65 to 67 by 2037, should not have been a surprise to anyone.

For many months prior to the announcement a steady campaign of misinformation and scare tactics about the long term unaffordability of national superannuation, coupled with ill-founded suggestions that the so called baby Boomer generation were “greedy oldies”, were a clear indications that some changes were in the wind.

National superannuation is not a benefit or a charity and amounts to less than 4% of GDP. Even if the amount currently paid doubles over the next twenty years GDP will probably increase by a similar amount or more. To even suggest that those people in physically demanding occupations should carry on working until 67 is simply unacceptable in a country as wealthy as New Zealand.

The proposed new age of entitlement of 67 will only affect people currently younger than 45 and it is these people, our children and grandchildren we are concerned about, not ourselves.

The generation now in their retirement years and the one before them built the hydro dams, steel mills and the industrial infrastructure which underpins todays thriving economy. Certainly they earned good wages but they worked hard in dangerous industries and paid massive taxes, up to 33%, to fund those developments. Many did not live long enough to collect national superannuation and that includes high numbers Maori and Pacifica people A portion of the big taxes they paid was, supposedly, set aside, by agreement with Government and matched with a Government contribution, to fund national superannuation. The Government suspended payments into the scheme in 2008 and still gave the pension to immigrants after only ten years residency in New Zealand so it is a bit rich to now suggest the scheme is unaffordable.

Those people looking for someone to blame for the serious economic ills faced by some sectors of the community today should look to the successive governments who have sold off New Zealand’s heritage to the highest bidder not the older generation who created that heritage. Many of those who accuse the older generation of taking everything and leaving nothing for those who follow don’t know what hard work and hardship is and they seem to know very little about working for the good of the community. When we, in Grey Power, negotiate with government for better access to health care and the continued viability of national superannuation we are doing it for those who will follow us into retirement in the years ahead.

Lifting the age to 67 has the potential to create more problems than it will solve, if indeed there are problems to solve. What hasn’t been announced, yet, is how those people in physically demanding jobs will survive. It is simply unreasonable and unnecessary to expect these people to remain in full work until they are 67. Bodies wear out well before that age for many people.

Age is not a disability and these people should not be dependent on a benefit. Social benefits are too easily discounted and reduced by all manner of rules and regulation which do not, and must never, be applied to national superannuation or those too old to work.

It is unlikely that any government decision today will bind a government twenty years in the future but we have an obligation to ensure there is proper provision made for those who reach retirement in twenty years time as previous generations ensured there was provision for us twenty years and more ago.

I have already made my disappointment at the lack of consultation known but the door is still open for further discussions. We have a firm policy to retain a state-funded, universal, non-means tested pension payable at age 65 years. Any changes to that policy can only be made at our AGM in May and I have made provision for a detailed debate on the subject on the agenda. Hopefully, by that time, there will be more details of how the new system will work and we will need to do more listening and careful thinking before deciding on how we will respond.

Tom O'Connor
Former National President
Grey Power Federation

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