Speech: Taupo Grey Power Meeting
Thursday 28 February 2013, 10.15am
Lakeland Bowling Club, Richmond Avenue, Taupo
Ladies and Gentlemen
It’s much more fun to give a speech which gives good news. Sadly, this is not going to be one of those fun speeches.
This speech is about our new approach to one of the burning issues facing the country – but first some news from Parliament.
The Government has hit a wall. In fact it keeps hitting the same wall whatever it tries to do.
It has serious problems on just about every front and the biggest problem is the person in front in the shape of the Prime Minister, aka John Key.
In recent months he has suffered brain fades, memory lapses, selective amnesia and other debilitating episodes that are all symptoms of a condition known as SAWDS - Secret Agenda Wheeler Dealing Syndrome.
His problem is that the secrets and the agendas are slowly being revealed. It’s scary stuff.
The SkyCity casino convention centre /pokie deal has been shown to be a jackup between his office, and a couple of lobbyists with SkyCity and TVNZ.
Other companies, acting in good faith, going down the recognised path, never stood a chance.
This was John Key the money trader in action. This was the guy who made a fortune betting against the currency of his own country.
Papers just forced out of the Government by the Ombudsman show how New Zealand’s labour laws were changed just to placate the movie moguls.
The existing laws covered the situation and all threats of industrial action were withdrawn but when Warner Brothers said “Jump John” – John asked “How high?”
And what about the coastline?
Hundreds of kilometres of beaches are being negotiated away behind the scenes because of National’s shoddy deal with the Maori Party.
Thousands of hectares of seabed – up to twenty kilometres out to sea – is also being spirited away in what amounts to massive privatisation of coastline that actually belongs to all of us. Already more than 27 claims for the foreshore and seabed have been lodged.
The most frightening aspect of the Government’s actions is typified by John Key’s approach.
He thinks that this is the normal way of doing business!
He is running New Zealand like some Wall Street merchant bank with a big retail outlet attached.
Anything and everything can be sold and the first in the queue are the government’s overseas owned big business mates.
This Government does not care about ordinary New Zealanders.
Thousands of people are losing their jobs.
What’s the Government doing about it?
The value of the dollar is going through the roof and what’s the Government doing about it?
Right again – nothing!
And over on the East Coast the Napier-Gisborne rail link has been closed because the Government won’t spend a few million dollars on Heartland New Zealand.
If you are a big shot from Warner Brothers however, the Government will give you $67 million for The Hobbit movies.
This is not the country we grew up in.
It’s been taken over by front people for the special interests and financial wheeler dealers who crashed most of the Western world into a severe depression with a series of financial scams of breath taking proportion.
Governments had to bail these companies out. And now these people are back making more billions.
Meanwhile at the middle and bottom of the heap the ordinary folk are struggling.
It’s simply not fair and something has to be done.
This is what the next election will be about.
Now to issues that need urgent attention.
Most of you know about the legend of King Canute – the Viking King who ruled England and the Vikings nearly a thousand years ago.
Canute was a clever politician and a very wise man.
Commentators often get this story back to front.
He learned that his advisers were spreading word that he was so great he could command the tides.
So he sat in his throne on the beach commanding the waves not to come any further.
When the tide came in he reportedly said: "Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings. “
Fast forward a thousand years to New Zealand in 2013.
There is another tide coming in – the silver and grey one that marks the changing age of our population.
So-called experts - those who should know better - are running around like headless chooks shouting at the waves.
The baby boomers started reaching retirement age in 2011.
They mark a trend that will continue for the next 25 years – and you can add to that a wave of Kiwis who will return to New Zealand to retire in the land of their birth.
So looking ahead to the immediate future it is safe to assume:
• There will almost certainly be a sustained campaign this year to lift the pension age and to further privatise government pensions.
• There will also be strong moves from the retirement industry for the state to provide extra funding for rest homes and retirement care.
• Further job losses and the exodus to Australia will continue and Australia will announce further measures to exclude Kiwis from social/health benefits. That’s already happening.
• And there is now no viable plan – even though New Zealand governments have known of this demographic change for many years.
We have to face it – it’s crunch time.
This ageing wave is a reality, that has to be faced with sound solutions and community cooperation.
We cannot stress these two points strongly enough because all the experts from the Retirement Commissioner to Treasury boffins are seeking to delude you into believing the costs are
They base their thinking and calculations on the false premise that senior citizens are somehow separate from the rest of society!
Even some members of the medical profession are lamenting that too many health dollars are spent on the elderly and want funds diverted to the young.
This sustained campaign against the elderly is a fact – and those most at risk are the elderly poor and lower/middle income group.
Senior citizens who have paid their taxes, raised families and contributed to society make up the bulk of the volunteer army that keeps this country afloat.
They have a lifetime of experience to offer the communities in which they live.
We need to emphasise the value of senior citizens and point out the need for inclusiveness.
In many parts of the world age is honoured but in New Zealand there is a school of thought that somehow the elderly are separate and a problem.
Apparently they are not economically viable!
Other political parties have fallen into this trap.
National keeps the age at 65 as a cynical political ploy but altered the National Average Weekly Wage calculation method downward soon after the 2008 election.
Then of course it pushed up GST so the very rich could get big tax cuts.
Memories are short.
Just think back to October 1998 when the present Finance Minister cut superannuation from 65% of the net average weekly wage to 60%.
Remember the beneficiary bashing days of Jenny Shipley?
Well she is now chair of the Financial Services Council, who are spreading false information and untold alarm in their desire to get hold of the pension funds.
The Council is the mouthpiece of the private sector pensions industry – a well-funded propaganda machine.
Surely you must have read or heard their numerous dire warnings of unaffordability of National Super.
The problem doesn’t end there.
Labour has foolishly plumped for lifting the pension age to 67.
In our view this is a serious mistake.
The Labour party under Michael Joseph Savage and Peter Fraser led New Zealand from the Great Depression and did more to ease poverty than any other government.
It’s disappointing that party should now target some of the most vulnerable members of society.
The attitude is wrong. It’s attacking the victims as so often happens in this country.
New Zealand First will not stand by and watch the pension age lifted or the amount reduced.
Remember we are the party that gave you the SuperGold Card which is now far from safe.
It has been a brilliant success – therefore it is targeted. Every so often you will hear a noise – squeaking about the costs.
Let us remember that we also stopped the superannuation surcharge and have been trying to get free health checks and cheaper power for SuperGold cardholders.
We also have a Private Member’s Bill allowing rebates on health insurance.
This is because we are concerned that a lot of people lose their insurance coverage when they turn 65 because they can no longer afford the premiums.
The public health system is facing an onslaught and much as we believe in it, it will struggle even more in the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the problem in New Zealand is that those who have run this country for nigh on three decades won’t admit their economic prescription is failing – failing to provide the wealth
to sustain the Kiwi way of life.
However, instead of fixing up their economic prescription they resort like some disoriented Scrooge to blame our economic stagnation on cost, that by further slashing expenditure and sacrifice, the
economy will miraculously recover.
New Zealand First is about inclusiveness, realism, and responsibility with a measure of compassion.
We have a total policy package for retirees and will be making a major policy announcement next month.
At the heart of this is a new pro-rata superannuation policy.
But the first thing we need to get clear is that New Zealand superannuation is sustainable. Those who say otherwise are talking pixie dust.
It costs only 3.7 per cent net of GDP, which is way lower that many other OECD countries. They may be facing a crisis where their percentage of GDP is not 3.7 but heading towards 10 per cent.
It takes a serious deceit to use OECD figures, applying them to the New Zealand situation, when you know there is no relativity whatsoever.
If there is one thing you need to get clear it is that unless you get angry about the kind of deceit that is now targeted at you, you will soon become a victim.
If there is a problem with New Zealand superannuation now it is that it’s not fair to two groups of people.
The first group is known as the Section 70 group.
They have paid into overseas pensions schemes but have lost these when they came to New Zealand.
We believe that they should receive these pensions but not the full New Zealand amount.
The second group are the New Zealand taxpayers who have to pay the full superannuation amount to immigrants who have been here only ten years.
We are becoming a retirement village for thousands of immigrants who may never have contributed one hours work.
It is simply not fair.
New Zealand has to look after New Zealanders.
Look at this example.
If a couple from mainland China immigrate to New Zealand – both sets of parents will be eligible to come as well.
This is because of China’s one child policy.
Say the parents come here at age 55 – in ten years they will have the right to a full state funded pension, healthcare and all the other benefits that New Zealanders spend their lifetimes working for.
This will become a very serious issue in the years ahead and no one is prepared to tackle it.
There will also be a flood of people returning from Australia in the decades ahead because they will be officially denied benefits in their retirement years.
It’s Ned Kelly–like that Australia officially recruits skilled New Zealanders, denies them specific benefits available to Australians, while taxing them, and seems to want to leave them to their own
devices when they are no longer useful.
Australia will be very happy to send all the retirees home so they can be paid New Zealand superannuation and not cost the Australians one brass razoo!
Over 180,000 Kiwis have left for Australia since John Key has been the Prime Minister.
One step has been made in the right direction and that is that these Kiwis will be able to bring home their pension funds they have contributed to.
And if that happens they will be able to live on them instead of the New Zealand taxpayers.
However, the issue is not just about pensions.
There is something socially unsavoury – indeed ugly - about the way we are heading.
With many people now fleeing our shores leaving ageing parents behind there has been further breakdown in family structures.
Sons and daughters in Australia or further afield cannot look after aged or infirm parents.
Similarly families have become more scattered throughout New Zealand. It is sometimes harder to get from Southland to Northland than it is to get to Australia.
So what happens?
Do we rely on neighbours, social services or rest homes?
By pouring increasing amounts of public money into the rest home industry are we “ghettoising” the natural process of ageing?
Will retirement villages with high walls become prisons for the doddery?
Can we find a model to fit our different social groups? It seems that Maori and Pacific Island extended families care for their elderly themselves because the family units are larger and parts remain intact.
What can New Zealand do?
This is about people and only people can rise to find the answers – not some official in a suit with a computer.
We need to develop a broad plan that accepts the reality of what we are facing but does not place the “blame” on the elderly.
We have to talk about “us”.
The best place for senior citizens is in their own homes or with caring relatives.
However some older people live in homes that are too big or the sections are difficult to manage.
In these cases it must be made easier for the individual to move into something smaller in the same area so contact is not lost.
But they need a cooperative community environment where neighbours often keep a caring eye on the senior citizen next door.
And this is where state funded agencies can help.
It’s absolutely criminal that district health boards have been cutting back on the hours allocated to help senior citizens in their own homes.
The time of caregivers, who work for a pittance, is the key to survival for a lot of elderly people.
There is something mean-spirited about a government that is more interested in getting more pokie machines for a casino than paying caregivers to help senior citizens.
What we are saying is that we have to again tap into that community spirit and good neighbour attitude that prevailed in the time of our parents and grandparents.
It’s simply not possible or desirable to rely entirely on overseas companies to deal with this demographic tidal wave by building an increasing number of rest homes!
This country once had a history of social innovation and we need to revive that spirit again as a matter of extreme urgency if all of us are to enjoy a comfortable and dignified old age.