Speech: Positive Ageing Forum War Memorial Centre, Miranda Street, Stratford, Taranaki Friday 22 June, 11am
It’s good to attend a forum devoted to “positive ageing”.
Some people might see that as a contradiction in terms!
But there is no doubt that all the research shows that a positive outlook, physical exercise and mental stimulation help delay the onslaught of time.
We are part of a great miracle – the miracle of life itself.
Life has been defined as a dynamic physio-chemical functional system and it starts when a cell is formed.
This planet was formed 4.54 billion years ago and according to scientific reports, life began within the next billion years.
It’s going to be around on this planet until the sun dies or we run out of water!
Ageing is part of the life cycle.
It is inevitable but it is endurable and even enjoyable depending on our attitude, our circumstances and our health.
In New Zealand First we can’t do anything about your attitude – but we do care about your circumstances and your health and hope we can make a positive contribution.
A major debate has been generated about the circumstances of the elderly – in relation to the age of retirement and the affordability of national superannuation.
On the surface this debate appears to be genuine – and we welcome any genuine debate about the issues of retirement.
But if we look below the shallow surface of this public discussion we can see some very cynical manipulation of the media and the population at large.
Let’s make it clear at the outset.
There is no superannuation crisis.
Your superannuation is affordable and necessary.
So what is going on.
First – some groups are looking simply at the bottom line.
They see everything with a cost plus mentality. They know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
Unfortunately there is a school of thought among some policy analysts and Treasury advisers in this category.
They look for fiscal scapegoats.
They identify what they see as the non-productive sectors of society so they can isolate and target them.
This is a value judgement based on numbers and theoretical models – without any logic or sense of social responsibility.
They see senior citizens as a burden on the tax dollar.
They see senior citizens as a cost in terms of superannuation, aged care, health issues and Pharmac bills.
They do not see senior citizens as people who have made a big contribution and continue to do so as long as their health allows.
Let’s face it, there is an army of volunteers out there working in all sorts of ways to keep communities functioning.
Many of these community volunteers are senior citizens.
So the analysts and advisers who target the elderly do not understand how communities function.
They look for simple solutions to their perceived problems – like making people work longer, reducing superannuation rates, and privatising the system as much as possible.
These people are scattered throughout the system and they peddle their views at every opportunity.
If you think of New Zealand’s most out of touch pensioner – Don Brash – and multiply that by a few hundred – you have a glimpse of the fiscal fools we are talking about.
There is another group entering the fray and they pose under the name Financial Services Council.
The council manages more than $60 billion in savings.
Last weekend it released a report calling for the age of eligibility to be lifted to 67.
It also wants KiwiSaver lifted to 10 percent of incomes and a taxpayer guarantee.
This makes us nervous.
We believe this is the first step towards privatising national superannuation.
Remember Jenny Shipley? Well she chairs this group and she made her mark on New Zealand by
- slashing benefits
- increasing the superannuation surtax to, at its worst, 92 cents in the dollar
- reducing the pension down to 60% of the net average weekly wage
Remember how she reduced the pension in 1998?
Remember a former MP called Peter Neilson who was one of Roger Douglas’ cronies in the 1984 – 1990 Labour government.
He helped sell state assets and impose the super surtax in the first place.
Now why would these people suddenly become the saviours of the elderly?
It’s simple – they won’t. They both rejected our idea of setting up a compulsory savings plan back in 1997.
Now they see a chance for the investment industry to get their hands on national super.
If you read the fine print you will see that their ideas discriminate against women,
Under the private scheme men would get $286 a week on top of the pension while women would get $106.
There is no doubt superannuation would be means tested and those unlucky enough to be on the state pension would get a pittance – some crumbs from the table.
The pension is not too generous. It’s hard for a single person to live on $348 a week and $536 for a married couple.
And we’d like to know just how many jobs there are out there for people in their sixties.
In fact how many jobs are there for people in their teens, twenties and thirties?
New Zealand First has always held the line over superannuation.
We got rid of the surtax and we got the pension lifted to 66 per cent of the net average weekly wage.
The government is trying to change this. It wants to peg super to inflation so that you miss out on any wage movements.
We are awake to this and the exercise in deception it represents.
In fact we are a thorn in the side of both National and Labour over superannuation.
If we were not back in parliament National would reduce it.
The present finance minister has already done it once and will do it again if allowed to.
With New Zealand First on guard they dare not target senior citizens.
Labour’s stance over the non-existent superannuation crisis is surprising.
Why would a party that had its roots embedded in the rights of workers and ordinary people tell them they had to spend two years longer in the workforce?
Why would you fight an election campaign on this?
Let’s face it – the superannuation issue was a killer among Labour’s traditional vote last election so why would they go back to pounding this issue now?
Now that we are back in parliament New Zealand First has started pressing some of the serious issues.
We tried to get SuperGold cardholders a ten percent winter power discount.
We crunched the numbers, prepared the legislation and wrote to John Key, his SOE ministers and his senior citizens minister.
This scheme would have cost a mere $34 million at most but with smart marketing could be cost neutral.
It would have made life a bit more comfortable for senior citizens but the government would not have a bar of it!
It was easily affordable.
We also have a scheme to get a healthcare subsidy for SuperGold card holders.
We want free annual medical checks and doctors’ bills caps.
We have a Bill that proposes 3 free doctors’ visits each year.
We have done our research. We know the numbers.
Let’s take the broadest possible scenario of all 600,000 SuperGold Card holders using their entitlement of three free doctors’ visits in any year.
If those three visits prevented just one per cent of cardholders from being admitted for expensive hospital treatment then the scheme would be cost neutral.
In other words, it wouldn’t cost the Government anything to provide you with three free GP visits.
Who said you can’t get something for nothing?
So, New Zealand First is working in your interests.
Keep watch on our new website to follow developments.
Let us know when you believe you are not getting a fair go.
That’s what we campaigned on – and that’s why we are back.