A Better Deal in RetirementSenior Citizens
Chairperson, Committee Members, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for inviting me to address your monthly meeting.
I want to discuss New Zealand First's role within the Coalition Government and our aim to provide a "better deal in retirement".
The vision New Zealand First holds is "putting New Zealanders first" and that is reflected in our policies.
For one of the greatest opportunities for New Zealanders was when they voted MMP as their preferred political system.
By choosing MMP, autocratic first-past-the-post governing has gone from the political scene.
Now, we have a Parliament which is truly representative of New Zealanders viewpoints.
And, we have far more women MPs than ever before!
What New Zealand First set out to achieve were policies which listened to your concerns.
The Coalition Agreement is a document that has changed previous government policies.
It is really looking at the needs of New Zealanders.
And it shows New Zealand First has truly listened.
It was a long haul to negotiate the new terms of government.
But we were determined to keep our principles and the vision of "putting New Zealanders first".
And ensure an overall long-term strategy which adds to our country's prosperity.
We are committed to a sound, stable Government which is fiscally responsible.
We are committed to sustainable economic development and growth.
We are committed to more employment opportunities, high quality education and social services.
And we are also committed to planning for our country's future.
New Zealand First has put the "heart" back into politics.
And has become the "conscience" of the government.
We have responded to New Zealanders concerns about their past governments.
The key areas where we are making changes include education and health.
In our view, governing is a two-way process.
We aim to meet your expectations by providing an environment which helps New Zealanders enjoy a better standard of living.
But New Zealanders must also be prepared to meet their government part way.
And that means taking responsibility for their lives.
It also means contributing to New Zealand's prosperity.
In recent months, I have had the opportunity to talk a great deal with senior citizens.
The key message I am hearing, is that older people are just as concerned about:
having a prosperous economy;
the state of our social services;
retirement income; and
the opportunities for our younger generations.
The Coalition Agreement reflects those concerns.
For example, we're changing the health system to one which we believe will deliver more benefits to New Zealanders.
And I note here, that my colleague Neil Kirton is steadfastly defending our principles in his health responsibilities.
New Zealand First stands behind his objectives and his stance.
For they will, in the long term, ensure the New Zealand health system is protected from privatisation.
Another area currently gaining considerable attention is the referendum on the proposed Retirement Savings Scheme.
I am encouraged by the healthy debate the proposal is creating.
I personally support compulsory superannuation because I believe that the current scheme is not affordable in the long-term.
And I want a long-term affordable solution for my children and my grandchildren.
I see it as very important for all New Zealanders to understand the issues raised by the Retirement Savings Scheme debate.
And it's more than New Zealanders have had in the past!
The current system has not had any input from those whom it impacts on.
And, it is a myth for people to view the current system as not compulsory.
It is compulsory because your taxes pay for it.
And politicians interfere with it when they choose.
What we propose is a system which is:
provides a comfortable retirement income; and
is in the national interest.
The current scheme has been interfered with too much.
New Zealand First wants to remove uncertainty created through political interference.
And to stop political interference which results in the issues for senior citizens becoming a "political football".
As you will all be aware, the real value of superannuation is also reducing.
From being worth 80% of the gross average wage in 1978, it is now worth just over 68% of the net average wage.
Reduction in it's worth could continue and current retirees won't be protected!
The current system is not affordable in the long-term.
To keep that system, governments would have to:
raise the entitlement age beyond 65 years;
lower superannuation entitlements; and
reduce social spending in priority areas such as health and education.
Under our proposed scheme, current superannuitants will be protected.
And their current level of superannuation guaranteed.
The critical aspect in this debate is ensuring that everyone who retires, gets a better deal in retirement!
And the rules don't get continually changed according to political sentiment and necessity!
For those who will participate in this scheme, it will require savings of up to 8% of income.
And contributions will be based on individual earnings.
However, contributions will be off-set by a reduction in tax.
The new scheme will ensure that the savings will belong only to the contributor.
And that also means under our scheme, if a spouse or partner dies before retirement, private contributions go to their estate.
If a spouse or partner dies within ten years of retirement, the remainder goes to their estate.
Under current National Superannuation, the surviving spouse gets nothing.
We are also looking at a guaranteed top-up for women greater than for men, to ensure they are able to purchase the same annuities that men can obtain.
I know the Design Team is taking such factors into account.
It is worthwhile pointing out that New Zealand is the only country in the OECD without a savings based scheme.
This is ironic, when we pride ourselves in leading other OECD countries in key economic and social areas.
What I do say is that the critics should wait for the Design Team to report back.
Don't make your mind up until you see the full proposal.
But take advantage of the opportunity to really know the issues on both sides of the argument.
Because New Zealand First is offering a unique option to New Zealanders.
That is, to have a say in gaining a better deal in retirement.
The decision will be in your hands and that of all New Zealanders.
Please make an informed choice when you vote in the referendum.
We are talking about our nation's future.
But we are also talking about the future of your children and grandchildren.
We are endeavouring to plan for that future and protect both current and future retirees.
And in closing, remember, I am your Minister.
Your advocate in Government, on issues which concern you.
And I have an open door to hear your concerns.
I aim to improve policies which affect senior citizens.
And to ensure all New Zealanders get a better deal in retirement.
My thanks for this opportunity to talk to you today.