Superannuation with care
“Superannuation with care”
Opening Remarks at Grey Power AGM
9am, 20 May 2019
[CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY]
Acknowledgements to the Grey Power Executive and to all the members who have made the trip here today.
It is a pleasure to be here to open the Grey Power annual general meeting with my New Zealand First colleague and Minister for Seniors, Hon Tracey Martin.
New Zealand First and Seniors
Over the past 26 years New Zealand First has maintained its commitment to respectful treatment of senior citizens. We believe how we treat our senior citizens is a measure of the greatness of our society.
Time and time again New Zealand First has taken up the battle on behalf of our Seniors, and won.
Some of our key policy achievements have become such a familiar part of our daily lives that it is easy to forget how much of a positive impact they have had.
In 1998, we secured the abolition of the reviled taxation surcharge on the additional income of national superannuitants which was introduced by Labour in 1985, and increased by National in 1991.
In 2005-6, New Zealand First pioneered the iconic SuperGold card to boost the standard of living of New Zealand seniors. The Super Gold card was a hard-fought win. Today it provides more than 600,000 New Zealanders with a range of services and concessions but is best known for the free off-peak travel it offers all over-65s. It is vital that older New Zealanders stay involved and connected in their communities.
And we legislated to take Super to 66% of the net average wage, after National had cut it from 65% down to 60% in October 1998.
Throughout our existence New Zealand First has maintained New Zealand Superannuation as a universal entitlement with no means testing.
During the last election campaign, various political parties threatened to raise the age of Super eligibility. This Government has confirmed it will keep National New Zealand Superannuation eligibility at age 65 and is committed to ensuring New Zealand Super rates keep pace with average wage increases over time.
Superannuation has been taken by a number of retired people to not be a problem for governments. However, the brief history just outlined tells you why you should never ever stop being cautious.
In a speech just 18 months ago, the reasons why this Coalition Government was being formed were outlined.
This is a belief that is shared by our Coalition Government partner: to restore a human face to capitalism and develop our economy in a way that benefits all New Zealanders.
We are committed to resolving some of the major challenges facing the country as we work to deliver sustainable economic growth, provide higher wages for workers, reduce inequality and child poverty, and put the long-neglected regions back on the map.
And as we have said many times before, we believe that all societies should be measured by the way in which they look after the interests of their youngest and oldest citizens.
Many of your members have already benefited from a number of initiatives announced in the past 18 months.
Last year we introduced the Winter Energy Payment, providing all superannuitants with a top-up payment to help meet the increase in their heating costs during the coldest months of the year. This year that payment was extended to kick in earlier – from 1 May.
Around 310,000 superannuitants have a Community Services Card, and 42,000 receive an Accommodation Supplement.
We’ve introduced lower GP fees for those Community Service Card holders, making doctors’ visits $20 to $30 cheaper, and have increased the maximum amounts paid for the Accommodation Supplement to better reflect housing costs.
And there are the small things, like recognising grandparents are often caregivers too. Minister Martin’s bill passed last year allowing grandparents raising children to receive the clothing allowance at the same rate as other caregivers.
We are proud of our history and achievements, but have not rested on our laurels.
Seniors Minister, Tracey Martin is planning for the challenges and changes that a rapidly ageing population will create for services and communities over the next generation.
Currently there are around 725,000 people aged over 65. By 2028 we estimate there will be 1 million people, nearly a quarter of New Zealand’s population.
These are people who have contributed - and continue to contribute - to our country’s economy and social wellbeing; as workers, leaders, taxpayers, volunteers, parents and grandparents, and as valued members of society.
It is important that society provides security in return. We know we need to help our Seniors navigate a rapidly changing world and address serious issues like social isolation, housing, employment, income, and access to quality healthcare.
That is why it is a great pleasure to welcome Minister for Seniors Tracey Martin on stage to announce three Budget funding decisions that will impact our Seniors.