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Greens say they still support the Govt

The Greens say they can still support the coalition Government's budget despite coming out in opposition to one of its most prominent features - the super fund.

Sunday, June 3rd 2001, 9:01PM

The Greens say they can still support the coalition Government's budget despite coming out in opposition to one of its most prominent features - the proposed dedicated superannuation fund.

Greens co-leader Rod Donald announced his party's opposition to the fund at its conference in Nelson on Sunday, raising the prospect that the Government is going to struggle to get the necessary legislation through the current Parliament.

In a lengthy speech giving a detailed justification of the Greens' decision, Donald warned the cost of establishing the dedicated fund would only make tighter already harsh restraints on health and tertiary education funding.

The Greens wanted at least some of the surpluses the Government was planning to sink into the multi-billion-dollar fund to instead go towards the Green vision of an "eco nation", tackling environmental concerns such as climate change and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

Repaying debt should also be a higher priority, Donald argued, while the Government should be buying back "strategic productive assets'' like the railways and Contact Energy.

The Government's approach to investing heavily in the scheme was "putting all your eggs in one basket'', he said.

He told a press conference after the announcement that he saw no problem in the Greens continuing to support the Government on matters of confidence and supply, including Finance Minister Michael Cullen's latest budget, despite coming down firmly against one of its major policies.

He argued the Greens' handling of their decision, which Cullen and Prime Minister Helen Clark had been advised of in advance, could in fact strengthen their relationship with the Government which he felt needed to be based on respect, openness and trust.

The Greens were prepared to support the part of the legislation which would guarantee a state pension for everyone over 65 at 65 percent of the average wage for couples.

Concerns which had led the Greens to oppose the super fund besides its cost included plans to put the money in it into "prudent commercial investments'', which the Greens feared would see it go offshore into international sharemarkets. They had argued at least some of it should be sunk into New Zealand-based ventures and only "ethical'' businesses should be invested in.

The super fund would only pay for a maximum 14% of the total super bill facing the country as the baby boomers hit retirement in the decades ahead, and the Greens were confident that the current scheme could be maintained for the long term so long as the political will was there. Donald suggested Government arguments that the current scheme was unsustainable was scaremongering.

The revelation in Cullen's budget that the Government would also be increasing borrowing as it built the new fund up had helped strengthen the Greens' misgivings.

The Greens' own vision was for a "stronger, more confident, more sustainable nation (which) will be more able to afford future costs''.

Cullen was unimpressed by the Greens' alternative vision, describing their suggestions as "vague'' and not credible. He stood by the need for the fund and said the Greens had opted for the easy course.

The Greens' decision has dramatically reduced the Government's hopes of getting the fund established in this term, as it has struggled to find the necessary support of other parties on acceptable terms.

Cullen repeated his promise that he was happy to take the plan to the polls in 2002 for electors to decide on if necessary.

For a full report on the Greens' decision and reaction from other parties Go to www.supertalk.co.nz

Greens oppose pre-funding - story here

To read Rod Donald's full speech CLICK HERE
Find out Michael Cullen's reaction

« Greens block pre-fundingSovereign takes regulation bull by the horns »

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