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New leader English gives his view on super

The National Party's new leader, Bill English, talks to SuperTalk on superannuation

Thursday, October 11th 2001, 9:11AM

by Rob Hosking

New National Party leader Bill English is keeping up the party's attack on the government's superannuation fund.

Speaking in an interview shortly before the government's Superannuation Bill was passed, English said the government was effectively trying to legislate the superannuation debate away for the next 100 years.

"And that's just rubbish. Our view is that the current levels of superannuation are sustainable for the next 20-25 years. And the government not only believes it can afford existing levels over that time, it thinks it can also afford to save $50 billion in that time."

The fund, which proposes to set aside up to $32 billion for investment to pay for the baby boomer retirees, was a monolithic approach to the problem and did not take into account the dynamic nature of modern society, he says.

"The government is saying in the House (yesterday) that if you don't agree with us you must be going to cut super in 40 years time. Forty years ago was 1961 - I wasn't even born then and the superannuation issue was vastly different.

"We live in a world which has changed radically in the last six weeks and the government is trying to lock this in for the next 100 years."

English, who has been the National party's spokesman on superannuation issues as well as finance, has yet to announce his reshuffled shadow cabinet line-up.

However he has indicated he is likely to keep the overall finance role, with two associates - probably former ministers Tony Ryall and Lockwood Smith. Ryall, an accountant, was a highly effective chairman of parliament's finance and expenditure select committee before his elevation to Cabinet, while Smith was an associate finance minister during the last government.

On superannuation, English has shared the responsibility role with new MP Linda Scott, who has responsibility for policy on current retirees. English is not keen on a radical shake-up, and may devolve the entire superannuation issue to Scott, who is seen as one of the brighter new MPs. Alternatively, one of the associate finance spokesman may pick up the role.

Rob Hosking is a Wellington-based freelance writer specialising in political, economic and IT related issues.

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