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Retirement commission needs reviewing

There are calls for the role of the Office of the Retirement Commissioner to be reviewd. Some say it should go, others say it should have more power.

Thursday, September 2nd 1999, 12:00AM

by Philip Macalister

The role of the Office of the Retirement Commissioner is likely to come under focus in the lead up to the November general election.

On one hand New Zealand First is campaigning for the abolition of the office, and on the other the Alliance is arguing for a strengthening of the office's powers.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says the "the Retirement Commissioner should be retired". He says the office has not achieved anything and is a waste of money.

However, Alliance leader Jim Anderton says the commissioner should be made a Parliamentary officer, and he should be fully funded by the Government.

Anderton, speaking at a Business Information in Action organised Superannuation conference in Auckland on Monday, says by being an officer of Parliament the retirement commissioner would have more teeth and would play a watchdog role on the savings industry.

Currently about one third of the office's budget is provided by private enterprise.

Retirement Commissioner Colin Blair prefers not to be drawn too deeply into the debate over the role of his office. However, he says that following the demise of the Accord on superannuation the office's role needs to be revisited.

"I think the function and responsibilities of the office need to be reviewed."

He says when the Accord (which still exists) was active he could talk to all the signatory parties (Alliance, Labour, National and United New Zealand) and play a role in building a consensus.

"The (Accord) was good while it lasted," he says. "It's now more difficult to build consensus around the programmes we want to mount."

Blair would like to see the office fully funded by government. Currently much of the office's time is spent raising funds to run its programme.

He says it has taken longer than expected to get the soon-to-be-released Workplace programme off the ground because of fund raising issues.

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