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Parties show their super hand

Questions in Parliament establish each political parties' position on the state pension.

Wednesday, August 27th 2003, 8:28PM
Question 2. DARREN HUGHES (NZ Labour—Otaki) to the Minister of Finance: What mechanisms exist for political parties to express support for the present provisions for superannuation?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Parties can sign up to Parts 1 and 2 of the New Zealand Superannuation Act of 2001. Part 1 entrenches current entitlements, and Part 2 protects the scheme’s future viability of our New Zealand Superannuation Fund.

Darren Hughes: Which political parties have signed up to protect present provisions for superannuation?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Labour Party, the Progressive party, and United Future have signed up to both parts. The Greens have signed up to Part 1, the current entitlements. The oddest response was from the National Party, which took 9 months to respond and then had no position.

Dr Don Brash: Is it true that the New Zealand Superannuation Fund will, even if it earns the unrealistically high rate of 9 percent per annum, contribute only $1 in $7 towards the cost of New Zealand superannuation during the years in which it is being drawn down, and is this why, while the Government has tried to create the illusion that it can maintain the current parameters of the scheme for ever, the Minister himself said, on 28 October 2000: “We recognise that changes in life expectancy and medical science may lead some future Government to consider raising the age of eligibility above 65.”?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: In answer to the first part of the question, no. Even if that were true, without the fund it would still mean a cut equivalent to more than $50 a week for a married couple, which one has to assume is National Party policy.

Gerry Brownlee:I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the two answers to those questions Dr Cullen has concluded by offering an opinion about National Party policy. Both of them are assumptions. They are, at least, _________in their nature and quite outside the Standing Orders. He should be asked to withdraw those remarks.
Mr SPEAKER: If I had to make people withdraw every time they make a comment about an opinion or anything, I would be doing it on every question. The member is correct about the second question, and the Minister should not have made that comment.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister of Finance confirm that New Zealand First would not sign up to either Part 1 or Part 2 because the entitlements were too small, we do not condone an investment structure that sends $3.2 billion off shore and denudes our economy of much-needed infrastructural investment, and that there was not serious potential, as there should have been in the Act, to convert balances into individual retirement accounts; a very enlightened position?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I cannot. In a very polite response from the member, he indicated there were aspects of Parts 1 and 2 that New Zealand First did not agree with, and therefore did not wish to be added to schedule 4. I thank him for clarification on those matters.

Gordon Copeland: Is the Minister able to advise the House in accordance with the responses received to his invitation to parties considering whether they would sign up to Part 1 and Part 2, in relation to Part 2 the formation of the Superannuation Fund to pre-fund future superannuation obligations, have any parties, in particular National, New Zealand First, ACT, or the Greens, given any indication of whether they will continue with the fund, wind it up, or if they are going to wind it up, what alternative would they suggest?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Certainly the Greens have indicated that they would wind up the fund and, I think, pay off debt, or possibly build more roads if we are really lucky in that regard.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point is actually the opposite of Mr Brownlee’s. I do protest—there has been no comment made about the ACT party. We did not agree with any of it; we did not agree with the fund, did not agree whether it is sustainable, and we are the only party that can do arithmetic.
Mr SPEAKER: That is, as usual, not a point of order.

Peter Brown: Noting those answers will the Minister advise the House whether he is receptive at all to the Superannuation Fund, or part of it, being invested in our infrastructure, namely roading, instead of us having to borrow off shore or invoke road tolls or such like on the public; will he give us his view, and if his view is positive will he recommend it to the guardians?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If the member was to use the fund to invest in roads and not to have tolls it is hard to see what the purpose of the fund would be because there would be no future income stream.

David Benson-Pope: What do the responses detailed earlier mean for the security of superannuation provision into the future?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think it is now much clearer that the provision of an adequate income into retirement depends upon maintaining a Labour-led, centre-left Government. Some 2 years ago Mr English did say that he would sign up to Part 1 of the legislation, but now he seems to have done a U-turn on that particular matter.

Dr Don Brash: I seek leave of the House to table a press statement by the Minister of Finance dated 28 October 2000 in which he says that he recognises that there may need to be a change in the age of eligibility.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

This is an uncorrected transcript of questions asked in Parliament today. It is subject to correction and further editing)

« Even a weasel would blush…Cullen baits National over super »

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