Rate of super queried

The rate of superannuation paid to New Zealanders is queried in Parliament.

Thursday, May 6th 2004, 1:34PM
This is an uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing of a question asked in Parliament on 5 May 2004.

New Zealand Superannuation—Rates

Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received from other political parties that New Zealand superannuation will be retained at 65% of the average wage for a married couple, from the age of 65?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): I sought an undertaking to this effect from all parties in 2002, when I asked if they would sign up to the provisions of the New Zealand Superannuation Act. The National Party would not sign, and replied that its position “will be made clear in its public statements.”

Hon Mark Gosche: Has the Minister received any further reports enabling him to clarify National’s position?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, the Minister does have responsibility for parties’ views under the New Zealand Superannuation Act. He can answer that question.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Leader of the Opposition is on record that National will review the age of eligibility—if not in 5 years, then almost certainly in 10 or 15 years. In my long experience on this issue, “review” has never meant an improvement in the situation.

Dr Don Brash: Is the Minister aware of the National Party’s clearly stated superannuation policy involving a commitment to no change—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I would ask the right honourable Prime Minister to stand, withdraw, and apologise for that interjection.

Rt Hon Helen Clark: I stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Dr Don Brash: Is the Minister aware of the National Party’s clearly stated superannuation policy involving a commitment to no change in the age of eligibility, no surcharge or means test, and no change to the relationship between New Zealand superannuation and the average wage for 2020 for all New Zealand citizens; and does he acknowledge that one of his own colleagues—John Tamihere—is on the record saying that “universal superannuation is not sustainable” indefinitely?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The fact the member asked the second part of that question casts some doubt about what he meant by the first part of it. I am aware that what the member just said bears a remarkable similarity to the National Party’s 1990 election policy on superannuation, which was followed by an increase in the surcharge, a lifting of the age, and a reduction in the level of payment.

Dr Don Brash: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, the first part of my question required a simple yes or no answer and in no sense could the Minister be construed as having answered that question.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Mr Speaker—[Interruption] Many are called, but few are chosen. Speaking to the point of order, I point out that the answer I gave was an elaboration of the first part of the question, which was that I am aware of certain statements made by the member. If he wants me to elaborate further, the conclusion is that anybody under the age of 50 should be very, very scared indeed about a National-led Government.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I wish to seek leave. I note that every single question asked by Government members yesterday and today has been about National policy, as if we are the Government, so I seek leave of the House for the Opposition to sit on the Government benches so we can answer these questions.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is. As one who has sat on both sides of the House, I know what the feeling is on both sides.

Peter Brown: Can I take it from the Minister’s response that he is determined that superannuation will remain at 65% at age 65 and be universally paid out, and that there is no chance he will consider increasing the percentage in the next Budget?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. The Government is committed to maintaining the relativity band between 65% and 72.5% of the ordinary average-time weekly wage. The priorities in the Budget will be for low to middle income earners. To the couple on the front page of the Sunday Star-Times all I can say is: “Hang on, help is on its way.”

uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

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