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Forget about personality; Labour's policy has balls

I’ve said it before and yesterday’s savings policy announcement from Labour demonstrates it again. Labour understands savings issues far more than National. Its package is potentially a circuit breaker for this year’s election and will get people talking.

Friday, October 28th 2011, 6:38AM 5 Comments

by Philip Macalister

Raising the age of entitlement for NZ Super is a no-brainer. It has to happen. Good on Phil Goff and the Labour Party for being prepared to address this issue. Sure the increases it talks about are pretty small, but at least it is starting the process off and that is the hardest part. John Key’s pledge to resign rather than change the entitlement is one of the most stupid policy things he has ever said. Making KiwiSaver compulsory isn’t as clear cut. You would think that fund managers and the savings industry will be rushing to party vote Labour. After all such a move helps to underpin their businesses and for advisers it’s a huge plus as regulation has made it harder for new competitors to set up shop. I must admit the comments former finance minister Michael Cullen used to make about compulsory super still echo with me. His line was that compulsory super was the state going too far and interfering with people’s rights and decisions. Again an odd comment from someone on the left of politics. He is right, but then there are bigger issues and trends to consider. With trends New Zealand for years has bucked what you could say are the international norms around savings policies. That is all changing now and compulsory super is part of the big package. Unfortunately the government has some idea that we should be getting closer and closer to Australia on savings issues. Compulsory super is one of those things that is likely to happen over time anyway. It is, though, frustrating that this is more tinkering with KiwiSaver. It was inevitable that politicians just wouldn’t leave it alone. There are many other parts to Labour’s policy worth exploring, and we will do that later. The funny thing is that many of the things it is campaigning on you would expect to see from a more conservative party than Labour. A comment I read yesterday summed it up. “Holy cow - now I'm really confused. I'm as right-leaning as they come, but now I'm wondering whether I should consider voting Labour?! Raising the retirement age is so obviously needed it's not funny, and a capital gains tax makes a lot of sense.” I suspect those comments will be shared by many others in the savings industry today too.

« Where oh where are the KiwiSaver accounts?Greens KiwiSaver policy nice idea but... »

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Comments from our readers

On 28 October 2011 at 10:08 am Fred said:
Agree our PM was daft in his resignation threat (polls suggest National changing the age for NZ Super may be the only way to move him on).
Cullen was right on compulsion being a step too far. The bottom quintile of low-paying NZ does not have discretionary income. It would be immoral to deprive them - maybe of food, childrens shoes or educational opportunities - to force them to give to a fund manager. Neither do all the poor need to save. Attaining NZ Super will be a pay increase for some.
Compulsion would be wrong.
On 29 October 2011 at 6:43 pm Harry Potter said:
Phil, you may think Labour have balls, but sadly many people with balls are immoral and screw around, often causing no end of grief for their dependents. I agree with Fred's views above that Labour will screw the poor with compulsory KiwiSaver.

On Labour's dependents, I disagree too that it is just the poor who vote Labour - the voting split is not a simplistic rich vs poor devide, but a more complex split between those who can cope and get ahead in society vs. those who can't or won't. Compulsory super weighs especially heavily on the entrepreneurial poor trying to better themselves.

You say compulsory super is now "part of the big package". In reality it's just another tax. Many countries no longer have assets, just debts, and to meet their pension obligations they need to increase inflows. Compulsory super or Tax. Choose your word.

Perhaps you think fund managers (your constituency for ad sales) will applaud you for supporting compulsion; but if we remove responsibility for providing for oneself in retirement, why stop there? Much Labour policy could be seen as removing responsibility for providing for oneself BEFORE retirement. Do you or your constituency want to see nationalisation of the banks and the means of production, and the emigration of any remaining entrepreneurs from NZ?

Think I'm off beam? Well then, why is there such a fuss when National say they just want to sell down the govt shareholding (without going below 51%) in

Be careful what you wish for, unless you are a closet communist.

Besides, the reason we are in this mess is the GFC - caused by credit analysts, derivatives (CDO's and CDS's, or weapons of financial mass destruction as Buffett described them) and associated regulatory failure.
On 29 October 2011 at 6:54 pm Harry Potter said:
(tech issue ignore last 3 paragraphs in post above and substitute these:

Think I’m off beam? Well then, why is there such a fuss when National say they just want to sell down the govt shareholding (without going below 51%) in a few state owned businesses?

Be careful what you wish for, unless you are a closet communist.

Besides, the reason we are in this mess is the GFC – caused by credit analysts, derivatives (CDO’s and CDS’s, or weapons of financial mass destruction as Buffett described them) and associated regulatory failure. Regulatory failure seems to occur most in democracies due to lobbying, leading to the elected representatives pandering to their electors in excahnge for funding or votes. John Key simply reflected reality when he said he'd resign rather than change entitlements - it happens to be that most national electors are older wage earners who are the next to retire, and who don't want the goalposts moved!
On 31 October 2011 at 10:08 am Forthright said:
If Labours policy has balls, the balls would be old balls. The 1974 Labour government under then Prime Minister Bill Rowling correctly foresaw the need for a compulsory superannuation scheme to provide the baby boomers with a future retirement income. The scheme implemented by Labour was promptly dismantled by the 1975 National government under Prime Minister Robert Muldoon.

The debate about the unsustainability of a cradle to the grave social welfare system, started about 1961 when the unemployed numbers in regional NZ suddenly doubled from 1 to 2 unemployed workers.

It also seems to me, the only way for NZ to keep up with Australia is to follow their lead in raising the entitlement age for eligibility for a universal retirement pension.

The real problem for today’s 50 plus age group is not the sustainability of a universal pension scheme but the sustainability of our exiting free to all medical system. It is a fair prediction today’s 50 somethings will reach 90 odd years of age, but what about those who will suffer years, maybe decades of dementia and require intensive resthome care. Who is going to pay? By the time today’s 50 year old reaches 80 years of age the public health system won’t be providing free hip or knee operations and free pelvic sling operations will be, a mere fading memory.

A universal retirement pension is only today’s hot topic, a sustainable health care system will be tomorrows.
On 2 November 2011 at 7:09 am Not Sure said:
My understanding is Goff wants these savings in a fund such as the Cullen fund... don't like that, having independent organisations such as Kiwisaver currently feels better... and whilst Phil you may be confused i notice he has gone really quiet on Capital Gains Tax yet rants on about National wanting to sell assets... he wants to tax our assets...
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