No party for ripped-off pensioners to count on
Official stance: Individual ownership over retirement funds
The ACT Party which covers the far-right spectrum in New Zealand politics was a kind of one-man band until 28 April 2011 despite being represented in Parliament by five MPs, including another high-calibre politician. And 20% of the five seats were held by one woman...
On 28 April 2011 Rodney Hide stepped down after a breathtaking coup on his leadership from outside Parliament. Supported by ACT founder Sir Roger Douglas, Don Brash, former leader of the National Party and predecessor of the current Prime Minister John Key, lobbied ACT's parliamentarians, and when he had three on his side, he took over. He said with this step he wanted to "save the party, not kill it".
Indeed ACT's acceptance had slipped dramatically in the months before the coup, after revelation that Rodney Hide had mis- and abused taxpayers' money and his ministerial credit card for private matters, and he denied having knowledge of the conviction of former ACT parliamentarian Peter Garrett for stealing the identity of a dead child.
But it went on. The succession of coups within the party was spectacular and faster than we were able to update our website. With embarrassing help by Prime Minister John Key (google the term "tea pot saga") the former Auckland mayor John Banks won Rodney Hide's established Epsom seat on 26 Novemeber 2011. As a consequence coup-leader Don Brash became the victim of the next coup in February 2012 and Banks the new ACT leader and - among other posts - Minister of Small Business and various "affairs". The best job description would be Minister of Embarrassment.
The question is not what he does but what will come out next. Don't count on ACT, they are too busy running for their lives.
In February 2014 a man named Jamie Whyte was elected as the new ACT leader but stepped down when he didn't win the Pakuranga seat in the General Election in September 2014. As a consequence, David Seymour - pushed by Prime Minister John Key as the candidate for Epsom - became the only ACT member of Parliament and the new party leader. If you can still follow...
The force behind ACT's success
Until the scandal about several MP's travel perks Rodney Hide had been the force behind ACT's success. He became even more famous when he participated in the TV hit "Dancing with the Stars" a few years ago. Despite once letting his dancing partner crash to the floor and nearly never moving to the rhythm of the music, the once chubby Hide got new drive by losing a lot of weight and gaining even more self-confidence.
By regularly winning an electorate seat in Epsom, Rodney Hide kept ACT in Parliament despite the party not getting over the 5% threshold.
The ACT leader had forwarded our 2010 enquiry about the party's opinion on Section 70 of the Social Security Act to its finance and superannuation expert Sir Roger Douglas. Sir Roger was Finance Minister in the Labour Government of 1984. "In that role he implemented the most radical changes in New Zealand's economic history since the first Labour Government instigated its social welfare system in the 1930s", ACT write on their website.
Sir Roger retired from Parliament in 1990 - only to be rediscovered by Rodney Hide in 2008. He made most headlines in 2009 when the media revealed that he enjoyed visiting his grandchildren in London and other MP travel perks at taxpayers' cost.
A call from Sir Roger
But Sir Roger also showed interest in our protest against Section 70, and gave one of us a call. (He prefers to talk directly to writing emails and letters.)
This dialogue only proved how important it is to contact more or less every parliamentarian and inform each of them how the Direct Deduction and Spousal Provision policies work. Sir Roger wanted to know what exactly these policies do to individuals. He suggested a thorough review - and was surprised to learn that several very thorough reviews had been done by the Ministries of Social Development and Finance. He called Section 70 a "very sensitive and complex issue" and stated that "no-one really wants to get into it".
Sir Roger said that if all affected pensioners and future pensioners with overseas pensions got organised, "you could become a force". This exactly is the plan.
At least Sir Roger was very interested to learn more about Section 70 and more facts than what the Wellington Mandarins are writing. We provided him several texts of our website before publication, including a link to the University of Auckland's research, so at least one Member of Parliament was well informed.
But this state is over. Sir Roger - who, by the way, supported the coup which ended Rodney Hide's political career - retired before the November 2011 election. And ever since the party is fighting for survival.
John Key's man
As David Seymour would not have become ACT's new leader without the support of Prime Minister John Key, don't expect him to support any initiative fighting the wrongful application of Section 70 of the Social Security Act. So it didn't come as a surprise that he voted against the "New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income (Pro Rata Entitlement) Amendment Bill - First Reading" on 16 September 2015 and the end of the discussion about the unfairness of NZ Super. Don't count on ACT if you want to vote for change.
"The current system encourages many to try to get a free ride at the expense of others.
Every person, regardless of family income or current circumstances (e.g. unemployed), should receive the same tax reduction/credit from the Government.
Individual New Zealanders should have ownership and control over their retirement fund allowing them to accumulate wealth and, if they so decide, pass it on to their heirs.
All New Zealanders are able to save enough during their working life to be able to comfortably look after themselves in retirement."