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04.02.2020

Take the Parties to Account in Election Year
As the date for this year’s General Election in New Zealand – 19 September – has been announced, it is time for a review of what the parties we have voted into government three years ago have achieved on our behalf. It is very little after all the big promises Labour, NZ First and the Greens have made while in opposition, and none of them have deserved our votes if nothing dramatic happens in the remaining months before the election. And with “happen” I really mean that a major change regarding the legalised theft of overseas pensions needs to be effected, and not just new promises made that will be disregarded after the election, as last time.

The problem is that National has not deserved our votes either after refusing to even listen to us before being kicked out of government thanks to Winston Peters’ kingmaking move towards Labour. Therefore we have run out of options. Just remember that the more than 100,000 votes of pensioners whose overseas pensions are indirectly stolen, their families not counted, make up more than 3% of the vote. What to do? That’s the big question.

You can tell the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister what you think about their inactivity on the issue by adding comments (so-called annotations) to two online FYI requests which they are obliged to answer by law. Links near the end of this email.

I am confident that this year we can expect more and faster feedback and promises, the closer the election date comes. Before the last election in 2017, e.g., I received a reply from the Greens within 24 hours, promising to do something about former Section 70 – which is now Sections 187 – 191 of the Social Security Act 2018. Since then I have tried in vain to receive an answer to my question of what has become of their announcement to work on the issue.


Slow and passion-free progress of the Government’s amendment bill

Other parties are working on the issue with the same passion and urgency, and I mean this ironically. Two – National and ACT – didn’t even attend the meeting of the Select Committee when the submissions on the New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension Legislation Amendment Bill were presented. Here you find the progress of the Bill:

https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/bills-proposed-laws/document/BILL_92647/new-zealand-superannuation-and-veteran-s-pension-legislation

Several individuals and organisations made submissions on the intended changes to Sections 187 – 191, which, for us, only included the end of the Spousal Provision and the closure of the non-qualified spouse category by 1 July 2020. Most submitters used the opportunity to point out that further changes were urgently needed, as the Spousal Provision affected between 400 and 600 pensioners only, while the overseas pensions of more than 100,000 people were still deducted from NZ Super to the tune of nearly NZ$ 450 million per year.

I was told by one of the submitters who spoke to the Committee via video link, that not only the two above-mentioned parties were missing in action but that most of the Committee members had no clue what he was talking about. Therefore we don’t hold much hope that the Select Committee’s report – which is due on 30 March – will raise the big issue, despite more than half of the submitters suggesting that further discussion was needed about the 100% deduction of employer/employee-funded overseas pensions.

On top of his written evidence my colleague gave differing oral evidence in which he pointed out that not only the false debt, which couples incurred after the spousal deductions, should be waived but that compensation for past deductions should be seriously considered.


Spousal Provision, Direct Deduction, Portability: everything is a fiasco

The RPRC of the University of Auckland, Age Concern and Grey Power have also come out in strong support of the spousal deduction repeal. And surely it is a no-brainer to stop this scandalous deduction which punishes couples who are in a relationship with the “wrong” partner. But not all of them support our fight to stop the deductions altogether, despite the obvious injustice. 

One of my regular correspondents expressed the discrimination with these words: “Many people save retirement money for decades before coming here and then the New Zealand government steals that money, using the lame excuse of: ‘Oh, we don't want someone who put 15% of his salary into retirement savings for 15 years to be better off than some dole blodger who never held a job and never paid a penny.’ […]”

He also points out the unfairness of the entire retirement system which doesn’t only include the Direct Deduction Policy but also Portability – that’s when someone permanently leaves the country at retirement age: “If people do leave New Zealand after living here for a substantial time, New Zealand again arbitrarily steals the pension that these people paid for through their taxes. New Zealand pays a proportional pension based on the number of months RESIDENT up to 540, but only the time up to age 65 counts. This means in the case of a 70-year old who has kept on working full time and paying substantial taxes, that none of the time after age 65 counts towards his proportional NZ Super. Meanwhile, someone who never worked, raped his daughter and spent 30 years in jail gets a full pension because he was RESIDENT in New Zealand all his life. It just shows the world where New Zealand's priorities are.“


MSD’s rip-off mentality and harassment on all levels

I receive emails from people who are chased down by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and forced to apply for minimal pensions from the UK, Canada or Australia, resulting in payments of NZ$ 4 or 5 per week. This demonstrates how far this greedy and over-zealous bureaucracy goes, and that New Zealand isn’t interested at all in sharing the pension cost with other countries. The top priority is to exclude as many pensioners as possible from receiving (full) NZ Super. (And let me repeat it: if you don’t apply for an overseas pension you are entitled to, MSD has the right to stop your NZ Super payments.)

MSD’s uncaring attitude is reflected in the letters Irish pensioners have received from MSD in the past two months. They were told that Ireland had paid them a Christmas Bonus in December 2019, and that “unfortunately” they needed to pay back some of their NZ Super [to MSD] because of this bonus. “We need to reduce your NZ Super payments to reflect the extra money you got from Ireland”, they wrote and justified it with the rip-off law which is Sections 187 – 191 of the Social Security Act 2018. No Kiwi pensioner has ever received a letter from MSD, asking them to pay back a chunk of their NZ Super because they have received a government bonus to their KiwiSaver.

The criteria for being eligible for NZ Super (the requirement of being ordinarily resident) is another example of this nasty attitude. I regularly receive emails from born-and-bred New Zealanders who have spent between 20 and 30 years of their working lives (which is defined as age 20 to 65) in New Zealand, then worked overseas and returned home when reaching retirement age – only to find out that they had to wait five years until they could receive NZ Super because they had not spent five of the ten required years in New Zealand after age 50.

Just lately I was contacted by a Kiwi who left at age 50 but, due to the nature of his job, had to keep New Zealand as his tax residence, his family stayed here and he visited them regularly. During his absence he paid full NZ tax, like every other Kiwi who lives here – and still he wasn’t eligible for NZ Super because he was only a tax resident of New Zealand but not PRESENT. Of course, New Zealand’s IRD was happy to cash in his taxes which are used for paying other people’s NZ Super. This example has nothing to do with the Direct Deduction Policy but it is another proof of the rip-off mentality the New Zealand government is possessed by. The pension fiasco is a one-way street that leads straight to MSD’s bank accounts.


New Zealand is breaching the UN Compact for Migration

As you know, the New Zealand government has deceived the Human Rights Council of the United Nations when asked about the Direct Deduction Policy some years ago. (Background information in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpvhsFUJCM4)

Now the very active DDP victim Bob Newcombe has done valuable research into New Zealand also breaching the UN Compact for Migration which it signed in 2018. Objective 22 calls for mechanisms for the portability of earned benefits (which is employer/employee-funded overseas pensions) and social security entitlements. Portability in this context means that someone who has contributed to an overseas retirement scheme should receive the pension payments on top of social security entitlements like NZ Super which – at least in theory – everyone is entitled to after living in New Zealand for ten years.

Clearly New Zealand has not followed Objective 22. A review of each country's performance will take place every four years and one is due in 2022. Whilst the Compact is not legally binding, it is morally binding, and I wonder how long the rest of the world and the UN accept to be fooled by the New Zealand government.

Our government also breaches the EU - New Zealand Partnership Agreement on Relations and Cooperation in several parts (in particular Article 51, page 48, Employment and social affairs), without any consequences so far. And finally, New Zealand also breaches the UN Convention on Human Rights (UNCOHR). Many countries state in their constitutions that employer/employee-funded pensions are personal property, they can be used in divorce settlements etc and surely not be confiscated or taxed at a rate of 100% by a government of a country that calls itself democratic and the EU has a cooperation agreement with.

Here is the link to the Global Compact for Migration:
https://refugeesmigrants.un.org/sites/default/files/180713_agreed_outcome_global_compact_for_migration.pdf

Link to the Partnership Agreement with the EU: https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/11172/EU%20New%20Zealand%20Partnership%20Agreement%20on%20relations%20and%20Cooperation 


Post comments to two FYI requests to the PM and her Deputy

Bob Newcombe has requested answers from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on the FYI website. You can add annotations (comments) there in his support:

https://fyi.org.nz/request/12090-breaching-my-rights-under-the-united-nations-global-compact-for-migration

He has also posted an FYI request to Winston Peters, the master of broken promises. Here is the link, and you can also add comments to this post:

https://fyi.org.nz/request/12118-why-have-you-not-kept-your-promises-to-end-the-confiscation-of-overseas-bought-govt-pensions/new

These FYI requests are a good opportunity for everyone to catch these politicians’ attention. You can tell the Prime Minister and her Deputy what you think about their broken promises, and what you expect them to do BEFORE the Election on 19 September, so you could be inclined to vote for them.

As National’s leader Simon Bridges has made clear that he will not work with NZ First after the Election, it will be interesting to see if there is anything for pensioners in the plans of the current Government’s parties. The sad thing is that you can’t believe a word they say, as they have proven time and time again. 

And there is one major problem that you can see in many areas of daily life: our societies are not only full of egomaniacs but have also become ageist. Often pensioners are even vilified for receiving pensions they have worked for their whole lives, while the younger generation is less and less able to buy a home. But this situation is not your fault. Where would New Zealand be without people like you who have worked hard for decades?

Having a young Prime Minister doesn’t help, even if she celebrates kindness, wellbeing and this haha! giggle, giggle! positivity. Unfortunately it doesn’t help to have an old Deputy because he only cares about himself and people of his own kind. What should we see in a positive light? Should we celebrate that roads will be built in Northland to keep Winston Peters in the game while the discrimination of more than 100,000 pensioners continues?

Despite this uncertain outlook I wish you all a happy and good year, you just have to generate happiness and joy within yourself and your group of family and friends, and not expect the Government to do anything good for you. If they do, be pleasantly surprised!

Sissi



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