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04.06.2020

Unacceptable Delay to Law Changes
On Tuesday (2 June) my friend Jan spotted a new post on NZ First’s website. And believe it or not: Winston Peters, the party’s leader and Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, has re-discovered his love for pensioners. Yes, you guess right, it is election year, September is near.

It was bad news, and by expressing his disappointment about an unacceptable move by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and its Minister Carmel Sepuloni, he surely counted on collecting brownie points among the folk he has abandoned since becoming part of our coalition government under Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The latter is the politician who has abandoned the pensioners since her impressive fight for the end of the Direct Deduction Policy and the Spousal Provision while still in Opposition in 2015.

So Winston Peters – or whoever wrote it – wrote on 2 June 2020:

New Zealand First is disappointed that the removal of the spousal deductions has had to be delayed by the Ministry for Social Development, due to COVID19 workload pressures.

“New Zealand First has always stood for fairness when it comes to superannuation so we are very committed to removing what we consider an unfair deduction from New Zealanders who happen to have partners with an overseas pension,” said Rt Hon Winston Peters, Leader of New Zealand First.

The government had committed to removing the ‘spousal deduction’ from 1 July 2020, but the introduction of a supplementary order paper in the House today has delayed the removal until 9 November 2020. The spousal deduction means that any New Zealand superannuitant with a partner receiving an overseas pension will automatically have that rate of overseas pension deducted from their own pension.


So far, so bad. But I am not surprised at all.

I am not surprised because I had long thought that exactly this would happen and that the Covid-19 crisis would be a good excuse for it. I had told pensioners that they should wait with their celebrations until the law would have passed Parliament, and this just has not happened yet.

Other experts on pension issues have contacted the Ministry several times and have not received an answer. I contacted the Minister two weeks ago after finding out that the Second Reading of the bill was on the backburner (number 15 on the list of Orders when I asked) and that it could take several weeks until getting to the top of the list. The only answer I have received was from Ms Sepuloni’s office, saying that my request would be passed on for her consideration and response “in due course”.

Now we know why everything went so quiet. Because Minister Sepuloni sneakily introduced a Special Order Paper, SOP No 508.

http://legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2019/0182/latest/versions.aspx 
(click on download link on the right to see the details)

In this SOP you will see that the commencement dates for the legislation have been changed from 1 July to 9 November 2020.

Some might say: what’s another four months after waiting and fighting all these years?

I say it is close to scandalous as this law change has been published on the MSD and WINZ websites – then also quietly uploaded and not publicly announced – in early June 2019. The legislation bill went through the entire lengthy process, starting with the introduction at Parliament on 14 October 2019, then Select Committee and public submissions, and the Social Services and Community Committee reported back to the House on 24 March 2020. Then nothing at all.

Pushing other laws through under urgency

In the meantime the Government has pushed laws through the House under urgency, laws that had the process shortened and had nothing to do with Covid-19 where urgency was adequate. David Seymour (ACT) was the loudest critic of this questionable government style. Has he said anything about the delayed introduction of the superannuation bill? I have not seen anything despite checking his posts on Twitter.

We surely have to accept that MSD has had a heavy workload lately and still has. But they had time since June 2019 to prepare for the long-announced changes. You could have the expectation that e.g. a list of the 400 or 500 couples affected by the enduring injustice of Spousal Provision would have been prepared long before the Corona virus changed the world. But no! And now they were surprised that 1 July is near and the legislation amendment bill hasn’t passed Parliament yet. 

It is a mockery of pensioners, the final evidence that this Government doesn’t care about older people at all despite Winston Peters being of advanced age himself. He hasn’t said a word about Sections 187 – 191 (formerly Section 70) until now when it’s time to position himself for the election campaign and catch the votes of the disenfranchised and lobbyless oldies. NZ First have even removed their overseas pension policy from their website. Instead we have heard a lot about supporting the horse racing industry.

A double zero Winter Energy Payment

Another abysmal failure of the Government, Minister Sepuloni and her advisors at MSD is the unfairness about the Winter Energy Payment (WEP). As you might know (if you are affected), only pensioners who RECEIVE some dollars of NZ Super can receive the WEP. With this wording they rip off pensioners who are already ripped off by the deduction of their overseas pensions: these pensioners are ENTITLED to NZ Super but do not RECEIVE it when their overseas pension is a few dollars higher than NZ Super.

But with pride in her voice Minister Sepuloni announced during the lockdown how she would make life easier for beneficiaries and pensioners (who should not be named beneficiaries even by New Zealand standards, as for the huge majority of them, except those affected by the deductions, NZ Super is not means-tested like real social welfare benefits): She announced that the Government would double the amount of WEP. For pensioners like Jim, John and Mary this means that they will receive zero dollars of WEP twice! Or in numbers: 2 x 0 = 0. On the other hand, millionaires receive the double amount of WEP as they will surely need it to heat their mansions. This is how migrants and returning Kiwis are treated in our fair country of New Zealand.

Ideas about changes to NZ Super

With the General Election getting closer, a few pension topics have come up in the media lately. One was about the ideas of how and if to change NZ Super:

https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/121653487/pension-plans-politicians-and-policy-wonks-propose-changes-to-nz-super

These policies include suggestions to raise the residency requirement from the current ten to 20 or even 25 years. What the article doesn’t say is that e.g. the New Conservative who are well and truly not everyone’s first choice due to their views on other topics have drawn up a policy that sees the Direct Deduction Policy abolished and proportional NZ Super paid to those who have not been in the country long enough.

New Conservative committed to ending the deductions

This has happened thanks to persistent lobbying by pensioner Jim Wolfson who is one of those who RECEIVE the 2 x 0 = 0 Winter Energy Payment celebrated by a government that preaches to be kind. Their policy might still not be fit for everyone because of other countries’ regulations and exemptions but in general it addresses the issues quite well – no wonder when lobbied by someone who is robbed of everything for the privilege of living in New Zealand.

This is the policy (which can be found on https://www.newconservative.org.nz/superannuation-policy): 

"New Conservative will extend the qualifying time for immigrants to receive the pension from the current 10 years to 25 years residence, with a graduated payment system commencing after 10 years starting at 50% of full pension, increasing to 100% after 25 years. Citizens returning home for retirement will qualify for full pension after completing a total of 25 years of living in New Zealand including childhood, with a graduated payment like immigrants for those domiciled for less than 25 years.

For those who have been living here for less than 10 years and are expecting full pension under the current system after 10 years, there will be delayed implementation for five years. Therefore, anyone who has been in New Zealand for more than five years from the date of this change will not be affected by it, but those living here for less than five years will be subject fully to the changes.

New Conservative will remove Sections 187 - 191 Social Security Act 2018 (formerly Section 70, Social Security Act 1964). Those coming or returning to New Zealand for retirement will retain the full amount of any overseas pension payments, plus New Zealand pension payments as and when they qualify as above.

There will be no compensation for those who have been previously affected by sections 70 or 187 - 191 of the Social Security Act, but they will join the graduated system of payment from the time of the law change as per their years of residence.“


Another newsletter in the next few days

There will be another newsletter with important information shortly. I could just not wait any longer sending out the above news after receiving the information of the delayed introduction of the New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension Legislation Amendment Bill and this slap in the face of pensioners affected by the Spousal Provision.

You can expect information on these topics:
  • Video/audio in which Finance Minister Grant Robertson (then in Opposition) announced that they ( = Labour) had to ensure that those who have earned a pension overseas would “have a way of benefitting of it in New Zealand”.

  • How to have a “debt” wiped by MSD – if you can prove that MSD has made a significant mistake which led to this “debt”.

  • Winston Peters’ appeal in his million-dollar lost court case about the leaked details of his superannuation overpayment.

I hope you have all come well through the pandemic and that you can keep warm in winter, even with 2 x 0 = 0 WEP.




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