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07.12.2018

New numbers - Grey Power petition - NZ First bill
In this very long newsletter you find information on the following topics:

  1.  Government surplus doesn’t help pensioners
  2. New numbers for Section 70
  3. Grey Power petition on Spousal Provision/Deduction
  4. Is there a politician out there with a conscience?
  5. Indirect consequences of the Spousal Provision
  6. New NZ First Member’s Bill drawn from Ballot
  7. Pensioners leaving for a better future and better sleep
  8. A tireless battler on a mission
  9. UK government taking its own people to the cleaners
  10. The need to become visible and be heard

A lot of issues have arisen since our last newsletter in July. Barely anything has changed for the better for pensioners in New Zealand, they barely get mentioned by the new Government that has been in charge for just over a year. And absolute nothing has changed for those seniors who or whose partners receive overseas pensions.


1. Government surplus doesn’t help pensioners 

You have surely all read that the New Zealand government has made a surplus of NZ$ 5.5 billion in the past financial year. In early October it was reported that this amount exceeded the Budget predictions from back in May by NZ$ 2.4 billion. Tax take has gone up by NZ$ 4.6 billion on the year before. And you surely have wondered why none of the big capital gains will be spent on elderly people – who might not work anymore but still pay income tax and GST – and the end of the Direct Deduction Policy.

Justice is not in sight. The results of the Ministry of Social Development’s (MSD) review Minister Carmel Sepuloni had announced for “later in the year” has been postponed until February.

I have guesstimated the Government’s real savings on NZ Super by deducting the overseas pensions from NZ Super, as MSD statistics only list the individuals who do receive whichever amount of NZ Super, and if it is only a few dollars. All those who do not receive NZ Super due to their overseas pension being higher than the rate of NZ Super are not counted. This means these people would all receive the full amount of NZ Super. Therefore the savings could be 600, 700 or even 800 million or more.

The number of affected pensioners is also much higher than the 90,000 to 100,000 the Ministry lists. I know plenty of individuals who do not receive any NZ Super. I know that in 2015 only 40% of people with German pensions received unknown amounts of NZ Super, 60% missed out completely – and these pensioners are not counted in the MSD statistics. And it similar with many other countries.


2. New numbers for Section 70

On 26 November the Social Security Act 2018 came into effect after the re-write of the Social Security Act 1964. They claim that the Act is now written in plain English and easier to understand – but the facts have not changed. Section 70 was re-numbered into Sections 187 - 191, 434; S. 70A became 192 - 194; S. 70B became 195, 196. Other relevant Sections: 69G is now 173 - 176 and 69H is 177 - 180.

The wording of the new Social Security Act 2018 can be found here: http://legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2018/0032/latest/DLM6785173.html

The sections relevant for overseas pensions are listed under Part 1P and near the bottom of our page on the law: http://www.nzpensionprotest.com/Home/the-law

Read it as you like. We have not decided yet if it is necessary to change the numbers on the www.nzpensionprotest.com website. We can always call it the Direct Deduction Policy (DDP), and it remains legalised theft whatever the numbers are.


3. Grey Power petition against Spousal Provision

After long years of refusing to acknowledge that the Direct Deduction Policy is an issue, the Tauranga Grey Power Association have submitted a petition on behalf of the Grey Power Federation, demanding to repeal or abolish the Spousal Provision part of (the former) Section 70 of the Social Security Act.

While some people say petitions don’t change anything and others argue that only demanding the end of the Spousal Provision and not the Direct Deduction Policy in its entirety is unfair on all the others who suffer the deductions under the main part of ex-Section 70, I think that this petition could be the starting point for further action. Under the Spousal Provision individuals, mostly Kiwis who might have spent their whole lives in New Zealand, suffer deductions without even receiving an overseas pension. Therefore NZ Pension Protest supports this petition.

You can sign the petition online on the Parliamentary petition website until 19 January 2019:

https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/petitions/document/PET_82437/petition-of-jennifer-custins-repeal-spousal-deduction

What you can also do is print out a petition form – which I attach to this newsletter -, collect signatures and then send the lists to Grey Power in Tauranga. Doing it this way you can be sure that the people you ask really sign the petition. One of the Spousal Provision victims who had their case heard at the Human Rights Review Tribunal (HRRT) in Wellington in March presented the petition to the congregation at his church. You can do the same, take it to your clubs, friends and family and ask them to sign it and then post it to Grey Power Tauranga.

The address is: Tauranga & WBOP Grey Power Assn., Box 841, Tauranga 3144.

To get the petition running, at their last AGM in April 2018, the Grey Power Federation approved an internal remit put forward by the Tauranga section of the organisation. This reads as follows: “That Grey Power Federation lobby Government to abolish Sec 70 of the Social Security Act 1964 as it applies to Spousal Deduction. This section of the law adversely affects people receiving New Zealand Superannuation and/or the Veteran’s Pension. Since the AGM the Act has been revised, so this now applies to SS Act 2018.”

Grey Power’s decision to lobby against the Spousal Provision/Deduction is a kind of progress under their new president Mac Welch. However, we know that it has been a hard fight to get the petition through, as the original initiative of the Tauranga group was to lobby for the repeal of the law in its entirety. The spousal thing is the compromise between the passionate and the overly cautious fractions of the organisation. But well, as already said, it is a start and better than nothing.

Under their former president we condemned Grey Power for their ignorant and even hostile attitude. We know quite a few pensioners who were very unhappy about the organisation, and some even quit. We hope these sorry times are over now and each and every initiative or law is considered on its merit and not on envy and self-interest. We hope the organisation becomes braver over time and tackles the Direct Deduction Policy as a whole in the not too far future. Change within might happen faster if more people with an opinion on Section 70 joined Grey Power. Just a thought. 


4. Is there a politician out there with a conscience?

No-one in their right mind can say that it is fair to punish a New Zealander who has worked and paid taxes in New Zealand all his life for being in a relationship with someone who receives an overseas pension while lifelong dole bludgers and millionaires in a relationship with a New Zealander can receive full NZ Super. And still the Prime Minister forwards your letters and emails to the Minister. And still the Minister needs advice and a review from her officials. And still the Greens say nothing.

Another example how politics works was my letter to Golriz Ghahraman I wrote just the other day. You might know that this new Green MP has a background as a Human Rights lawyer, and she would be the perfect person to look into the Human Rights aspect of the Direct Deduction Policy in general and the Spousal Provision in particular. But – as “these important issues” of superannuation and senior citizens “fall into the portfolio responsibilities of Jan Logie, Green Party Spokesperson for Social Development and Senior Citizens”, she asked her office to forward my email to Jan Logie’s office for consideration. That’s how it works. Justice. Fairness. Politics.

At the same time NZ First is desperately trying to present themselves as the great friends of pensioners. And still we need to wait for a decision of the HRRT. And still the Prime Minister, being celebrated as the “anti Trump” after her debut speech to the United Nations General Assembly in late September, dares to say big words about keeping an eye on discrimination, of course elsewhere, because it obviously doesn’t exist in her own country.

In her speech Jacinda Ardern promoted kindness, implying that New Zealand is a social paradise – while at the same time allowing the discrimination of migrants and returning Kiwis to continue in her own country. Where is the kindness, fairness and openness when it comes to the Direct Deduction Policy and particularly the Spousal Provision which she labelled “totally unfair” and a “breach of Human Rights” in 2015? Where is the memory or at least the guilty conscience?


5. Indirect consequences of the Spousal Provision

It was terrible enough to listen to the evidence and hear about the agony of pensioners affected by the Spousal Provision at the HRRT hearing in March (http://www.nzpensionprotest.com/Home/the-fight/hrrt-hearing-march-2018). But there are other indirect consequences no-one thinks about, it’s not just about the stolen money, it is also about dignity. A New Zealander, married to an American woman, told me he could not hire a rental car because he had no credit card for the bond. His bank denied him a credit card because – after the deduction of his wife’s US Social Security pension – he receives no NZ Super and therefore has no income. He has savings and other assets but this doesn’t count as income, therefore no credit card, and you can be sure his wife is not impressed with needing to cover the entire cost of living for both of them with the money she has worked for before moving to New Zealand.

Others affected by the Spousal Provision say they are not a couple anymore but can’t afford to run two households on one pension, therefore they keep living together in the same house. If this is the case and you have become flatmates, inform WINZ about the new circumstances. You will then be re-classified from being a couple (“economic unit”) where the spousal deduction applies, to the single sharing rate, and you might both receive NZ Super. More tips for such cases here: http://www.nzpensionprotest.com/Home/tips-tricks-the-truth

The most important tip is, however, to not get into a relationship with a New Zealander if you receive or are to receive an overseas pension higher than the amount of NZ Super – or, if you are a New Zealander, with a person who receives a significant overseas pension.


6. New NZ First Member’s Bill drawn from Ballot

The incessant work of the self-declared pensioner lobby party, NZ First, reached another golden goal – we call it a dead rat – when, on 18 October, their MP Mark Mitchell's Member's Bill was drawn from the ballot. This bill was the indirect answer to the question why Fletcher Tabuteau's Member's Bill (raising the residency requirement to receive NZ Super to 20 years and abolishing Section 70) had been withdrawn in April.

The new bill suggests nothing else but raising the residency requirement from 10 to 20 years. No word about abolishing Section 70, no word about proportional pensions for those who have lived and worked in New Zealand more than 10 but less than 20 years. It is obvious that the new proposal is an anti-Chinese bill and has nothing to do with fairness towards others. What about a fair go for hard-working migrants who might have been here for 19 years and are not the (not working) parents of a couple of Chinese migrants? (This is the very transparent background of the bill.)

Working in New Zealand for 19 years and not receiving a cent of NZ Super is a waste of time and energy for the average migrant, as they cannot make a living in retirement with 19 lost years. Our only recommendation anyway, as long as Section 70 exists in its current form: Don't come to New Zealand if you don't want to be treated like a working volunteer!

If NZ First leader Winston Peters wants to keep Chinese parents from receiving NZ Super after ten years - which we fully support - there is a simple solution to it: amend the law and exclude people who have come into the country under the parent category after age 55 and have never worked in New Zealand from receiving NZ Super. How difficult is this?

More information on the bill here:

http://www.nzpensionprotest.com/Home/letters-from-wellington/from-new-zealand-first
(right column)


7. People leaving for a better future and better sleep

As just said, the best thing to do in retirement would be to leave New Zealand, as under the Portability rules you receive proportional NZ Super reflecting the years spent in New Zealand (1/540th for every month between age 20 and 65). This is a hard thing to do if you have your children, grandchildren and friends in New Zealand and don’t want to leave them behind.

But we have just come across another couple who have done just this. Having worked and paid taxes here for nearly 30 years, they have moved back to where they once came from. There they are not only financially better off because they can keep their overseas pensions and receive two thirds of NZ Super each. They also feel they can breathe again and relax. They were sick and tired of worrying about the future, spending sleepless nights due to the prospect of becoming a hardship case or working until they would drop dead. The minute they decided to leave New Zealand, they could sleep again.

Having said all this, don’t plan any such action without reading these pages and the included links first – and never tell any official about it before you don’t receive NZ Super:

http://www.nzpensionprotest.com/Home/the-law/portability
http://www.nzpensionprotest.com/Home/the-law/portability/the-pitfalls-of-portability


8. A tireless battler on a mission

Today I want to write a few words about Bob Newcombe. He is from the UK and came to New Zealand in 1970, became a NZ citizen in 1974 and has been living in Nelson, with the exception of a few years when he worked back in the UK. Bob Newcombe is a consistent battler on the pension issue on many fronts, and I admire his energy and dedication. I do not always agree with him on everything but this doesn’t matter. While I sometimes criticise his temper because this can be counter-productive, I can only praise him for not being afraid of authorities and personalities. 

At the NZ First meeting in Nelson in early November he stood up to the new party president, told them – by stating the facts – that they were liars and that he would never vote for them again. He is only one of many pensioners who have finally understood that NZ First are elderly folks’ best friends before general elections only, and after elections the promises disappear into thin air.

Bob Newcombe organised the complaint to the United Nations in 2015, and he is the one who has revealed that MSD is lying through their teeth regarding the non-deduction of Chinese pensions from NZ Super. Submitting an official Chinese Ministry of Finance document on the history of the Chinese state pensions, he has proven that Chinese pensions have been state-administered for a much longer time than MSD pretends to justify the exception from the (unfair) rule until 2022. In fact, Chinese pensions have not only been state-administered since 1951 (and not only since 1997, as MSD claims) but also in some regions government-funded rather than social insurance-funded like most European, American, Canadian etc. pensions.

Whilst MSD tries to defend its Chinese dates, it cannot hide the fact that the Chinese state pensions have been funded by employer/employee social insurance contributions for decades, exactly like those from other countries that are being snatched by Section 70. That in itself - treating similar pensions from different countries in different ways – is discrimination. See here: http://www.nzpensionprotest.com/Home/the-law/lucky-chinese


9. UK government taking its own people to the cleaners

Bob Newcombe’s complaint against the Ministry of Social Development regarding the preferential treatment of Chinese has been dismissed by the Human Rights Commission (HRC), as their process is “impartial dispute resolution”, as they say. But the Registrar of the European Court of Human Rights has accepted his case against the British government because Article 15 of the NZ/UK Social Security Agreement 1985 gives New Zealand the right to means-test UK state pensions against NZ Super ( = Section 70). The victims of Section 70 are the only group in New Zealand to be means-tested for NZ Super while the super-rich receive the full amount despite billions of dollars in assets and millions in income.

Just to clarify what this means: not only New Zealand discriminates against retirees with overseas pensions – the UK government has taken its own people and everyone who has ever worked in the UK and now lives in New Zealand, to the cleaners. With the quoted Article 15 of the agreement they have allowed the New Zealand government to steal UK pensions. More than 65,000 individuals have been impoverished this way. Only people who have lived in New Zealand on 1 January 1970 are not affected by this bi-national pact of legalised discrimination.

You find Article 15 in the agreement, here is the link:

http://www.legislation.govt.nz/regulation/public/1990/0085/latest/whole.html#DLM137729

Not many UK pensioners might know Article 15 and will be surprised to learn that the UK government is complicit in the application of the Direct Deduction Policy in New Zealand, while other governments condemn the policy and are trying to end this travesty of justice. But so far, as we all know, New Zealand is refusing any negotiations on the topic.


10. The need to become visible and be heard

The above mentioned pensioner’s efforts can only be praised, as far too many robbed and fobbed-off pensioners have given up. Some are disheartened by the useless processes, others are depressed and suffering ill-health, and most have run out of steam. A small minority thinks that being robbed of their overseas pensions is the price for the privilege of living in New Zealand. Sorry, this attitude is ok when you choose to live in North Korea. But being robbed of your retirement income from a previous life is not acceptable in this self-declared paradise and fair country of ours.

Most fights of the disheartened have been fought behind closed doors, in hearings and court rooms, countless letters and emails written in the privacy of your homes. No-one out there will ever know what is going on in New Zealand as long as they, their friends or family members are not affected by the Direct Deduction Policy. MSD, the CEO, their lawyers and Mandarins can bully you and fob you off, MPs can forward your correspondence to other ministers or spokespersons whose replies are written by the same MSD officials, or you never receive an answer.

Most MPs feel sorry for you but no-one dares to do anything about it. That’s what former MP Sir Roger Douglas told me nearly ten years ago, he called the topic a hot potato no-one dares to touch, and not much has changed. Jacinda Ardern was only brave enough when she was in Opposition, other Labour members like Annette King and Ruth Dyson – who had been complicit while in government before – also spoke out against it while in Opposition. Winston Peters always did while in Opposition or not even in Parliament. But the big majority of them are mum at any time because they think it is not such a great idea to tell their leaders to spend more money on pensioners while the Government is trying to save money and/or spend it on other – important and not so important – issues.

That’s why we have to stop being silent. We need to become visible and be heard. We need to become a movement and e.g. stage protests in front of Parliament and WINZ offices. This requires the creation of regional centres, so we are ready to make our voices heard before the next election when politicians promise everything you want to hear. We need to become a lobby group and not lobbying individuals. We do not need to agree on all details but we surely agree that this rip-off of people with employer/employee-funded overseas pensions has to stop. And, as mentioned further up, you can become voices in other already existing organisations.

With this I wish you all a Merry Christmas, despite the discrimination not stopping for the Holiday Season, and a happy, healthy New Year with hopefully some progress on the pension front.



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