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10.07.2018

Positive Ageing, Elder Abuse and Winter Energy
The topics today:
Winter Energy Payment for the rich but not for all Section 70 victims
NZ First’s withdrawn Members’ Bill
SuperSeniors and Submissions on a Strategy for Positive Ageing
Social Security Rewrite Bill and Portability Bill
Negotiations on free trade deal with the EU
Notes on Spousal Provision/Deductions


Winter Energy Payment for the rich but not for all Section 70 victims

It is cold out there and not all of you receive government support to keep your houses warm. I speak of the Winter Energy Payment which – as opposed to the Government’s claim - not every pensioner in New Zealand receives. Those pensioners who do not receive NZ Super after the deduction of their overseas pensions don’t receive the heating supplement.

When I first heard of it in February, I thought it was a genuine mistake and unintentional, with officials not aware of the fact that there is a significant difference between the words “eligible” and “receive”. 

I immediately wrote to Carmel Sepuloni, the Minister for Social Development, and the party leaders of Labour, the Greens and NZ First, asking them to change the wording, so really every pensioner in this country would receive the Winter Energy Payment. But months later, just before the delayed start of the payment (which also saved the Government a lot of money), Ms Sepuloni answered, saying that the draft reflected the policy intent and that there were no plans to amend this shameful policy.

This means that millionaires and senior politicians can receive the heating supplement if they don’t opt out. But pensioners who are eligible for the supplement but don’t receive NZ Super after the deduction of their overseas pensions cannot receive it. This is another kick in the gut of Section 70 victims and adds insult to injury, as most people losing all or a big chunk of NZ Super would really need the money. 

And it is particularly appalling that NZ First leader Winston Peters, the world champion of broken promises, has chosen to not opt out of the scheme despite receiving more than NZ$ 330,000 a year as Deputy Prime Minister and several taxpayer-funded pensions. Don’t forget this if you have the choice if you vote for him respectively his party at the next general election or not. 

Bert Youngman, a Section 70 advocate I work with closely, has had a closer look into the policy and has come to the following conclusion:

“Studying the law just passed after April's budget convinces me there is nothing they've put in a statute that requires MSD to not pay the Winter Energy Payment to people who lose all their NZ Super through the Direct Deduction Policy. The mere fact that MSD calculate each month in marginal cases whether affected persons do or do not get any NZ Super that particular time evidences the person concerned is "receiving NZ Super" in a legal sense even in those months where the actual NZ Super payment comes out as zero.”

"Rather than following the law, MSD put their internal policy statements above the law, and struggling pensioners are put in the same category as those in prison or with warrants out for their arrest. See below the policy MSD Case Officers Policy Manual tells them to follow if you doubt it could be that bad.”


This is the wording of the policy which puts retirees who receive an overseas pension into the same category as criminals:

(Link: https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/map/income-support/extra-help/winter-energy-payment/qualifying-benefit-must-be-payable.html

Qualifying benefit must be payable 

Clients and their partners must be receiving payments of a qualifying benefit each week (for main benefits) or fortnightly (for New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension clients) to get paid Winter Energy Payment.

In any situation when a benefit is not being paid, the Winter Energy Payment will not be paid.

The types of situations where the Winter Energy Payment will not be paid include (but not limited to):
  • benefit fully reduced due to income (i.e. a means tested one) 
  • New Zealand Superannuation, Veteran’s Pension or other main benefit reduced to nil because of an overseas pension 
  • imprisonment 
  • warrant to arrest 
  • benefit is suspended for any other reason 
Note: New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran's Pension clients who have 100% special tax codes are entitled to receive the Winter Energy Payment.

Couples and individuals

It is also a joke that the Ministry of Social Development claims that they cannot pay the heating supplement to individuals if they are part of a couple. This means that MSD’s system is able to pay the half-married rate of NZ Super into a couple’s two individual accounts, but that it is not able to transfer half the heating supplement into the same couple’s individual accounts. 

Being only a software user myself, I wonder if the ministry’s IT experts are not overly competent or if we have to suspect malfeasance behind the move. Will soon flatmates (single sharing) be required to have a joint bank account and send an affidavit to MSD in which they have to declare that they are not a couple? (This BTW is a common question to singles sharing.)

More on the Winter Energy Payment on this new page:

http://www.nzpensionprotest.com/Home/the-law/winter-energy-payment

Keep on reminding our leading politicians of their promises and party policies on the Direct Deduction Policy, be it our on-parental-leave Prime Minister (http://www.nzpensionprotest.com/Home/letters-from-wellington/pm-jacinda-ardern), the Greens or NZ First. While Jacinda Ardern’s office at least has the decency to forward letters and emails to Carmel Sepuloni who has to run the Section 70 show, the latter have not even bothered to answer since the election. Perhaps it is time to sensitise your local National MPs to the issue, as well as other local MPs who do not know much about Section 70.

The withdrawn Members Bill

There was some hope that NZ First MP Fletcher Tabuteau’s Members Bill on Section 70 (to discontinue Section 70 and raise the residency requirement from 10 to 20 years) would be drawn from the Ballot. But after he withdrew it in April for unknown reasons. I have tried to get an answer but Fletcher Tabuteau obviously only answers calls from the comedy show “7 Days”, and his party colleagues refuse to be drawn into the issue. 

Tracey Martin wrote: “You are asking for comment on a member’s bill that has been withdrawn from the ballot. As Minister of Seniors I have no responsibility for Members Bills and so I suggest you refer your inquiry to the member under whose name the bill was lodged, Parliamentary Under-Secretary Fletcher Tabuteau.” As said, no reply from there.

One Section 70 Fighter has sent me a NZ First email from February 2015, saying: “If NZ First got enough votes in the general election 2014 to be part of the coalition Government, NZ First would have negotiated for Section 70 to be reviewed in parliament. This is how democracy works.”

In March 2018 – when in government – Winston Peters wrote to NZ Pension Protest:

“Over the past 10 years, New Zealand First has drafted and submitted Members’ bills proposing to abolish Section 70. New Zealand First will continue to work with our parliamentary colleagues and officials in this area to get the best outcome for those superannuitants Section 70 affects. We cannot comment further until this work is complete.

In the interim, New Zealand First has re-submitted the NZ Superannuation and Retirement Income (Fair Residency) Amendment Bill to the Members’ bill ballot. If this bill is drawn from the ballot, it will present an opportunity to debate Section 70 in Parliament.”

As you know, the Members Bill was withdrawn. We are waiting for new ideas and good news.

SuperSeniors and Submissions

Some of you regularly send me the SuperSeniors newsletters every pensioner receives from the Office for Seniors. Pensioners are asked for their opinions on a Strategy for Positive Ageing. Funnily enough the link does not work. If you are interested or want to make a submission (until 24 August), use these links:

http://superseniors.msd.govt.nz/

http://superseniors.msd.govt.nz/about-superseniors/ageing-population/index.html

http://superseniors.msd.govt.nz/about-superseniors/ageing-population/submissions/have-your-say.html

or use this address for emailing your submission:

ageing_population@msd.govt.nz

On SuperSeniors you can also read about Elder Abuse, and that this is not ok. But there seems to be no awareness anywhere in this Office that Section 70 constitutes elder abuse, as is the treatment of many of you by officials of MSD and some case workers at WINZ offices. 

There also seems to be a strange disconnect between the Ministry of Social Development and the Minister for Seniors, Tracey Martin, respectively the Office for Seniors (https://www.govt.nz/organisations/office-for-seniors/). While the Seniors’ website says that the office promotes the wellbeing of older people and creates awareness of the opportunities and challenges of New Zealand’s ageing population, no thought seems to be given to the wellbeing of more than 90,000 seniors affected by Section 70 and the dire consequences.

To top it all off, one of the very active pensioners who provides me with a lot of correspondence with the various ministries and organisations, made a submission to the SuperSeniors Minister Tracey Martin, only to be told in a response: “The matters raised fall within the portfolio responsibilities of the Minister of Social Development. I have therefore referred your email to the Hon Carmel Sepuloni for her information.”

Social Security Rewrite Bill and Portability Bill

Bert Youngman, not only a Section 70 victim but also a very competent policy critic, has had the opportunity to raise awareness of the many inconsistencies of Section 70 and Portability when he made an oral submission on Portability with the three Realm states (Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau) in front of the Select Committee. 

He has also thoroughly studied the Social Security Rewrite Bill. His conclusion is, as suggested here for a long time, that the Rewrite Bill is a rewrite and not an opportunity to implement changes to Section 70 (which will be listed under a new number). 

This can only happen once the Rewrite Bill has passed Parliament. But there National is trying hard to stall the process. Two years after making submissions in the hope that changes could already be made in the Rewrite Bill, there is still no end in sight.

Carmel Sepuloni has confirmed in Parliament and also in letters to pensioners that the Rewrite Bill is “a policy-neutral rewrite of the existing legislation” and that therefore “it is not appropriate to consider addressing any issues with section 70”. She said policy changes would not occur as part of the rewrite. 

She also made clear that the Government doesn’t agree with every policy in the Social Security Act “but during a policy-neutral rewrite, that is not the time to try and make those changes”. Changes might be considered in the welfare overhaul. Which ones, is everyone’s guess, as Sepuloni declined to pre-empt what the welfare overhaul changes will be.

Obviously the Minister is confident that a discussion on Section 70 can start by the end of the year, and – as those of you who have written to her already know – she has MSD officials look “at certain aspects of Section 70”. In addition, she trusts ALL her officials, including those who have misrepresented the facts of New Zealand’s pension policies to the UN.

https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/bills-proposed-laws/document/00DBHOH_BILL68669_1/social-security-legislation-rewrite-bill

However, we are looking forward to a genuine political discussion about the unfair aspects of Section 70. Carmel Sepuloni is cautious with her choice of words but still raising the hopes of tens of thousands of pensioners who are affected by this outdated, 80-year old, legislation, just like our tireless Section 70 fighter Marie Brophy. 

In the latest NZ Herald article on the topic she gives a chilling account into the depressing effects of the New Zealand government’s abuse of foreign retirement schemes. How can anyone genuinely recommend any potential migrant to move to New Zealand if pensioners fall into poverty and have to beg for food and accommodation supplements after more than 40 years of hard work in New Zealand, just because they have also worked overseas and paid their dues there? 

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?objectid=12073563&ref=twitter

Negotiations on free trade deal with the EU

Some of you might have noticed that the EU has started negotiations with the New Zealand government on a free trade agreement. We had hoped that the EU would put pressure on New Zealand as this Government is abusing compulsory overseas retirement schemes to fund NZ Super. 

But first of all, the EU seems only interested in trade and not in justice, fairness and the fate of individuals, and despite Brussels reigning into the fortunes of each Member State, social security including pension issues still are in the responsibility of each Member State. This means that each country needs to negotiate on pension issues directly with New Zealand while the EU negotiates trade deals.

The trade talks were officially launched in Wellington on 21 June. EU Commissioner Cecelia Malmström gave an interview to Radio New Zealand:

https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/2018650264/eu-trade-talks-formally-launched-in-wellington

The EU have been warned, so one might think they cannot be in their right mind to reward New Zealand with NZ$ 2 billion annual gains for abusing their Member States’ pension schemes, while the EU gains very little from it. Probably they just don’t care as the legalised pension theft doesn’t hit them in their own pockets but only a few people in the twilight of their years.

If you want to voice your concerns, you can write to Cecilia Malmström:

cecilia-malmstrom-contact@ec.europa.eu

Warning the Croatian government

Is anyone out there who can warn the Croation government about Section 70 before they sign a Social Security Agreement with New Zealand? I have informed the embassy in Canberra and the consulate in Auckland and asked them to get in touch with their government.

https://www.orbitax.com/news/archive.php/Croatia-and-New-Zealand-to-Neg-26590

Keep on contacting the embassies, high commissions, consulates and governments of the countries you receive your overseas pensions from, and protest against the New Zealand government ripping you off in the past, present and future.

Our website is not just for pensioners who have already fallen into the trap. It is there to help potential migrants to make informed decisions if they really want to move to New Zealand under these circumstances. 

Every now and then I receive emails from New Zealand residents who have warned others of the pension situation and kept them from coming to our shores. People need to understand that a country that looks beautiful on the surface is not paradise.

Notes on Spousal Provision

I receive emails from people trying to avoid the Spousal Provision/Deduction trap on a regular base. Although I say the best thing to do is to not fall in love with a person who (will) receive(s) an overseas pension, I know that love doesn’t follow rules and advice. But you can minimise the punishment. Best is to start reading this page:

http://www.nzpensionprotest.com/Home/tips-tricks-the-truth

Just some clarifications:
  • Only people who are in a genuine relationship (married, de facto, same-sex) can be hit by the spousal deduction. It does not play a role if you have sex with each other, as plenty of married couples stop having sex but are still in love and enjoy living together. 

  • There is no urgent need to divorce if your marriage is over and you keep on living together as flatmates for financial reasons. You should just declare in time, best in writing with a lawyer, that you are not a couple anymore. 

  • A fake divorce is not the way to avoid the spousal deduction if you are happy together. 

  • If you come together late in life, don’t move in together if you can afford to have two houses/flats. (Also consider the NZ Property Relationships Act, seeing you lose 50% of your home and assets after living together for three years if you have not signed a prenuptial agreement. More information at the bottom of this page: http://www.dontmovetonewzealand.com). 

  • As per legal definition, a friend is not a partner but an acquaintance. If the other person is just a friend, there is always an affix in front of the word “partner”, e.g. tennis partner, business partner etc. If you play tennis with your partner, the other person still is your partner 😉 

  • If you sponsor a person to come into New Zealand under the partnership category, the other person must be a partner as defined at the top of this list. You cannot sponsor a friend under the partnership category or you might get into trouble with Immigration NZ at some point. 

  • If you live together with a friend, you are not part of a couple but flatmates. You will both receive the single sharing rate of NZ Super if you have both fulfilled the residency requirements, direct deductions of any overseas pensions will be applied to the individuals only. 

  • I am still hopeful that the Spousal Provision will be discontinued in the not too far future and before the Human Rights Review Tribunal (HRRT) makes a decision on the court case in Wellington earlier this year, and no tricks are needed to not be punished for falling in love with the “wrong” person. 

More personal stories of the brave people who challenged MSD at the HRRT can be found in the Victims section of the NZ Pension Protest website: http://www.nzpensionprotest.com/Home/the-victims/a-much-diminished-man and http://www.nzpensionprotest.com/Home/the-victims/losing-independence , and if you speak German: http://www.nzpensionprotest.com/deutsch/ein-fallbeispiel

A Swiss page has been added, with one story so far: http://www.nzpensionprotest.com/schweizer-in-nz

I am still looking for a volunteer who can describe the Swiss pension (AHV) situation for this website in German. I cannot do everything on my own.

Hoping that not too many of you are left out in the cold.

Best regards ...



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