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13.07.2020

Make a submission to the Select Committee
Two important issues on New Zealand superannuation legislation. The second one requires your action.

But first: The much anticipated New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension Legislation Amendment Bill – which includes the suggested end of the Spousal Provision - has passed its Second Reading in Parliament on 24 June. On 30 June it reached the “Committee of the whole House” stage. 

If you wonder what this means, it is just a blown-up expression for about the same thing! The definition according to the Parliamentary website: “After a bill has passed its second reading, the House forms itself into a committee for the next stage of the bill's consideration. This committee is called the 'Committee of the whole House'. All members of Parliament belong to this committee.”

This next stage is the Third Reading. Only after this the bill can receive the Royal Assent and become law. I have asked Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni for a timeframe but, as usual, her office has not been forthcoming with an answer and a date for the third reading. 

But I have heard from other communication that the Third Reading might take place within the next three weeks and that we can still be hopeful that the Spousal Provision will be abolished on 9 November 2020, after a delay of more than four months and particular hardship to those who have missed out on the Winter Energy Payment (WEP) due to the delay. There is even talk about backdating the pensions to 1 July, perhaps even the WEP, as no-one should be financially disadvantaged due to COVID-19. Fingers crossed!

Here you can check the progress of the Bill, debates etc:

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


Make submissions on the Fair Residency Bill

The second topic is the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement (Fair) Residency Amendment Bill: https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/bills-proposed-laws/document/BILL_80767/new-zealand-superannuation-and-retirement-income-fair

It had its First Reading on 1 July and now submissions to the Select Committee (Finance and Expenditure) are being accepted. You have time until after the General Election (19 September) but I would make it as soon as possible, so you don’t forget about it.

When I got information that the submission process had opened last Friday, it said you would have 33 days to make a submission. But the latest information on the website is different. It says that “the closing date for submissions will be determined by a later date”. And: “It is likely that the committee will set a closing date when Parliament sits again after the election. That closing date may be quite soon – a week or two – after it is set by the committee.” 

It surely makes sense to wait until after the Election, as no-one knows who will be voted in and out of Parliament, and who will become a member of the Select Committee. The date set for the Select Committee to report back to Parliament is 1 January 2021. It would be a remarkable thing if NZ First weren’t represented in Parliament anymore when their bill will be discussed in Select Committee and then in Parliament. Others will make it despite not having deserved our votes.

Raising the residency requirement: So far a very lazy piece of legislative work

The Fair Residency Bill is, as National MP Paul Goldsmith rightly said in the parliamentary debate, a “very lazy piece of legislative work” by NZ First member Mark Patterson. It seriously is only one A4 page long and suggests nothing else but to raise the residency requirement for NZ Super from 10 to 20 years, and it also suggests to implement it with immediate effect.

This means that people who have lived in New Zealand for 19 years when they turn 65 next year, would not receive a cent of NZ Super, and they would learn about it today and miss out on NZ Super tomorrow. This, of course, is totally unacceptable and should find mention in your submission.

Best you read the Hansard transcript of the debate to get some ideas for your submissions. I have written to a few of the MPs who had something to say in the debate. It was particularly obvious that Paul Goldsmith was about the only one who applied common sense. 

Most others, like Labour MP Jamie Strange, had no idea that NZ Super is not as universal as he and in fact most of New Zealanders think, and that NZ First is the most unreliable partner of pensioners ever. Just remember that two years ago they (Fletcher Tabuteau) tabled a Bill which would have raised the residency requirement to 20 years and in return abolished the Direct Deduction Policy (Sections 187-191 of the Social Security Act; formerly Section 70). It was later withdrawn without explanation.

Some suggestions for those who don't know what to write in a submission:

  • Raising the residency requirement to 20 years needs to be coupled with the amendment of other policies, the most urgent one for us, of course, the Direct Deduction Policy.

  • Such a law amendment needs to be phased in and cannot abruptly start from one day to the next.

  • Make clear that NZ Super is NOT available to everyone who has lived in New Zealand for 10 years and not if they have lived her for 20 years if the Direct Deduction Policy is not abolished or dramatically altered. Just changing the residency requirement would still leave pensioners without or dramatically reduced NZ Super even after living in the country for 30 and more years if the deductions don’t stop. The number of pensioners missing out on NZ Super would increase dramatically.

  • If they keep the Direct Deduction Policy in place, it must be changed in a way that only overseas pensions similar to NZ Super (tier 1) are deducted from NZ Super, but not employer/employee-funded (tier 2) pensions. The nature of a pension must be the paramount criterium for the deductibility and not if a government or a private provider administers it.

  • People who have worked and contributed to compulsory schemes overseas have their overseas pensions deducted from NZ Super dollar for dollar, not reflecting the years spent here and there. Mark Patterson doesn’t say a word about this.

  • There is no fairness in this new Bill, on the opposite, it raises the unfairness and injustice to an even higher level because people who have been in NZ for e.g. 15 or 19 years might miss out on NZ Super completely. They will be rewarded for 15 or 19 years of contributions to the New Zealand economy, tax-base and society with zero NZ dollars of NZ Super while a lifelong beneficiary or someone who has spent most of his life in prison receives full NZ Super.

  • Remind the Committee of the promises and policies Labour, NZ First and the Greens had/have on the direct deductions. I can’t repeat it often enough: Read what Jacinda Ardern had to say on this topic in 2015 while in Opposition: http://www.nzpensionprotest.com/Home/letters-from-wellington/pm-jacinda-ardern. How can politicians be so forgetful?

  • To raise the residency requirement overnight means that the NZ government would accept that people who have contributed to the NZ economy and society over an extended period are not rewarded for their contributions at all.

  • Tell them how long you have been living in NZ, what you have done for this country, financially, tax-wise and socially, and that you still don’t receive (full) NZ Super and how this impoverishes you.

  • Discuss what would be the appropriate amount of time someone should have spent in New Zealand for being entitled to full NZ Super. You could even raise the requirement to 25 years and I still know pensioners who do not receive full NZ Super after 30 and 40 years in New Zealand due to the Direct Deduction Policy. Is this appropriate?

  • Suggest which changes should be made to the pension system.

My take is that the 2015 debate on paying proportional NZ Super to migrants and returning Kiwis was a step into the right direction, a step that was torpedoed by the National Party, Peter Dunne and David Seymour (who seeks re-election in Epsom). Due to their veto after a disgraceful debate in Parliament the proposal didn’t even go to Select Committee. There is an opportunity now to re-ignite this debate. 

My preferred option had always been proportional NZ Super for everyone, reflecting the years someone has lived in New Zealand. (Although there is no total fairness in this either because full NZ Super is paid to people who have barely ever worked and not contributed to society, and others who have worked for decades and paid huge amounts of tax all their lives would only receive proportional NZ Super.)

Going with the suggestion to raise the residency requirement, my suggestion would be to pay full NZ Super after 20 or 25 years – whatever is considered appropriate, and proportional NZ Super (or in increments of 25%, 50%) for people who have been here between 10 years and the amount of years that is considered appropriate for receiving full NZ Super, with a top-up option when someone receives a very low overseas pension. No-one should receive less than NZ Super after adding up the pensions. 

It is one of several options - and nothing will be perfect. The important thing is that this discussion takes place and a consent is found that is less anti-migrant, envy-laden and unfair to hard-working people.

The most important thing is that the pension discussion takes place

To pay full NZ Super after ten years is surely too generous. But not paying full NZ Super or any NZ Super at all to someone after 20 or 30 years is a state crime. I am not loyal to any political party, only to justice and fairness, and I judge policies on their merit and not on who has brought it in. I vote for any party that ends the Direct Deduction Policy in a fair manner and doesn’t treat people with overseas pensions as second-class citizens, double-dippers, bludgers and worse.

One pensioner has written to me that some countries only pay a pension after 25 years and that, in the face of globalisation and split-up work histories due to migration, it becomes increasingly impossible to receive a pension at all if New Zealand raises the residency requirement to 20 years. 

This is surely an exception but New Zealand cannot be held to account to make up for other countries’ failings. But this issue should also be addressed if someone would be affected in such a way by a raised residency requirement. One solution would be to introduce a minimum pension income. If no pension is available from overseas, the pensioner residing in New Zealand, should receive the minimum amount, just like in the current top-up regime, without income- and asset test, if he has been living here for however many years (10, 15, under 20).

And just a little note for those who will want to mention KiwiSaver:

Overseas pensions are similar to KiwiSaver but not identical. The difference is that KiwiSaver is not compulsory, paid out as a lump sum and has no government guarantee. This way it escapes the same treatment as overseas pensions. 

But to claim that there is no government involvement is blatantly wrong, given that the government has even made a kick-start payment in the early years, makes direct contributions every year, commits the employer to make contributions if the employee joins, and grants a tax credit. 

It is a government scheme that is managed by the private sector and not “by or on behalf of” an overseas government. (This is the trick to catch nearly all overseas pensions.) 

It is equally wrong to claim that KiwiSaver is not a retirement scheme. Even IRD (Inland Revenue Department), New Zealand’s tax authority, writes on their website that “KiwiSaver is a voluntary savings scheme to help set you up for your retirement”.



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