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26.05.2021

Dear current and future pensioners,

This is my first newsletter of the year. Although quite a lot of things have happened, we still have to live with the Direct Deduction Policy that is impoverishing more than 100,000 current and scores of future migrants and returning Kiwis in New Zealand.

While I have noticed that some MPs are starting to understand the injustice of Sections 187 – 191 (formerly: Section 70) of the Social Security Act, I have also experienced first-hand that the spin the Government has been putting on this policy for decades is still working well.

Just the other day I was at a gathering of German immigrants, and those who have been living in New Zealand since their early twenties and do or will not receive a work-related German pension have shown clear signs that they have been successfully brainwashed by the Government. They talk like WINZ and MSD workers, asking: “Why should anyone have two pensions?” And they say: “It is fair because everyone has the same amount of pension money.” Really?!

They do not understand that there is a huge difference between a tax-funded state pension like NZ Super that – unfortunately only in theory - is paid to everyone over 65 and an employer/employee-funded overseas pension, as the latter is only received by those who have paid into the insurance scheme. I had thought this was easy to understand.

The discussion was quite hopeless. I felt like talking to seven-year olds at primary school. They only got slight doubts about the NZ Super regime when I pointed out that the law says that everyone who has lived in New Zealand for ten years is entitled to NZ Super. 

So how could it be that many people who have been here for 20, 30 or even a full working life of 45 years do not receive any or full NZ Super, while other migrants who have never worked here and lived in New Zealand for 10 years only received full NZ Super because their overseas pensions were not deducted for dubious reasons or administrational technicalities? Whatever I said, their reaction always was: “What’s the problem when everyone has the same amount?”

“Ok”, I said, “the first thing I’ll do when I am Prime Minister of New Zealand, I’ll deduct your KiwiSaver from NZ Super, and I’ll deduct your rental income from NZ Super as well because you could buy these properties because you didn’t have to pay huge amounts into a compulsory retirement scheme. And just let me know why it is ok that you expect me to pay for your NZ Super with my taxes but that you find it unfair to pay for my NZ Super when it’s my turn to retire after 20 years in New Zealand.”

New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income (Fair Residency) Amendment Bill

Of course, they were aggrieved that someone can receive NZ Super after 10 years in the country, that’s why they fully support the Fair Residency Amendment Bill which aims to raise the residency requirement to 20 years. The Select Committee for Finance and Expenditure has just presented its findings and ideas on this issue to Parliament.

The most important outcome is that the Select Committee has followed the request of about all submitters that such a change should be phased in and not happen overnight. However, the Select Committee suggests to start the process immediately and do it over a period of 10 years.

You can find the final report here:

https://www.parliament.nz/resource/en-NZ/SCR_111101/2fb8d9a85867514bbaa8679d3d8829c2bfbb7fd3

This is the suggested schedule for the introduction of the 20-year residency requirement:

Age as at 30 June 2021 - Residence requirement (after age 20)

64 and over                        10 years
62-63                                 11 years
60-61                                 12 years
58-59                                 13 years
56-57                                 14 years
54-55                                 15 years
52-53                                 16 years
50-51                                 17 years
48-49                                 18 years
46-47                                 19 years
45 and under                       20 years


Criticism by the Retirement Commissioner

Interestingly enough, the Retirement Commissioner, Jane Wrightson, finds the immediate implementation unfair. In an article on the Commission’s website she said that the bill should be improved to allow people to plan. The immediate changes would affect people aged 63 on 30 June this year. “This does not give older people time to make alternative financial plans”, she said. “Any changes to New Zealand’s retirement income system need a long lead time to enable people to adjust their financial pathway. […] Ideally the changes would not take effect for another 10 years to enable people to plan. If older New Zealanders cannot access NZ Super as soon as two years from now, what are their alternatives? […] [If they were working they might be able to stay in employment for longer] but we know that older workers experience difficulties in the labour market, including longer periods of unemployment and age discrimination.”

Wrightson also said: “We do think there is potential for hardship, within such a tight transitional timeframe, because this change would be unexpected. […] Stability, trust and confidence are not created by changes that impact people in two years’ time.”

Here you find the full article:

https://cffc.govt.nz/news-and-media/news/retirement-commissioner-urges-caution-on-super-residency-bill/


Select Committee blanking out the Direct Deduction Policy

Like others I had made a submission to the Select Committee and also had the opportunity to make an oral presentation via video link. My main points were 1. phasing in (grandfathering) of the change and 2. to discontinue the deduction of overseas pensions, as keeping this policy in place would disadvantage affected pensioners even more than under the 10-year residency rule. In fact, the only aim of raising the requirement is to rip-off even more migrants and returning Kiwis and make more savings on the spiralling cost of NZ Super. 

The administration cost of the policy is nothing compared to the savings: Even if 150 employees are needed to monitor the policy and each of them has an income of NZ$ 100,000, the cost is only NZ$ 15 million, compared to denied NZ Super payments of more than half a billion. And with a 20-year residency requirement the savings might double.

Well, the Select Committee listened to many of us and even discussed a few points of the Direct Deduction Policy. But they did not seize the opportunity to overhaul the treatment of overseas pensions at all. And believe me, apart from the hundreds of Chinese submissions, there were many submitters who urged the Select Committee to think about the deduction regime and include it in their recommendations. Susan St John from the Retirement Policy and Research Centre (RPRC) of the University of Auckland made a brilliant oral submission – surely better and cooler than I did with my passionate plea.

It was hugely disappointing that the Select Committee blanked out the overseas pension issue completely in their final report. While I had no hope that they would make any recommendation to abolish the policy by widening the scope of the bill, I had at least expected that they would have reported the big number of voices for such a change to Parliament. But not a word. Their reports reads as if no-one had even mentioned the Direct Deduction Policy and the need to abolish it under a new residency requirement.

Committee chairman Duncan Webb had made clear from the beginning that there was no chance of our requests being included in the bill, as they were separate laws. But it would have been a positive step and fair to recommend a discussion on the issue. But nothing. This just shows with which disregard and contempt hard-working migrants are treated in this country.


Good and fair reporting by the Fairfax media

The only positive outcome was the re-ignited reporting by the Fairfax media (The Press, Dominion Post etc) on the overseas pension issue during the Select Committee process. I was interviewed several times.

Here are the links to the articles of the past few months:

https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/125023770/migrants-face-20year-wait-for-pension

https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/124570793/migrants-protest-at-450m-of-deductions-from-their-nz-super-payments

https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/124197055/pensioner-loses-70000-from-nz-super-payments-as-overseas-deduction-policy-once-again-raised-in-parliament


Publication of deductible and non-deductible overseas pensions

Thanks to separate requests under the Official Information Act (OIA) by Rob Stock (Fairfax) and by me, the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has released the lists of deductible and non-deductible overseas pensions. These lists make clear how arbitrary the deductions are.

You will also see spelling mistakes in the names of overseas pensions throughout the lists. It is just awful. If this is the way MSD works, you can only conclude that the lists are put together haphazardly. Some overseas pensions that should not be deducted under the law are deducted, others that should be deducted are not, it seems that it just depends on who investigates on the day.

For example, there are a lot of civil servants’ pensions that are not deducted but – as seen in a Social Security Appeal Authority’s decision – a French civil servant’s French pension is deducted with the explanation that he would have received a French contributory pension if he had not worked as a civil servant but as a “normal” employee in a different job! Totally crazy! And this crazy justification would apply to almost all civil servants’ pensions that are not deducted, as in most countries you would contribute to a retirement scheme if you worked in the private sector.

Or take the example of an American former civil servant who contacted me after being told that her US civil servants’ pension would be deducted. As I had an old list of non-deductible pensions, I thought this was strange, as the same job and same pension in different countries should not be treated differently, so this person got back to MSD – and was now told that her US pension would not be deducted – while MSD were trying to hunt down the person who had given out the wrong information… You can only wonder how often this happens and how rarely someone calls MSD again the next day to reconfirm that the information from the other day was correct – and the reply again depends on who answers the call.

As I have often told you, I constantly receive emails about people getting false information from WINZ and MSD, therefore always keep your records as evidence and ask for written confirmation of the conversation when talking to WINZ or MSD on the phone.

Here is the link to the list of deductible pensions:

https://www.scribd.com/document/499073656/20210311-OIA-Final-Response-Letter-STOCK#download&from_embed

List of non-deductible pensions at the bottom of “The Law” page on NZ Pension Protest:

http://www.nzpensionprotest.com/Home/the-law


Let me repeat that private pensions AND voluntary contributions to compulsory schemes must NOT be deducted from NZ Super. As for the latter, you need to ask your overseas pension provider to send a statement in which the compulsory and voluntary parts of your contributions are split up, so MSD can see which percentage of your overseas pension was funded by voluntary payments and then must not deduct this percentage of your overseas pension. And please note, as there often is confusion about what constitutes voluntary contributions: that’s money you paid into the scheme on top of your and your employer’s compulsory contributions.

It is very frustrating that our work has so far only led to the abolishment of the Spousal Provision, and that the parties that have been in power since 2017 completely ignore our core issue they had labelled as unfair and in breach of Human Rights before getting in the driver’s seat in Wellington. They are not even willing to look into the grossly unfair Winter Energy Payment policy which disadvantages Section 187-191 victims even further. New Zealand remains the country of the great pretenders, with a government talking kindness and fairness, but only applying it to certain groups of society while, with the constant spin about double-dippers, fuelling xenophobia and discrimination against ageing migrants and returning Kiwis.

All we can do right now is keep on writing and talking to our MPs, in the hope of finding one who is brave enough to draft a bill which suggests to abolish this disgraceful law or at least start a discussion about New Zealand’s inconsistent pension policies. Also use every opportunity to keep the issue in the public light by writing letters to the editor, post on social media etc…

… and keep warm!

Sissi


Sissi Stein-Abel
Administrator and editor
NZ Pension Protest
www.nzpensionprotest.com
Email: contact@nzpensionprotest.com
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