An opportunity to meet experts and victims
On 24 February 2010 an Overseas Pensions Forum was held at the University of Auckland (Owen G. Glenn Building). The topic was:
New Zealand Superannuation and Overseas Pensions:
Options for Reform
It was held in cooperation of the Retirement Policy and Research Centre (RPRC) of the Economics Department and Business School of the University of Auckland and the Human Rights Commission (HRC).
It was a great opportunity for distressed pensioners to meet other victims of Section 70 of the Social Security Act, and experts as well. The Research Centre had not invited the media, so the people could speak out freely without the fear of being quoted the next day. On the other hand, politicians of all major parties had been invited but did not show up. For Susan St. John, co-director of the Research Centre, this was the proof that Section 70 is a "hot potato". (Obviously those people think if they go into denial and do not front up the problem will go away, or at least, they can keep on hiding it from the public; this is a note of the editor, not of Susan St. John.)
Claire Dale, Research Fellow at the University, had the Chair.
Rosslyn Noonan, the Chief Commissioner for the Human Rights Commission, opened the Forum and launched the two RPRC Working Papers: 2009-1 Literature Review, and 2009-2 New Zealand Superannuation and Overseas Pensions: Issues and Principles for Reform. They are both fabulous compilations of information about the topic, no detail is missing. So if you really want to get into it in depth, these papers are a must-read and can be downloaded from the RPRC website.
Sylvia Bell, Principal Legal and Policy Analyst of the Human Rights Commission, gave insight into the principles of discrimination, and elaborated how far human rights are compromised by Section 70 of the Social Security Act. There is no doubt that Spousal Provision (SP) in particular is a case of discrimination and therefore a human rights issue. Ruth Humphrey, a Kiwi pensioner, will go forward with her complaint that she is discriminated against because of her marital status; she is married to an American who has a Social Security pension from the USA. Her case is highly likely to be supported by the Human Rights Commission and therefore has to be monitored closely.
Susan St. John and Michael Littlewood, co-directors of the RPRC, presented two options for pension reforms which both include the abolition of Section 70.
Andrew Smith from the School of Accounting and Commercial Law at Victoria University, specialist in international taxation, gave insight into more inequities and strange anomalies in current tax, portability and pension law. The surprise for most attendees of the Forum was that the existing laws do not punish all retirees with overseas pensions but even grant preferential treatment to some people of certain nations without any logical reason.
Obviously the 2009 amendments to the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Amendment Act have created even more inequities than ever before, making some few foreign nationals winners of a system nobody really understands, whereas nothing has been done to address existing injustice that affects tens of thousands of people.
Some individuals without official function held speeches about their personal experiences with DDP and SP:
Bob Stevens, whose overseas pensions from Ireland and Canada are deducted from NZ Super but who would get money from New Zealand if he went back to live in Canada;
Ruth Humphrey, a New Zealander who does not get full NZ Super because she is married to the wrong man;
Tom Foulkes from Grey Power, who has direct experience of ten overseas pensions;
John Albers, Commissioner of the Multi-national Superannuation Council and representative of Dutch pensioners (AOW Lobby Club), who told how the NZ government broke their superannuation promises;
Peter van Bussel, who has daily experience with the superannuation chaos caused by Section 70 as a professional of a pensions, benefits and tax agency.
There were also public discussions and contributions of distressed participants of the Forum, and a lot of personal talk after the end of the official part of the Forum. One interesting aspect that came to light was that Inland Revenue (IRD), New Zealand's tax department, obviously imposes taxes on German pensions although this clearly violates the Double Taxation Agreement New Zealand has with this country. (It has the right to tax pensions of most other countries.) Inland Revenue should not have any chance to escape the repayments of overpaid taxes to those people. But this is only a small step towards more justice for immigrants and returning Kiwis with overseas pensions.
Presentations from the Forum are available on this RPRC website.
"Aspiration" and Sky Tower, Auckland