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Progress for older New Zealanders - Speech

3 July 2002

SPEECH

Jim Anderton MP

Leader of the Progressive Coalition

Progress for older New Zealanders

2:00 pm

Wednesday, 3 July 2002

Wainuiomata Grey Power election forum

Wainuiomata Rugby League Clubrooms

Cnr Fitzherbert RD and Parkway Extension

Wainuiomata

You can’t go far in New Zealand at the moment without being reminded we are in the middle of an election campaign.

Mailboxes are filled with brochures.

The streets are lined with billboards.

Television breaks are dominated by party political ads that make television shopping channels look appealing.

(I can say that because the progressive Coalition hasn’t got any TV advertising.)

However, election campaigns focus the mind.

People are discussing the sort of New Zealand we want.

The Progressive Coalition is making a number of commitments.

We want a society where all New Zealanders can participate.

Today I want to focus on our policy commitments for older New Zealanders.

I am particularly pleased with a policy to have a winter energy subsidy of around $15 a month for superannuitants, beneficiaries and those on low incomes.

For those on fixed incomes, simply turning on the heater when you’re cold can play havoc with the budget. So some stay cold.

Yet cold, damp conditions contribute to the illness and hospitalisation of many older New Zealanders

This subsidy will make a big difference to low income families with children as well as the elderly.

Assuming 800,000 households are eligible, the rebate would cost $36 million per year at an average rate of $15 per month.

The Progressive Coalition is committed to universal Superannuation.

The Super Fund this Coalition Government has created maintains some pay-as-you-go element for the future, and allows us to continue to meet demands for other essential social services today.

The National party wants to spend the money on other things, like:

- cutting the highest rate of personal tax.

- buying a fleet of space age air force fighter jets.

This illustrates the pressure to cut superannuation unless it is locked up in a secure fund.

The Progressive Coalition also wants to have a regular survey to ensure the living standards of older New Zealanders are maintained.

The Progressive Coalition will take practical steps to reinstate free, high quality health care for all New Zealanders.

In coalition with Labour, we will be able to deliver free doctors visits for all school kids. This will cost $34 million but is an important commitment for our young people and for families.

This builds on this year’s Coalition achievement of fully restoring the free GP visits for under sixes.

In the following year we want to see free doctors visits for all superannuitants. This will cost around $50 million but will make a huge difference in the lives of New Zealanders who have already made their contribution to our communities.

The Progressive Coalition is committed to removing asset and income testing for geriatric care, by progressively raising levels of assets and income exempt from testing.

We would raise the threshold by $20,000 a year so that within four years the average family home would be exempted from the asset testing. Within eight years, asset testing will be totally removed.

We want to maintain, and where appropriate improve, current levels of rest home subsidy.

Many elderly citizens have little option other than to leave their own home for full rest home care.

Where this happens we intend to develop a range of housing options. These include a variety of home help, for example offering different degrees of home support.

The Progressive Coalition is committed to being a voice for full employment, innovation and strong local communities in partnership with industry.

We want to lift incomes so we can make social services stronger.

I’m committed to continuing to implement progressive policies that all New Zealanders can be proud of.

This Government has proven that a fresh direction that takes people into account can be achieved without compromising the economic development of our nation.

That is the challenge that I give you my commitment to meet.


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