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Progress for older NZers - Jim Anderton Speech

15 July 2002

Jim Anderton MP

Leader of the Progressive Coalition

Progress for older New Zealanders

10:00 am

Monday, 15 July 2002

Speech Kapiti Coast Greypower

Senior Citizen Rooms, Ocean Rd

Paraparumu

One of the important aspects of an election campaign is to discuss what sort of New Zealand we want.

We can have what National and ACT want for New Zealand. A country with high interest rates, and higher personal mortgages stunting economic growth.

We would have high fences, private security guards, and armed police. A community where if a young kid steals something they get sent away to jail to learn how to be angry and violent, and learn how to be real criminals.

We can have the New Zealand First society, the same as National and ACT’s but with the added component of encouraging racism, and picking on people who look different.

We can have the Green society¡Kkids on drugs, a rejection of science and an Italian style parliament with an election every year as they pull down Government after Government to prove how important they are.

Or we can continue to build a just and fair society where we intervene early to stop kids becoming hardened criminals and where we have a growing economy and stable government.

The Progressive Coalition is making a number of commitments toward having a growing economy, better health and education and a stable coalition government with Labour.

We want a society where all New Zealanders can participate.

This week we start circulating 700,000 leaflets that contain Progressive Coalition priorities for the Coalition Government with Labour after the election.

They are priorities, that means the more MPs we get the more likely we are to get what we want.

But we are not going to pull the Government down just because we don’t get our own way on any particular issue.

The priorities are:

ć Everyone under 20 in jobs, education or training by 2005, as a step towards full employment

ć We will keep student fees and interest rates frozen and progressively remove fees for first year students, as a step towards free education.

ć Free GP visits for school children, then the elderly will be introduced as a step towards free health care.

ć We will put in place early intervention programmes designed to turn young people away from a life of crime and to reduce re-offending, as a step towards safer and stronger communities.

ƒá We will implement an anti-drugs strategy, with special penalties for supplying drugs to children, strengthened rehabilitation and “drug-free’ campaigns.

ć We will inflation adjust family support, as the most immediate step we can take to reduce child poverty.

ć We will hold a Commission of Inquiry into balancing the demands of work and family, as a step towards strengthening families.

ć We will introduce a winter energy rebate of $15 a month for superannuitants, beneficiaries and low income earners.

These policies can be achieved in a coalition, in the same way that paid parental leave, the Ministry of Economic, Regional and Industry Development and the Kiwibank were achieved in our first term.

These are policies that should be taken seriously, because I believe we will be in a coalition with Labour.

Parties that are not in government cannot achieve policies like these. Every other party on present trends is going to be outside government.

That’s why a vote for the Greens or New Zealand First is a wasted vote.

We have a number of policies which recognise the needs and contributions of our older citizens.

I am particularly proud of our 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.

Too many New Zealanders are staying cold.

Yet cold, damp conditions contribute to people’s illnesses and hospitalisation.

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.

As I mentioned, 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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