Rt Hon Winston Peters: “The Forgotten People”
“The Forgotten People”
An address by Rt Hon Winston Peters to GreyPower Mana/Tawa, Pataka Community Room, Porirua 2pm Tuesday 8 February 2005
Madame Chair, ladies and gentlemen.
There’s an old saying that there are only two sure things in this life – death and taxes.
Today I am going to talk about what happens at the end of our working lives – and the years before that other sure thing knocks on our door.
This year however, there is another sure thing and that is the general election - expected sometime in September.
Already you have been hearing the noises of political parties re-branding themselves in a bid to attract votes.
Act, believe it or not, is apparently now the workers’ party, United Future has rejected any notion that it is a Christian party, and the Greens are more interested in oil reserves than genetic engineering.
Meanwhile Labour stands for social engineering while National remains a 1990s party for big business and bashing beneficiaries.
All parties except New Zealand First have one thing in common. They are all beholden to pressure groups or outside interests.
We are still the same party that was launched in 1993, with the same founding principles and the same independence.
We have only one allegiance – and that is with the people of New Zealand.
Unlike the other parties we have not started jockeying for coalition positions because we have a quaint old notion that you have to wait until AFTER an election to form a government.
In other words – let the voters choose the next government – not the politicians.
Because it is election year, you can expect to hear a lot a promises from politicians.
Most of the promises are going to be linked to how the various parties are going to spend the $6 billion plus surplus sitting in the government coffers.
Some will promise tax cuts of one form or another, others will embark on spending sprees to benefit the various lobby groups, which support them.
Sadly, in the scramble to spend this money, some deserving cases will be forgotten and one of the most deserving groups are the senior citizens.
We in New Zealand First are totally committed to ensuing that our senior citizens are not among the forgotten.
We believe that the true measure of success is not how much profit large foreign owned corporates can pilfer from us, but how well we are treating the most vulnerable in our society.
Sadly, no other political party in New Zealand seems to take this view.
You see we have the Prime Minister telling Parliament last week that Labour is going to look into funding pressures in the elder care sector.
Does that sound familiar?
Well it should because she’s promised it to you in two previous elections.
They are big on talk but very slow to deliver.
Labour are stringing you along with a promise here and there, aware that you are unlikely to go back to National because of their track record in the 1990s, and all the time taking you for granted.
You need not be taken for granted any longer.
There is a party, New Zealand First, which will deliver on its promises straight away – not in six years time.
But Labour is not alone in its mistreatment of our seniors.
Towards the end of last year we had the sad spectacle of the leader of the National party signing up to the current superannuation regime.
Some may see this as a welcome, if belated, concession that he should not tamper with the eligibility for superannuation.
This view is a misnomer.
It was simply a signal that he too is willing to consign our seniors to greater poverty.
And I will tell you why – this current superannuation regime is both dishonest and unfair.
It is designed to rip off our senior citizens and let me remind you how this is happening.
In January 2000, the newly elected Labour government changed the formula for establishing the rate of superannuation from a link to the Consumers Price Index, or inflation, to a link to the net average wage.
Labour knew that the net average wage seldom, if ever, rises as fast as inflation.
In fact, as recent studies have shown, wages have not kept pace with inflation for some time.
So what does this actually mean for you five years later.
Well it means that if you are a married couple on the guaranteed retirement income you are over $30 a week worse off than you would have been if the mechanism had not been changed.
It works out to nearly $20 a week for a single person.
Now, not only has this government cheated you on this, but in the past 18 months it has also found a new way to cheat you.
For married couples over 65 years, the superannuation rate is meant to be set at no less than 65 per cent of the average wage.
And we all assumed it was but the deception of this government when it comes to the treatment of our seniors knows no bounds.
For several quarters now, in 2003 and 2004, this government has allowed the super rate to fall below 65 per cent.
In fact, we forced the government to admit it publicly in Parliament at the end of last year.
The government tries to hide this by spiking the rate for one quarter out of four to ensure the average rate for the year is 65 percent.
What this spike does not do is replace the money you have been short-changed for the other three quarters.
This works out at about $250 a year or five dollars a week on top of the $30 a week you have been short-changed.
We believe that this is money you are entitled to.
Five dollars a week may not seem like much to the Prime Minister or a television newsreader on $800,000 but for a senior citizen it could be the difference between a solid meal or a trip to the doctor.
It is time to send a strong signal to Wellington, that it is no longer good enough to consign our seniors to the ranks of the forgotten.
You might ask yourselves how it is that a government wallowing in huge surpluses – in a supposedly booming economy - can be so mean to people who have made a positive contribution to the society they live in.
New Zealand First is finishing off policy work on major new initiatives for senior citizens.
Lifting the rates of superannuation payments is one part of the policy and there are others that you will welcome.
After the next election when New Zealand First helps form the next government, our senior citizens will be a priority.
The full policy will be revealed in April at the Grey Power annual conference.
We in New Zealand First believe that New Zealanders come first – not foreign owners.
You know, some politicians claim that New Zealanders are lazy and unproductive.
Did you know that New Zealanders work longer hours per week than any other people in the OECD – except Japan?
We’re running flat out to stand still, and we have become time poor.
So while we are just as productive, we are not getting the rewards. The real rewards are going to overseas investors.
They took over ten billion from the New Zealand economy last year.
This year it will be a lot more.
Foreign owners get rich while we increase debt levels. We keep on borrowing to stay afloat and take money off the most vulnerable in society.
Now, the good news is that New Zealand First has a long term plan to deal with this crisis.
We have a detailed plan for buying back the family silver at the next election.
New Zealand is done with selling its prime assets at give away prices.
We will put an end to the notion that New Zealand is a place to loot!
New Zealand has been exporting jobs and importing people. No other nation does that.
We will not allow control of our key assets and infrastructure to lie in the boardrooms of London, New York, Geneva or Tokyo.
The superannuation fund that we helped establish will focus on rebuilding the New Zealand owned stake in key industries and infrastructure.
We will reverse the loss of existing assets into foreign ownership and we will ensure that New Zealand retains a strategic stake in core assets.
For the sake of future generations, we cannot continue this policy of allowing our best assets to pass into foreign hands and stay there.
2005 will be a year of truth.
Despite a so-called booming economy and a big surplus:
superannuation has fallen below the level many retired can live on; we can’t afford a proper defence force; we cant afford an adequate police force; if you dial 111 the police send a taxi; we have longer hospital waiting lists than in 1999; sickness benefit numbers have soared; planeloads of patients travel to Australia for cancer treatment; our roading and infrastructure is neglected; parents are paying twice for state education; student debt has become a scandal;
And this has happened under the highest collection of taxes in New Zealand’s history.
Now before I conclude today I wish to touch on another topic of huge relevance to us all here today – that is the growing threats to our social fabric.
This current government has undertaken one of the most aggressive periods of social reform in living memory.
From legalising prostitution, through to gay marriage and banning smoking in bars it has radically changed our social norms.
But rather than consult and engage the public on these issues, it has chosen to do them in a paternalistic, we know best, way - with no consultation.
Just ramming them through.
There was a time when the value of experience in society was respected and sought after.
Sadly, for too long now your sound advice on social issues has been ignored.
Instead, this government seems intent on turning New Zealand into a social laboratory for every social perversion that takes their fancy.
From gay marriages, through to legalising prostitution and open door immigration, the very threads of our social fabric are under threat.
We are no longer sure who is Arthur or Martha, Ahmed or Osama, and we are truly struggling to know who is a real New Zealander any more.
This government is prepared to spending $2 million protecting the rights of Ahmed Zaoui but if you are an elderly person waiting for cancer treatment – bad luck!
As this tide of politically correct nonsense sweeps the country, those who worked hard to build this country are forgotten and insulted by having their pensions cut.
New Zealand First says – hang on; help is on its way.
We have not forgotten and ignored you as others have.
Our track record in delivering what we promise is there for all to see – remember the superannuation surcharge and who kept their promise.
We have a plan to ensure that our seniors live with the dignity and respect they deserve.
It will be unfolded in detail closer to the election and it will mean a better standard of living for our senior citizens.
The plight of the elderly will again feature in our election campaign and when we help form the next government we will deliver.
With your help – a party vote for New Zealand First, we will make it happen.
Together we will ensure that we build a brighter future where no one is forgotten.