Peters: A Generation At Risk
Media Release - EMBARGOED AGAINST DELIVERY
Rt Hon Winston
Peters address to GreyPower Upper Hutt
979 – 881 Fergusson Drive
Wednesday 20 August 2008
A Generation At Risk
Thank you for your invitation to talk about the place of senior citizens in our society.
But before doing so, let’s make one thing clear.
The New Zealand public are witnessing the dirtiest, most baseless, orchestrated campaign against any politician or party in this country’s history.
It brings to mind the sort of dirty campaigning which we have witnessed overseas, but which has never been engaged in New Zealand in this way before.
This is how it is done.
You make baseless allegations and innuendo.
You talk to your media mates about the selective release and timing of this information.
Then you start writing stories that the politician in question is under pressure.
Your media mates then organise opinion polls to reflect that jaundiced and incorrect view, while never disclosing that there were no facts in the first place.
On Monday night the privileges committee of Parliament were left with one feather to fly with. Did Winston Peters’ lawyer make a gift of $40,000 to him, which should have been disclosed?
Mr Henry said he paid the bill – so did Mr Peters.
It turns out that both Mr Peters and his lawyer were correct.
Mr Henry paid the money to ensure the bill was paid in time – and he was later reimbursed by myself.
He checked his records yesterday and found this was indeed the case.
This issue is the last one my opponents had to go on. It will go as soon as Mr Henry notifies the committee.
This privileges committee should have been on national television.
It was more like the Spanish Inquisition or the Salem Witch trials than a reasoned hearing by the so-called highest court in the land.
It would not have surprised me to have seen a gallows being erected – or a stake with piles of dry wood stacked around it.
To be fair, there are some reasonable MPs on the committee and they did try to show where the evidence pointed to.
The hearing itself unfortunately seemed to be run along the lines of Rafferty’s rules, which means there were no rules.
The whole purpose was to
discredit New Zealand First and marginalise Winston Peters.
Your generation knows what it is like to be disadvantaged and marginalised.
It is important that as a nation we acknowledge and address the areas of vulnerability you face.
There are forces in play – economic and social - that pose real risks to the people who have served their time in the work force and have raised their families.
We are the party most committed to protecting your interests.
We understand those threats and the need for constant vigilance to counter them.
It is not very politically correct in some circles to talk money but we have to.
We are all aware that with advancing age people do not have the time to recoup losses.
And right now numerous black holes are opening up in our economy.
Three hundred years after the British public were fleeced in the elaborate scam known as the South Sea Bubble we now have our very own version in New Zealand.
Finance and property company collapses and repayment moratoriums have left thousands of Kiwis seriously out of pocket.
Collectively, tens of thousands of investors have lost billions of dollars.
And our seniors are over represented as the victims of this financial meltdown.
They are people who have been penalised for being prudent.
They are the people who tried to prepare themselves financially for their retirement years.
And the system has failed them.
What has emerged is that billions have been frittered away by smart aleck money men at the public’s expense.
Will anyone have to answer for the failure of these ventures?
Will they have to give up their mansions?
Do not hold your breath!
This is the stuff of real scandal – we are talking billions of dollars - not the trivia and trawling through used laundry lists that obsess our media.
Where were the media warnings that might have helped people?
The media certainly brought no critical reporting to the finance and property sector when it might have done some good.
The outcome is that if you buy a dodgy car in New Zealand the chances are you can get some redress.
But if you invest in a financial enterprise then you are on your own.
Similarly, the agencies that were supposed to protect the public, such as the Securities Commission, proved to be paper tigers because their hands are tied by the lack of laws with teeth.
The bottom line is this; despite their best efforts and sacrifices people through no fault of their own have been left financially exposed.
This means that the state pension must always be sufficient for the elderly to live in dignity and must always be secure.
But we are not complacent – and nor should seniors be either.
Safeguarding the state pension heads our policy priority lists because we know that nothing can be taken for granted.
New Zealand First has ensured national superannuation and veterans' pension rates now match 66% of the net average weekly wage.
After the next election we intend to lift it to 68 percent.
And, of course, we have many other initiatives to our credit – such as the SuperGold Card, increased funding for the eldercare sector, free off-peak travel on public transport and extra money for hearing aids.
So for seniors we have delivered.
But we are not intent on resting on our laurels.
We know we are now entering turbulent economic times.
Inevitably, the competition for public spending programmes will intensify and things could turn ugly.
Glib promises and assurances that nothing will change, no cuts will be made, can be readily undone on the pretext that economic conditions have worsened dramatically.
And then there is the weight of numbers.
The 2006 Census showed that 495,000 people 65 and over resided in New Zealand.
That creates a very large and tempting target – universal superannuation - for any future “razor gang” attacking areas of public spending.
Ensuring that the provision of New Zealand Superannuation is not eroded in a frosty economic climate will take continuing vigilance.
Because given the current rate of inflation – around four percent - it would take no time at all for the real value of New Zealand Superannuation to be seriously eroded.
We say that all of New Zealander seniors – without exception – should enjoy a comfortable old age.
We know that governments cannot protect citizens from all the circumstances and risks of life.
Accidents, illness and misfortune can befall anyone.
But what the state can do is make sure that all have sufficient income to live in dignity and comfort.
That is well within New Zealand’s capacity to provide.
In New Zealand First you have a sentry on duty – a guardian watching that the interests of all senior citizens are safeguarded.
There is a Latin inscription that neatly sums up our role:
Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur
Roughly translated – a true friend is discerned in difficult times - or a sure friend in time of trouble.
You do have a sure friend in New Zealand First.
The future status of our seniors will ultimately depend on how they are viewed and valued by New Zealand society as a whole.
One thing must not be allowed to happen.
They must not come to be viewed as:
• A separate group
• A group set apart - distinct – detached
• A category of people who constitute “a problem”
Classifying and stereotyping our seniors in this way must be prevented.
Because if that were to happen, people would not just be elderly – they could be branded as the “greedy” elderly.
They could be branded as people getting an undue share of New Zealand’s resources.
It is vital that we don’t fall into this trap.
In this connection our stance is black and white – like our party colours.
Seniors are us! They are at the core of our society. They are New Zealand.
They are the people we are in Parliament to serve.
As well as the key area of pensions and income support there are a whole lot of other areas where we see the need to keep working for the benefits of seniors.
For example, in a rapidly changing financial world, older people are particularly vulnerable to financial abuse.
This can take many forms.
Overall, we see the need to strengthen protection for seniors from financial risk and that includes areas of new and innovative products such as home equity release schemes.
And then there is the general impact of rapidly rising prices that is battering the most vulnerable in our society.
For example, power price and rate hikes hit those on fixed income particularly hard.
Too many of our seniors are now faced with making a choice between food, power for heating or healthcare.
So there is no shortage of work for us to do and we will continue to do it.
The key asset you have is your collective voting power.
Through this voting power you can ensure that the future for all seniors in New Zealand remains bright.
And in that endeavour New Zealand First will be walking alongside you.
We will work on your behalf in the next Parliament just as effectively as we have in the current Parliament.
My message is this:
Protect your interests! There is safety in numbers.
Take a practical and effective step!
Vote New Zealand First in the 2008 election!