Peters: RSA Council Meeting
Media Release – Embargoed Against Delivery
8th October 2008
Rt Hon Winston Peters – address to Royal RSA Council Meeting at 11 am on 8th October 2008, Auditorium, Michael Fowler Centre Wellington
Delegates, distinguished guests, it is a privilege to be with you today.
Over the past few days you’ve probably had more politicians per veteran than stories at an after match function.
It must be election year or something.
So, if you have some great need now is the time to ask for it!
During my last visit we gave a million dollars, knowing that you would put it to the best possible use.
Politicians do not generally have a great reputation with the military.
An American commander in Vietnam put it very succinctly when he said that soldiers do not start wars.
Wars are started by politicians but soldiers have to fight them.
It therefore behoves politicians to defend those men and women who go out into operational areas to serve their country.
The treatment of Vietnam veterans and the official refusal to recognise and address their health problems was a national disgrace.
Now it has been recognised and an apology has been given from the highest level but much remains to be done to atone for many years of neglect and indifference.
We in New Zealand First have had a long association with returned service people.
We have tried, and at times succeeded in getting you further recognition for the service you willingly rendered and in many cases caused you injury and illness.
More has to be done for veterans and today we will outline some of our priorities.
You will be aware that when we launched the SuperGold Card for those over 65, we included a special card for veterans.
This project is still only in its infancy but the concessions are being extended continually and next winter we intend it to subsidise power, petrol and essentials of life.
We intend to place a premium on the veterans’ SuperGold Card.
The premium is a ten percent increase in the New Zealand Superannuation rate for those who have served in New Zealand forces in operational areas overseas.
This would be phased in over a period of time and would be extended to the widows or widowers of the service people.
Other war or disablement pensions would maintain that ten percent relativity.
We believe that it is important to acknowledge this service and to ensure that a sustainable healthcare package is maintained as well.
As part of this we will provide continued and increased funding for war veterans homes.
This will be negotiated with the RNZRSA.
In your Ten Point Veterans’ Welfare manifesto you point out how those people who served in the forces after World War 2 are discriminated against over their care in veterans homes.
We would also discuss with you establishing conditions that are fair, and recognise the needs of the veterans who served in operational areas.
It is also fair to say that many RSA members are now senior citizens – and honoured seniors at that.
New Zealand First believes senior citizens are the foundation on which our communities are built.
We maintain that our treatment of our veterans and seniors sends a clear signal of our status as a developed nation.
There is little point in pursuing economic growth and other objectives if these members of our society are not looked after adequately.
That is why we set the level of superannuation at 66 percent of the net average wage in our confidence and supply agreement and will be increasing it to 68 percent after the election.
We will change the rebate for a non-qualified spouse in receipt of New Zealand Superannuation and the 55 plus benefit to bring it into line with the widows and domestic purposes benefit;
And raise the rebate threshold for a non-qualified spouse from $80 per week to $100 and index it to the CPI;
We will broaden the benefits available to seniors included in the SuperGold Card;
We will support the development of accommodation initiatives for pensioners;
And explore further options to reduce the rates burden on seniors;
We also believe that senior citizens should receive greater recognition for the thousands of hours of voluntary service they perform in the community.
That includes organisations like the RNZRSA.
Sadly, there are now too many New Zealanders who do not know the meaning of words like “voluntary service” and “patriotism”.
Those who have served in the armed forces know what these words mean.
It is important that all the citizens of this country learn them.
That is why we, in New Zealand First, believe that every child in every school should know the history of this country and the historic events that our people were involved in.
Many people, both young and not so young now attend Anzac services throughout the country.
This is important.
We must keep on remembering the terrible events that tore the world apart last century and acknowledge the sacrifice of those who never came back.
We cannot let it happen again.
We are a fortunate country. Unlike parts of Europe and the Middle East we have not been regularly invaded.
And the closest thing to civil war we experience is when Auckland plays Canterbury in a rugby game.
But the world we live in is not always a safe place.
We must keep maintaining, training and equipping a defence force capable of meeting our international obligations, particularly in keeping the peace.
Our campaign slogan this election is to protect and save YOUR New Zealand.
That means protecting jobs, homes, wages, superannuation and our communities during the tough times that lie ahead.
It means protecting your savings by guaranteeing deposits in some financial institutions like Kiwibank.
We will extend this to some banks but the funds must stay in New Zealand – not be sent to some cash strapped merchant bank overseas.
Everybody in this room knows that we face some tough times ahead.
We are going to be affected by the economic meltdown in the United States and the cash crisis in many economies.
We can see our way through this if we are careful and work together – just as we have done in the past.
It is not a time for political parties to be foolish with spending promises.
You are being promised heaven on earth.
But remember you of all people know that it’s what people DO - not what they SAY - that counts.
We have delivered for veterans and we will keep on doing so through difficult times ahead.
You have done your duty to us and we will do our duty by you.
Nothing else is acceptable.