Q+A multi-party debate (1) - Mana ACT,Maori,Greens United
Sunday 30th October, 2011
Q+A multi-party debate – part one.
The first part of the debate has been transcribed below. The full length video interviews and panel discussions from this morning’s Q+A can be watched on tvnz.co.nz at, http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a-news
Q+A, 9-10am Sundays on TV ONE. Repeats at 9.10pm Sundays, 9:05am and 1:05pm Mondays on TVNZ 7
MULTI PARTY DEBATE – PART ONE
Moderated by PAUL HOLMES
We have a multi-party leaders’ debate We have Metiria Turei from the Greens; Hone Harawira from Mana: Pita Sharples, the Maori Party Co-Leader; Dr Don Brash, the leader of ACT; and Peter Dunne, the leader of United Future. Good morning to you and welcome and thank you for coming on Q+A.
Each leader will start with a 30-second address on why they should get the party vote from you. Metiria Turei will start us off.
METIRIA TUREI - Greens Co-Leader
Kia ora. For a richer New Zealand with a smart Green economy that’s ready to take the opportunities of new global markets, where all our kids eat well and learn well, where our rivers are clean enough to swim in again, and where there is a decent, well-paid job for every New Zealander, on November 26 give your party vote to the Greens, and thank you.
PAUL And thank you, Metiria Turei, of the Greens. Hone Harawira from Mana, 30 seconds from you.
- Mana Leader
Kia ora, Paul. Kia ora, koutou katoa. I think people should party vote Mana because our priorities and policies are simple and aim to benefit all New Zealanders. The first one, of course, is feed the children. Our second one is: give everybody a decent job and a decent wage. Give everybody a decent home to live in. Provide a free and high quality heath and education service to the whole country-
PAUL That’s your 30 seconds, Mr Harawira. Thank you. Next speaker is Dr Pita Sharples, co-leader of the Maori Party. Kia ora.
PITA SHARPLES - Maori Party Co-Leader
Kia ora. We’re the only authentic Maori party in parliament, and we believe what is good for Maori is good for taking New Zealand forward. We’ve shown that we’re a party people can trust. We have integrity. We’ve repealed the foreshore and seabed, and the DigiPolls tell us that people support that. So everyone who says, ‘You’re doing well,’ how about it’s about time you put your party vote where your mouth is? Kia ora.
PAUL Kia ora. Thank you, Dr Sharples. And lastly- Oh no, not lastly. We have Dr Don Brash from ACT.
DR DON BRASH - ACT Leader
Paul, New Zealand is a fantastic country, but it’s at serious risk. One in four teenagers unemployed; far too much crime; far too many people finding difficulty making ends meet; the government borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars a week; and people leaving the country in droves. I want a country where every New Zealander can make a good life for themselves and their families. New Zealand can have that country, provided people give their party vote to ACT. ACT is the only party which can give a John Key-led government the power to deliver good life for all New Zealanders.
PAUL Thank you, Dr Brash, from ACT. And Peter Dunne, United Future, your 30 seconds.
DUNNE - United Future Leader
Thank you. United Future stands for fairness and choice for all New Zealanders. That’s what the next John Key-led government will need to balance the extreme edges. We want fairness and choice for families through better income-sharing arrangements for their households. We want fairness and choice in superannuation through a flexible approach to superannuation from the age of 60 onwards. We want fairness and choice in terms of people’s access to the greater outdoors. We want New Zealanders to enjoy this country as it is meant to be. Party vote United Future to achieve that.
PAUL Thank you very much, all of you. You’ve had your 30 seconds. Now let’s go to the debate itself. So, we might as well start with the debate that Labour has opened this week. They’ve opened the superannuation debate saying we need to move the age of superannuation out to 67. After all, by 2050 1.3 million New Zealanders will be over 65. So, do you agree with what Labour are proposing? Don Brash, first of all.
DON Absolutely. I’m delighted that the Labour Party has agreed with what ACT has been saying for many months – the age of eligibility does have to go up, and I think that the longer we deny that, the more difficult we make it for New Zealanders to adjust to that.
PAUL Does it bother you that the policy decision has been made over the last two weeks, Mr Dunne?
PETER Yes, it does. In fact, my understanding is that it was a week ago last Wednesday that this was ticked off. But it’s actually the wrong answer to a serious question. What we propose is a more flexible arrangement – a reduced rate of superannuation at age 60, an increased rate for those who defer to 70. Actuarially it balances out. What it does also is it means that Maori, Pacifica, manual workers who tend to be at the raw end of things at the moment get a chance to choose to go earlier at a lower rate. If in time that’s coupled by compulsory KiwiSaver, that’s the way you get sustainable superannuation for the future.
PAUL So if you continue to work beyond 60, you wouldn’t necessarily get super, but the moment you get to 70 you get more super.
PETER Well, you could still choose to go at 65 on the current arrangements. You could take a lesser rate from the age of 60 to 65, an enhanced rate between 65 and 70. Puts the choice in people’s hands. It’s not the government telling them when they have to retire and stop working.
PAUL You have got a- I’ll come to you shortly, Metiria. You have got a different view, Dr Sharples, about the age of super.
PITA Well, the Maori Party have pointed this out for six years now, that we have a shorter- Maori and Pacific have a shorter life span than others-
PAUL Male Maori is 70, the life expectancy, yes?
PITA Yeah, and we’re saying that the age should actually begin earlier. So it should be dropped and incrementally increased as they go on.
PAUL All right. Metiria.
METIRIA Well, the problem with Peter’s proposal is that it tends to entrench poverty. So those who are on low incomes are more likely to have to need to retire early, whether it’s because they’re manual workers, and so they’ll get a reduced rate of super over the rest of their lifetime. So that’s not a solution. We should have a conversation about superannuation. We need to as a country. Our policy is to keep it at 65, but we would support having that conversation, because it’s about how our economy can be robust and sustainable enough to pay for what we consider to be valuable.
PAUL Well, that’s true, but it’s also, isn’t it, about the kind of jobs that people do. Some people do jobs that wear them out before other people.
METIRIA Yes, that’s right.
PAUL I mean, the fella who digs post holes in the High Country is going to be worn out before the accountant.
PETER It’s a quality of life issue at that point, Paul, so that’s why I debunk what Metiria says. This is giving people who presently struggle on to 65, probably don’t have a very good quality of life as they do so. Probably not a long survival period afterwards. Giving them a choice of some dignity in their golden years – that’s what this is about.
METIRIA Not if they’re on a reduced income. No, it’s not.
PAUL Mr Harawira.
HONE Yeah, look, 20 Maori will pay tax all of their lives and 19 of them will die before they can get a pension right now. Now, something’s sadly wrong when Labour is proposing to make that even worse. We would move to move the superannuation age for Maori back to 60 because of those issues about the quality of work, the kinds of work that they’re involved in. And once the gap is closed, once that gap is closed, then let’s look at a universal direction for everybody.
METIRIA But that’s the conversation that has to be had.
HONE But right now it’s impacting badly against Maori.
PAUL I take it, though, we all agree we’ve got to have this conversation. Can I just move on to compulsory super? Now, We’ve talked about compulsory- Labour’s talked about compulsory KiwiSaver, and I can understand that it’s important that we’re assisted in doing our savings for our retirement, but that takes a lot of money off people right now who can’t afford it.
METIRIA Yes, that’s right.
PITA We can’t afford it. Look, right now we’ve got Christchurch to- and we’ve got to develop Christchurch. We’ve got the overseas debt. The world’s in a bit of a spin as well. And we’re at a hard time ourselves. There are a lot of people who cannot afford to pay extra stuff like super.
METIRIA Which is why we’ve gotta have a high-wage economy. We need a high-wage economy, not a low-wage economy that we have now, so that ordinary working people can afford to contribute.
PAUL That’s a different issue. The point is, yes, compulsory KiwiSaver takes a lot of money out of people’s wages.
METIRIA It does.
PAUL And we are a low-wage economy.
PETER Paul, we’ve got no option but to do it. If we’re going to do a sensible approach to long-term savings, compulsory KiwiSaver has to be part of the mix. We have to do it now.
PAUL The average wage in Australia-
PETER The interesting thing is I wrote to Trevor Mallard in May of last year because he’d made some comments hinting at compulsory KiwiSaver suggesting that maybe we could work together on this. The response I got from him was, ‘We’re not interested in the Labour Party unless the National Party is as well.’ So things change very quickly. When people talk about a consistent debate, let’s have one. Compulsory KiwiSaver, the changes I referred to earlier about New Zealand super, make this a sustainable savings package-
HONE Look, Metiria’s right, we’ve got to have a higher wage economy if we’re going to enable people to save, but I have to say Peter’s also right - we’ve got to get everybody saving. It can be small. But the third thing is this - the scary part is we’re saving, but we have no idea whatsoever about what the government’s doing with that money. Now, in 20 years time, they can use that money and spend it on all kinds of things so by the time we get there - oh, a couple of us, anyway - it’s not gonna be there any longer.
PAUL Are you supporting compulsory?
HONE I support compulsory savings as long as we’ve got a decent high-wage economy, which we don’t at the moment.
PAUL And a high-wage economy is not going to drop out of the sky, is it? Just a minute, now, here’s the other thing about compulsion, is that the minimum wage in Australia’s $20; here it’s, what, $13, $15?
PAUL Now, if you start taking 20 bucks a week off me, I’m going to go to Australia.
METIRIA Mm-hm, that’s exactly right.
PAUL So how do we stop, Dr Brash, people going to Australia?
DON It is clearly nuts. At the moment, the current working population have to pay for my retirement. They are also being asked to pay for their own retirement. So you’ve got a generation which is being asked to pay for two lots of retirement income. Steven Joyce was right. Why would someone who’s got a big mortgage put money into a fund for a fund manager to manage instead of paying off the mortgage? It’s nuts.
METIRIA Deal with wages.
PETER We’ve got a lot of younger New Zealanders staring their working careers who, whatever we say about superannuation, have this profound view there will be nothing there for them when their time comes.
METIRIA They don’t trust those who are managing the economy now.
PETER So they need to be incentivised into saving now for their future. You have other people in their 40s and 50s who’ve got savings plans, who’ve got strategies, who will be worried sick at the prospect that the national superannuation age goes up a couple of years. This is where we actually need some certainty and stability and a comprehensive approach, not the sort of game-playing we’re seeing at the moment.
PAUL Yes, but, you see, this business of moving to Australia or moving overseas. Since the National Party came to government, 100,000 New Zealanders have gone to live in Australia. What’s gonna stop it? Pinching money off people every week?
DON And the gap between our incomes and those in Australia has gone up over the last three years. That’s the major problem. The government said they would narrow that gap. They’ve actually seen it increase.
METIRIA Yes, but ACT would like to see wages come down. They advocate for a youth rate, for example.
DON No, no, we want wages to go up.
PAUL Why would they want to see wages come down? They want to see wages go up so we don’t lose our talent.
METIRIA But not for those at the bottom end. I mean, what they’re asking for is, you know- ACT is not committed to a high-wage economy. They want to see wages kept low.
DON We are absolutely committed to a high-wage economy. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t solve New Zealand super.
METIRIA So do you support a $15 an hour minimum wage?
METIRIA No, he does not
PAUL One at a time.
PITA No matter what the argument is, we are not in a position at this time to make super compulsory. There are too many people getting on with all the hardships that we have at this time and on the borderline.
METIRIA But if we don’t deal with wages-
PETER The problem with superannuation is there’s never been a right time for anything. And unless we take- One thing that David Parker talks about is courage. Wrong courage, but unless we actually pick up the nettle and make some big decisions now - and compulsory super is one of them - there’ll never be a right time. We’ll continue to slip further behind. We look enviously at Australia with the big investment pool it’s got through its superannuation policy-
PAUL I know, Australia, Singapore, look at the-
PETER Singapore, exactly. When are we going to pick up that nettle?
METIRIA We can do the economic planning that allows for that. Raise the minimum wage. Make sure that we’re investing in the new technologies, the renewable energy technologies. There’s a huge global market for that. This country is primed to take advantage of it. We just need to redirect poor spending, like tax cuts for the rich-
PAUL Can you just stay on the superannuation, Metiria, if we can? Hone, a word from you.
HONE Yeah, look, I think what we have is a market economy that is being driven by Labour, by National, by Labour, by National which has seen us get progressively further and further behind and less able to provide for our elders.
PAUL What do you want, a command economy? (CHUCKLES)
HONE We have to change the nature of our economy. We have to put people before profit, seriously. We have to ensure that the people who live here get a sense that we value them enough that they will want to stay here. At the moment, the market economy we operate encourages people to go chase the higher dollar, and it’s always somewhere else.
PAUL Well, should we send everyone to Disneyland as well?
METIRIA No, we need to spend more wisely.
HONE No, I’m not saying that at all, Paul. I don’t think Disneyland, I don’t think Australia is the answer. We are the answer. New Zealand is the answer. We have to make a conscious choice that the way we’ve been trying to chase the global marketplace is not working for this country and hasn’t worked for quite some time.
PAUL And there we will leave it just for the moment. We’ll take a break.