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PM Key on benefits of a ‘rock star economy' to older people

National Government: working for New Zealand"

01 August 2014

Liam Butler : What are the benefits of a ‘rock star economy' to older people?

Prime Minister John Key

The ‘rock star economy' title was one person's view and, while flattering, is certainly not how I would categorise it.

In the face of the global financial crisis and the Christchurch earthquakes, some serious decisions had to be made around the direction this country could take.

Finding the balance between maintaining our core health, education and justice commitments while pulling New Zealand out of debt was not easy, but it was nothing that ordinary New Zealanders were not also doing with their budgets - albeit on a much larger scale.

In hard times, you take responsibility and do what is required of you as a citizen.

Those I believe, are values many hard working New Zealanders share.

However, having a strong economy is not the end-goal in itself. The economy is there to serve the people; not the other way around - and we never forget that.

Quite simply, the National-led Government of the last six years has worked tirelessly for a stronger economy so New Zealanders can have a better standard of living. And we are getting there.

When we delivered our sixth Budget in May this year, it forecast that our hard work since 2008 would have the Government's books back in surplus by next year.

If we stick to our programme, forecasts show there will be more jobs, wages will grow faster than inflation, and we will reduce the burden of government debt for the next generation.

So, it is fair to ask then, what has this Government achieved for older New Zealanders?

First, we are committed to keeping the age of New Zealand Superannuation at 65. We are also committed to keeping the married rate of NZ Superannuation at or above 66 per cent of the after-tax average wage.

Despite what some would say, our Superannuation scheme is affordable and the ongoing cost is built into all the Government's projections.

Our record on Superannuation since 2008 has seen all rates of Super rise 28 percent, while in the same six-year period, inflation has gone up just 14 percent.

So how does that translate to the hip pocket?

Well, it means a married couple now receives $249 a fortnight more than they would have received six years ago. For a single person living alone, the rate is now an extra $162 a fortnight.

Budget 2014 also invested an extra $110 million for more hip, knee, and other elective operations. This builds on our record of delivering 40,000 more operations last year than in 2008, plus $33 million more for faster cancer treatment.

This Government has also put a strong emphasis on aged care.

By 2026, there will be more people aged over 65 than children under 15. By 2036, there will be around 1.2 million people aged over 65, or 23 per cent of the population.

As a Government, we have made health our number one funding priority.

While many other countries are freezing or even reducing health funding, we have protected and grown public health services.

We have invested an additional $3.34 billion of new operating and capital funding into health in the past five years.

This resulted in a record $15.6 billion spend on health in Budget 2014 - and within that, aged care has done well.

DHB expenditure on aged care was forecast to be over $1.5 billion in the last financial year - more than a quarter higher than what Labour spent in its last year in office.

In fact, we have increased aged care funding faster than we have increased overall health spending.

DHB funding of aged residential care rose 25 percent between 2008/09 and 2012/13, as against a 17 percent increase in overall health expenditure through the same period.

Older New Zealanders, while benefitting from the improving economy, are also quite naturally concerned for their children and grandchildren, and want to know they are being taken care of.

Well, in Budget 2014 we invested in New Zealand's future with a $500 million package for families - your children and grandchildren.

GP visits and prescriptions for children under 13 will be free from 1 July next year.

We are going to provide an extra four weeks' paid parental leave. That will be an extra two weeks from 1 April next year and a further two weeks on1 April 2016, which will extend it to 18 weeks from the current 14 weeks.

We are also extending it to more people, such as permanent guardians, to reflect that many families have varied arrangements in these busy times.

We are also increasing the parental tax credit to $220 a week and extending it to 10 weeks.

Feeling safe in your home and your community is important for us all, including older New Zealanders.

National has put more Police on the frontline and introduced tougher sentences for the worst offenders and very positive results have come from that.

Crime is at its lowest rate in 35 years.

And more people are getting out of the trap that is long-term welfare dependency, in fact 1500 people a week are currently coming off benefits and into work - that has to be good for everybody.

Our economy is now growing faster than most developed countries. Eighty-four thousand more people are in work in the past year. More school leavers have the qualifications they need. Our public health service is delivering more operations for older New Zealanders.

This National-led Government is delivering for New Zealanders, young and old alike


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