I move, That the Social Assistance (Payment of New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran's Pension Overseas) Amendment Bill be now read a first time. At the appropriate time I intend to move that the bill be referred to the Social Services Committee for its consideration.
The purpose of this bill is to make amendments to the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001 and the War Pensions Act 1954 to make it easier for older New Zealanders to travel or live overseas. Personally, I find it quite hard to imagine why anyone would want to live anywhere but in New Zealand; I cannot quite figure out why those superannuitants would want to go and retire overseas. New Zealand may be facing some tough times, but this is still the best place in the world to live. However, National is the party of choice. We have a commitment to encouraging New Zealanders to make their own choices. So if people currently wish to move to places such as Pitcairn Island, Guam, or Samoa, we agree that they should be freely able to transfer their New Zealand pension entitlement.
There are a variety of ways that older people can be paid overseas, depending on where they intend to go and for how long. Those living overseas temporarily can receive full payment for up to 26 weeks and are not affected by the amendments of the bill. There are three methods of paying older people who wish to leave New Zealand to live in an overseas country. First, there is a network of social security agreements that allow pensioners to receive up to the full rate of payment, depending on how long they have lived in New Zealand. Second, there are special provisions for persons who go to live in certain Pacific countries. I admit that some of these Pacific countries have a fantastic climate and I can see why some people would want to go there, particularly when they are battling against Wellington’s wind some days. Finally, there are provisions for people who move to all other countries, and those are known as the general portability provisions. Older people who leave New Zealand to reside in one of these countries are paid a flat rate of 50 percent of the gross rate of their pension.
The amendments in the bill relate solely to the general portability provisions and will not affect New Zealand’s social security agreements or the special provisions for certain Pacific countries. This bill is necessary because the rules prevent many of our older New Zealanders from retiring to a country of their choice or travelling overseas long term. Three main issues will be addressed by this bill. The flat rate of 50 percent provides insufficient income to allow a reasonable standard of living in many countries. The current rules restrict the ability of older people to move to more than one country, because payment is linked to residence in one particular country. And because payment overseas is linked to residents in a particular country, retirees who wish to undertake long-term travel or to travel between countries have been unable to continue to be paid their superannuation. In these days of global villages, eftpos, and email, these rules are long out of date. Consequently, the bill will make three changes.
The key change is a new, more generous maximum payment. Instead of the current flat rate of payment, older New Zealanders will be able to receive up to 100 percent of their pension, depending on the number of years they have resided in New Zealand. The bill will also free up the rules that restrict the ability of superannuitants and veterans pensioners to move around once they get overseas. It will allow payment to be made to those people who wish to reside in any country with which New Zealand has no social security agreement, whether they remain in such a country or begin travelling. For example, if an elderly couple were to head to London, buy an old combivan, and decide to travel around Europe, they would be entitled to continue to receive their pensions with comparative ease. The bill will also allow payment of superannuation and veterans pensions for those pensioners who wish to travel to a country or between countries.
The amendments contained in the bill address the three main issues with the current general portability provisions. I am confident that the amendments will ensure fairer and more equitable treatment for superannuitants and veterans pensioners who wish to travel or reside overseas. The new provisions will represent a modernisation of the payment overseas policy that has been in place since 1990. The rate was originally set at 50 percent, partly because the superannuation surcharge was not applied to payments overseas. Now the surcharge has gone and therefore has no relevance to the amount of pension we pay overseas. Forcing older people to remain in one country or preventing their ability to travel to a variety of countries serves no particular purpose, and is not in tune with the desires and aspirations of today’s retirees or with the philosophy, quite frankly, of this National Government. Some older people wish to go out on a boat and travel for a couple of years. Some people who reach the great age of 65 think they would like to sail around the world and actually take the time to do that. They will be able to take their superannuation with them. That is a great thing.
The National-led Government is committed—
Actually, Labour had 9 years to bring in this bill and did not bring it in.
Labour had 9 very long years and did not bring in this bill, and now it is trying to claim it as its own. Labour had 9 long years to actually do something about it, but chose not to. Labour chose not to give New Zealanders that choice. It is fantastic that we are stepping up now and actually making this measure happen. There can be a lot of talk and a lot of chit-chat, but this Government is one of action. That is where it is at.
We should not prevent any elderly person from having his or her “grey OE”—I quite like that. Our silver surfers can head off overseas and do what they want to do, and this bill gives them that ability. They may choose to be near their family and whānau, and as much as we might like them to stay, this party believes they should have those sorts of choices. We are committed to ensuring that our older people are able to live in dignity and to participate fully in their community, whether that community is really local here in New Zealand or whether for them it is in another country.
For those countries that we currently have social security agreements with—which include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Jersey, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom—those agreements are already in place and this bill will not affect them. I know that one of the other MPs in this House will raise issues about Australia—he has certainly raised them with me, and he is quite correct—and say that if a New Zealander moves to Australia, then he or she goes on the Australian superannuation scheme. The Australian scheme is income and asset tested. That currently means there is a difference between the Australian and the New Zealand schemes. This bill will not touch that. It will not change those arrangements, but one could move to another country where superannuation is not income and asset tested and, as this bill will allow, receive 100 percent of New Zealand superannuation. If one moves to Australia and has assets, then those assets could be tested under the Australian scheme. However, we did not want that to hold up this scheme from going ahead.
I want to give members a bit of an understanding, as well, of how many people are currently paid New Zealand pensions or benefits overseas. Currently, a total of 19,542 people who live overseas are receiving New Zealand superannuation or a New Zealand benefit. Of this number, 18,715 are covered by agreements, 575 are covered by the special portability arrangement, and 252 are covered by the general portability rules. This bill will open up those categories to a whole lot of other people. I know that when members sit with people in their electorates—and my electorate is a classic; I have a lot of Croatian people in it, and we have certainly been talking about social security agreements with them—we find that many of them want to go back and spend some of their retirement years in their home countries. If those people have been in New Zealand for 10 years or more while they were under the age of 65, then they will be entitled to take 100 percent of their superannuation with them, and I think that that is a fantastic thing. Many of them have approached me and said they would like to do that. As I said earlier—and I cannot quite stress it enough—there are people who want to take the time to go sailing and to leave New Zealand to sail around the world. I just cannot see why they cannot take their superannuation with them.
We estimate the cost of this measure to be around $6.4 million, but the reality is that that is for those who would have lost their pension because they had left. It does not really cost us more, because people are entitled to that pension, and they should be able to take that superannuation with them.
We are committed to our older people. So it is with pleasure that I stand and move the first reading of this bill, which supports them in having that choice of where they want to live and of how they want to live, and in being able to take their superannuation with them. As I have said, Labour had 9 long years to do this but did not. Yet again, we have stepped up and we have done this for those people. It is with pleasure that I commend this bill to the House.
Labour supports the Social Assistance (Payment of New Zealand Superannuation and Veterans Pension Overseas) Amendment Bill. I hoped there could have been just a little bit of charity from the Minister for Social Development and Employment, Paula Bennett, her knowing that this bill was introduced into this House in September 2008. I think that if I am right, the Government of the day introducing this bill was a Labour-led Government—
If the member does not believe it, I suggest she picks up the Order Paper for 31 March—for those who do not have it before them—turns to the second page, looks under the fourth item on the agenda, and sees that this bill was introduced on 22 September 2008. This is a Labour bill. This is a Labour bill that is being passed under a National minority Government.
I am very happy that National members have picked up this legislation and are taking it through the House. I thank them on behalf of superannuitants, pensioners, and veterans in New Zealand. But I would have thought it would not take a lot of effort just to acknowledge that two major parties accept and approve of this bill, rather than to make a speech and try to make out that Labour did nothing in respect of it. A lot of work was done on this bill. In fact, we consulted on it, and I suggest that members look at the explanatory note of the bill, under the heading “Consultation”. They will see that Labour consulted with the National Party, the Green Party, New Zealand First, and the Progressive party before the election, and got support for this bill before the election. The honest National members will acknowledge that that consultation took place, the details of which are included in the body of this bill. So to come into this House and say that the National Party is the party of choice is just another slogan; this bill was a Labour bill, and it certainly gives choice to a lot of older people.
The Minister said that she wondered why people would ever want to travel overseas. But before I address that, I have to say I am pretty insulted by her views about Wellington’s wind. After all, this is one fantastic place in which to live—
—and I am pleased to see that the senior Government whip agrees with me. He said that this is a great place to live—the greater Wellington area. The wind does not bother us. The Minister cannot imagine why people would live in any other—
Well, of course, I do not know why Paul Quinn lives here. I have no idea, at all. He does not contribute anything except to have his tongue flapping for hour after hour.
The Minister said it was hard to imagine why anybody would want to live overseas. But what has happened, I think, is that families have changed. I look at my own parents, who are retired and living near their children. They live near one daughter, and two children live in Wellington; we have only to go across Cook Strait to see them. They are very happy to stay put in New Zealand, and they are well into their 80s. But then I look at the next generation, and at parents like myself. My husband and I have children who live in Australia, who have lived in Thailand, and who move around the world. We want to have the ability, when we reach that age, to go and visit our children. Maybe they will come home; maybe they will not. But what has happened is that families have become mobile. They may be across the Tasman, they may be back in the Pacific Islands, and they may be in the United Kingdom, and older people want the opportunity to go and visit them. Those older people do not want to have to go for just a month; they spend all that amount of money to be able to go for a much longer period of time.
That is what this bill is all about. It gives those people the option—a choice given to them as a result of this Labour-introduced bill—to spend a longer time with their families and still receive New Zealand superannuation when they are overseas. I agree that the flat rate of 50 percent does not provide enough income in most countries where people would go and live, so it is important that there is a higher level of income for those who want to live overseas—for them to be able to live overseas with some level of comfort.
If members look through this bill, they will see that people, under the provisions of the bill, will be able to receive payment overseas of New Zealand superannuation or veterans pensions, based on a formula of 1/540th of the full rate for each month of residence in New Zealand, between the ages of 20 and 65. A lot of work was done to find a formula that was fair—fair to New Zealanders who are taxpayers and who pay their money year after year in their working lives. It was to be a formula that enabled them to get the maximum amount, but that still enabled those who had lived here for a shorter period of time to be able to have an increase, over and above the flat rate of 50 percent.
The bill provides for the ability to receive payments in other countries—not just one country but a number of countries. The Minister mentioned people who live on boats, and who want to travel around the Greek islands or go yachting off the coast of Australia, or who want to be in an old combivan and go around Europe. People often do want to travel and live between more than one country. If people have one part of the family in Australia and another in the United States, they may well want, in a number of months, to be in a number of places. That will be able to happen under this bill.
It is a good bill. It adds to the toolkit, if you like, of things we can do for superannuitants in their retirement. I believe that the previous Labour Government looked after the interests of older New Zealanders and veterans, and I think this is another part of providing a much better ability for people in retirement. We are worried, however, about the future of superannuation under the new National Government, and I think it is worthwhile mentioning that we put in place a superannuation fund so that our children and our grandchildren would have the ability to have superannuation when they retired. But we believe that that is under threat, and we are interested to know what will be in the Budget and what money will be taken from, or not put into, the superannuation fund. Not to provide money into the superannuation fund is a short-term approach, which could mean that our children and our grandchildren will be those who suffer. It is all very well taking the approach that we just look after today; we have done that for far too long in New Zealand when it comes to superannuation.
I agree with Peter Dunne that we have agreement on superannuation, in this House and across political parties, whereby we have said we have to put money away for our kids and grandkids, and for future generations. But now we have, for the sake of short-term expediency, a National Government looking at not putting money into that superannuation fund year after year to maintain its value. If money is not put in next year or in the year after, then there will be a shortfall for our kids. Maybe the National Government does not care about that, but I do. Our kids deserve as much as we have, and in fact when their time comes maybe they will deserve more. We are very concerned about the National Government’s approach to superannuation.
This bill, when it is passed, will provide an opportunity for superannuitants and veterans to take their pensions and go and live in another country for a period of time and with enough money so that they may be able to live far more comfortably than they did before this bill was passed. We will support this bill right through all stages. It is a Labour bill, introduced in September last year, but we are delighted that the National Government has picked up our bill and will see it through to its conclusion. We should be grateful, for the sake of pensioners and superannuitants, that there will be wide support for the bill in this House, as it was consulted on before it was introduced and we had wide support from all parties for it.
I rise this evening to contribute to the debate on the Social Assistance (Payment of New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension Overseas) Amendment Bill. I listened with interest to Annette King, the member opposite who rightly pointed out that this bill was introduced by Labour, and of course it is supported by National. I was a little concerned because although the bill had its genesis in the forty-eighth Parliament, I waited for 9 long minutes to hear the member opposite talk about that. I was really worried because I heard, only in the last few seconds, the member opposite mention the bill. But what I also heard was concern from members opposite about National and about superannuitants and veterans.
Members will have to wait only a few more hours. We do not have to wait for the Budget. Tomorrow, 1 April, and it is no joke, New Zealand superannuation and veterans pension payments will rise by—wait for it—up to $15.64 a week for a couple who both qualify, to $478.38 a week, compared with 1 October last year. For a single person living alone, superannuation and veterans payments will go up by $13.16 a week, to $310.95. We will be waiting only a few more hours, but not for the Budget. Soon the superannuitants and veterans of New Zealand will be feeling much happier about what is coming their way. I see that the heads opposite have gone down, so clearly that was not good news for members on the other side of the Chamber. But it is good news for these New Zealanders.
I am pleased to be given the opportunity to speak on the bill tonight, which I enthusiastically support. I played a part in the genesis of this bill, because I, like many members of this House, made representations in the previous Parliament to the previous Government about the problems with not supporting the superannuation payments of New Zealanders who are living overseas. Some of my constituents who were working as volunteers overseas got in touch with me. One partner was a superannuitant but his wife was not, but now she is as well. They were not getting any support from New Zealand, yet they felt they had paid their taxes all their lives. This is a very, very good bill for the likes of those people, and I know other members like myself have made representations to have this bill come before Parliament.
What do we hope for our hard-working older New Zealanders when they choose to retire? We hope they will have good health, they will have the wealth to enjoy the days of their retirement, and they will be able to enjoy the pastimes that they have saved up, so to speak, for their retirement. But for some lucky New Zealanders, retirement means a chance for them to travel overseas. Some will travel for the pleasure of travel, some will travel to see their relatives and friends, and some will travel, as my constituents did, to do voluntary work in communities that do not know the wealth of opportunity that we have in New Zealand.
This bill is an important step forward in making it easier for New Zealand superannuitants and veterans pensioners to travel overseas, or to retire there. I take the Minister’s point, and I also wonder why they would want to do that. I certainly hope my parents and relatives do not choose to live overseas, but we would not stop them if they wanted to do so. We would prefer they stayed in New Zealand, with family. But again, those older folk may be travelling so as to live closer to family. National is committed to making the retirement of older New Zealanders a little easier, and this bill gives them greater choice in where they may wish to retire to.
The purpose of the bill is to make amendments to the provisions to the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001 and also to the War Pensions Act 1954. The measures that provide for the payment of New Zealand superannuation and veterans pensions overseas have been in place since 1 April 1990. That is 18 years ago, and I say that with no hesitation because our daughters were born just a couple of months later.
The current measures provide for a flat rate payment of 50 percent of the domestic rate of benefit. I am just setting out the current situation and describing it, so that we can see why there is a need for change. An important point relates to where a person leaves New Zealand with the intention of residing in a country with which New Zealand has no agreement relating to reciprocity of social security monetary benefits—that is, it is not a specified Pacific country. This flat rate payment of 50 percent deters older New Zealanders from retiring overseas, because it certainly provides insufficient funds or income to allow them a reasonable standard of living in retirement in most countries. My constituents were lucky. They were supported by the community that they were living in, in part, but it was particularly difficult for them not having any funds. This bill is again, as the Minister described, about giving more choice to older New Zealanders.
Payment is also currently linked to residents in one particular overseas country, which means that superannuitants or veterans pensioners cannot travel to or between multiple countries and continue to receive their payment. If they are doing their big “grey OE”—I do like that phrase—then going to just one country would seem to not be in the spirit of what they have saved for, for their retirement. The status quo is not an option, and that is why this bill has been brought to the House this evening.
The current law creates many problems, as I have outlined, for our older New Zealanders. To qualify for New Zealand superannuation, a person must have had 10 years’ residence in New Zealand since the age of 20, 5 years of which must have been since the age of 50, and the person must, of course, be 65 years of age or over. New Zealand’s residence-based pension system contrasts with the contributory nature of most overseas pension schemes, and it does not easily lend itself to situations where people move in and out of New Zealand.
Two key issues have arisen as a result of the increasing international movement of people, and they include the method of dealing with overseas pensions paid into New Zealand, which effectively tops up the amount of overseas pension to the appropriate full rate of New Zealand superannuation. I certainly believe that every member in this Parliament would have received representations from their constituents on that one. It can be a contentious issue, and it is difficult to administer, but it has remained essentially unchanged for 70 years. The rules for payment of New Zealand superannuation overseas are overly restrictive, and they prevent many New Zealanders from receiving payment while living in the country of their choice or from receiving payment while travelling without having the intent to live in one particular country. That is also problematic.
It is time for change, and this bill will, from 2 November 2009, allow the qualifying superannuitants and veterans pensioners who wish to travel in or to or between any overseas country to retain their entitlement. That is an important word. When we hear from people who have paid taxes towards their superannuation, they truly believe they have done their bit to prepare for their retirement. It is important that when they later become resident in a country with which New Zealand does not have an agreement, they are able to collect their pension. For those who wish to reside in any country with which New Zealand has no agreement relating to reciprocity, it will mean that they can retain their entitlement if they become resident in that country, or even if they begin to travel.
The Social Assistance (Payment of New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension Overseas) Amendment Bill is increasingly more and more relevant for older New Zealanders. New Zealand, like most OECD countries, has an ageing population. The older population is predicted to double by the year 2028, and the population aged over 85 years will almost treble during that period. That creates quite a lot of issues in the planning for that change in New Zealand’s demographic. By 2051 older people in New Zealand will make up approximately a quarter of the population. Older people want to travel. They want to keep connected with their families, who are often spread far and wide across the globe. Despite older people being more mobile, they suffer many problems, which is a situation that National is committed to making easier over time. This important bill gets us started on that process.
I look forward to participating in the select committee’s examination of this bill as we hear the submissions on it. I also commend this bill to the House, as others before me have done. I am really very pleased that there is cross-party support for the bill, and I believe that New Zealand superannuitants and veterans wanting to travel or live overseas will congratulate the whole Parliament on this bill. Thank you.
It is my pleasure to rise and speak in support of the Social Assistance (Payment of New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension Overseas) Amendment Bill.
Well, bated breath is not too bad, I say to Mr Quinn. If the member does listen he will soon understand very clearly why I support this bill, and it might be very different from that member’s understanding of my reasoning.
I support this bill primarily because it is pro-family. It sets out to understand what is happening to the modern family, and it continues to put together a whole series of policies from when Labour was in Government. Labour will continue to support every such idea that comes from the Government regarding this bill. It is also pleasing to support this bill because it is a Labour bill, and no amount of criticising its time frame takes that away.
It does not take it away, as that member will soon realise. The bill delivers on Labour’s pro-family commitment, which is longstanding and can be seen in the purpose of this bill. The member may smile at that, but we certainly can argue that point with him.
This bill primarily modernises an aspect of New Zealand superannuation in response to the changing nature of life for our citizens who are over 65 years of age. It takes a little bit of thinking through to really appreciate the changing nature of New Zealand families and what that might mean for a series of social policies that are designed to support our families at various stages of their lives. This particular bill certainly supports families at the tail end of their lives, post their working phase. If members consider for a moment the changes that have been taking place in the New Zealand family—which are not atypical in terms of the changes that families globally are facing as well—then the first thing to realise is that our families in the 21st century are globalised. They come from many different places, and they have many different connections. If we understand the changing nature of New Zealand families, and the changing nature of New Zealand society in terms of its ethnic diversification, then in the future many of our older people will be from different ethnicities with strong connections to different parts of the world. They live here because they love this country, and they have contributed to it. But it does not mean they have discarded their relationships with their old countries or do not want to ever go back there. What precludes them—it has precluded some I know—from going back there are the problems that this particular bill sets out to address.
We have an ageing population, so soon there will be more and more people in this particular stage of their lives. Life expectancy increases for all kinds of reasons—that happens. This population is increasing, and therefore people’s needs and their interests, both here and globally, become particularly important. They do become very, very important players in the globalised world. Families now live at the same time in a number of countries. My mother lives in Vancouver, and she is 90 years of age. I am one of 14 children all over the world whom she is able to travel to see and spend time with.
Well, my mother will be pleased to see Mr Quinn as well, if he would like, when she comes here. The member might find it very, very useful to meet somebody who is a beneficiary of a similar provision elsewhere. My mother is able to travel, knowing that she has the comfort of being financially secure, because she is able to take her own pensions with her.
Families live concurrently in a number of countries, and they have connections to a number of countries. As family members grow older, their grandchildren are now living in other countries and many of these families of ours in retirement want to go and live with their families overseas and to spend time with their grandchildren—and for a significant proportion of time as well. Therefore, I find it difficult to understand why the Minister for Social Development and Employment would find it difficult to understand the motivation behind many of our superannuitants who want to take advantage of this particular—
What a load of rubbish! I’m bringing the bill in! So obviously I’m supportive of it. I just said New Zealand was beautiful, and I think that New Zealand rocks.
The Minister says that this is about driving combivans and living in the Pitcairn Islands—that is a cynical approach to the needs of our families. In time, the Minister will understand what this is about. The Minister can crow as much as she likes, but it is about trying to understand our families. The Minister shows no understanding of the changing nature of New Zealand families, and how indeed this provision might address that.
Perhaps the Minister might be generous and at least acknowledge that that indeed is what this bill tries to do. Those are the kinds of provisions. It is very easy to talk about a provision in cynical terms. There is nothing cynical about this set of provisions. This is serious business. This bill was well-designed and well-thought-out, and it addresses an aspect of New Zealand society at the present time. Indeed, maybe it will be our mothers and our relatives who will take advantage of this. This measure is about understanding the importance of the ability to travel and to go and live somewhere else and, perhaps, more important than anything else, to spend time with grandchildren and be of assistance to them at a time when families require that type of support. It is grandparents—and great-grandparents, of course—who are able to provide that kind of support. But what precludes grandparents from doing so—apart from anything to do with distance—is believing that they would have to live overseas without financial support or security of income. Then the possibility evaporates. These provisions enable families to go and live with their loved ones, support them, and still be comfortable themselves.
As I said, in the last 20 years many, many such families have migrated to New Zealand. They have made New Zealand a great society. They have increased our diversity. They have played an important part in our society, as well, but they have retained links to where they have come from and they do want to go back. The bill provides portability to superannuitants and to holders of the veterans pension who live in countries that have no agreement with New Zealand in terms of the reciprocity of social security benefits.
As I have said, it is likely that this will be a growing list of countries—some of which we might not have imagined a few years ago. I think it is timely to address this particular issue The bill is timely and it is responsive, and many people will appreciate its introduction. But it is also urgent. It is urgent because the record of National in Government is not very good on superannuation. I remember very, very well—
It’s going up tomorrow.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: The Minister is not old enough to appreciate the point, so perhaps she might want to listen. Then she might appreciate the point through research or through listening. This may be a time for members opposite to listen. There was a period in the early 1970s—
I think Mr Quinn should listen and appreciate the fact that when all of us were enabled to open an account in our own names, in our New Zealand superannuation system, it was one of the greatest things that New Zealand society did. If allowed to carry on, it would indeed have given this country a huge resource base, in terms of financial capital. The National Party actually succeeded in telling the electorate that this would be used to socialise every aspect of New Zealand society, and when coupled with the racist browning idea of New Zealand society that was promoted at the same time, the then Muldoon Government, in one fell swoop, took this away. We have suffered ever since. We now have a multiparty accord, and there are signs that the Government wants to tinker with that, as well. The Government cannot be trusted on superannuation, and, therefore, this becomes quite urgent as well.
The Green Party will be supporting the Social Assistance (Payment of New Zealand Superannuation and Veterans Pension Overseas) Amendment Bill, which, from what we can ascertain at this stage at least, simply makes a logical and long-overdue amendment to the way this country treats superannuitants and veterans who travel or reside overseas for more than 6 months.
At the moment, people who are eligible for superannuation or the veterans pension and who journey abroad for longer than 6 months, or who go to countries that do not have reciprocal social security arrangements with New Zealand, are unable to go on receiving their entitlements. This, of course, means that they have the option either to return home or to be reduced to seeking employment, to penury, or to dependence on others, if they choose to remain away from New Zealand. In the current economic situation around the world, the first option, that of getting paid work, will become even more difficult for our older citizens in the times ahead than it is already, no matter what country they are in. Penury will be an even more likely outcome for many.
It is therefore timely that the Government has decided to present this bill to Parliament, and I hope it will go through the select committee and House processes with considerable alacrity. It is hard to imagine that any party in this Parliament will hold it up—and given the speeches so far, I do not think that will happen—given that this bill provides for a significant improvement in the lives of our older citizens who choose to spend time or live permanently overseas.
The only issue I can see at this stage as possibly creating a little angst is the provision that superannuation or the veterans pension will be paid in these circumstances at a rate of 1/540th of the full rate for each month of residence in New Zealand between the ages of 20 and 65 years. However, for those who have spent a substantial portion of their working lives elsewhere, this has the upside that should they receive an overseas pension, for example, from the UK, it will not be reduced by the amount they may have earned during that period when they were not in New Zealand. Having sat through a number of discussions on various reciprocal arrangements we have with other jurisdictions while on the Social Services Committee over the last 9 years, I can say that it is something of a relief to see a bill coming through in this area that is not dependent on the negotiation of exact arrangements with another sovereign nation, and that aims to be inclusive in its effect, rather than exclusive.
The bill also appears to have a side effect of potentially removing the barriers that currently exist that preclude a social security agreement with the United States. I am sure that there will be many who will welcome this, given the number of citizens of both countries who move between them.
However, this bill does not attempt to deal with the vexed issue that has come to the select committee, and, I am sure, to all of our out-of-Parliament offices at different times, relating to the operation and effect of the dollar for dollar deduction against New Zealand social security benefits imposed in respect of contributory pension schemes administered by Governments overseas. This matter has been raised time and time again by people aggrieved by the fundamental unfairness of arbitrarily missing out on the benefits of contributory pension funds that they have been part of—often for a substantial part of their working lives—because of the unfair provisions imposed by section 70 of the Social Security Act.
The issue is really quite simple. If overseas pensions are paid from taxation revenue gathered by overseas Governments, as New Zealand superannuation and benefits paid under the Social Security Act are, then a dollar for dollar deduction is totally appropriate. But if a portion of the revenue for such overseas pension schemes is from contributions by employees, then the dollar for dollar deduction is simply unfair. Whether an overseas Government or a private fund administers the scheme should be an irrelevant consideration.
The previous Government promised for most of its tenure to address this knotty issue. Legislation was promised to be introduced in the last parliamentary term. When this bill was introduced I expected the bill to deal with this issue also. It does not. Both New Zealanders living overseas and contributing to pension schemes administered by overseas Governments, and immigrants to New Zealand who have contributed to such schemes for many years before coming here, will continue to be unfairly penalised unless urgent action is taken. I heard National members talking about this in a most sympathetic and understanding manner in years gone by when they were in Opposition. I hope that in this new Parliament we might see some progress made on this broader and more significant problem.
I invite the Minister to consider amending this bill to address this issue as an option, and invite her to meet with me to discuss ways in which the gross unfairness of section 70 of the Social Security Act can be most readily addressed. If National remains true to the statements of its spokespeople when in Opposition, this is an issue on which we could work together, and, I am sure, on which other parties in the House could work, as well. Meanwhile, I commend to the House this minor but welcome amendment to our superannuation and pension laws.
ACT supports the general thrust of this bill, and supports its referral to a select committee. I thank the Minister for Social Development and Employment, Paula Bennett, for her ready response to my request for additional information relating to this bill. I raised with her what I believe could be seen as—potentially at least—one or two unfair aspects of this bill, and I take the opportunity to raise them in the House.
I take the example of a New Zealander who has worked here for 45 years, between the ages of 20 years and 65 years. If that person retires and goes to Thailand to live, under this bill that person will get a 100 percent superannuation payment, and that seems a reasonable provision. If we take the example of someone from a Pacific Island country who works in New Zealand for 20 years—240 months—or more, then returns home, that person will also get 100 percent of his or her superannuation rights. On the other hand, if we take the example of a New Zealander who was born in New Zealand, who worked in New Zealand from, say, the age of 20 to 65—for 45 years—and who moves to Australia, that person could get zero superannuation payment, as a result of the reciprocal social security agreement we have with Australia.
In other words, a New Zealander who has worked for 45 years and then lives in Thailand will get a full superannuation right, another person who has come from one of the islands, and worked here for 20 years or more then returned home will also get 100 percent, but a New Zealander who has lived in New Zealand for 65 years and worked here for 45 years, who has a few assets or has a bit of other income, and who goes to Australia, will get absolutely zero, because of the social security agreement we have with Australia. Such people will get zero from New Zealand, but also they will get zero from Australia. In other words, they will get no pension whatsoever.
I think a lot of New Zealanders will see that as an anomaly that we need to address. Why should it be that if one goes to Thailand or a Pacific Island, one gets 100 percent of one’s pension, yet if one goes to Australia—or, potentially, to other countries with which we have social security agreements—under the arrangements we have made with Australia one receives no superannuation, at all?
I have raised that issue with the Minister, and I thank her for the information she has given me. She has been very open. But I think the issue should be addressed and thought about at the select committee.
Ā, tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. Kia ora tātau e te Whare, kia ora tātau i tēnei pō. Arā anō te whāinga matua, te mātāpono rānei o te ao Māori, arā, ko te whakanui, ko te whakamana i te hunga kuia, koroua rānei. Kei te pūtake rātau o ngā tūmanako, ko rātau tonu te tauira mō te whakatipuranga hou. Nō reira, he oranga ngākau kua tae mai tātau ki tēnei pire. Kai te tautoko ake mātau i tēnei pire i te mea, he hāngai tonu ana ki te tiaki i tēnei āhuatanga o te tiaki me te manaaki i te hunga koeke me te hunga tūmatauenga me kī. Me kī ko te āhuatanga o tēnei pire he mea kua roa e kōrerohia ana e te Pāti Māori, arā, kia whakahou i te hiahia, kia whakarahi ake, kia whakapiki ake te utu a superannuation tae rā anō ki te hunga kua haere ki tāwāhi, me te mōhio anō hoki me whakaheke whakararo te taumata ā-tau nei mō ngā rōpū e mate moata ana ki tērā o te wā o te nuinga, o te rahinga me kī.
Kua roa te Pāti Māori e kōrero ana kia heke whakararo me kī te tau e āhei ai te nuinga ki te whiwhi i te peneihana tēnei mea te superannuation ki te 60 tau mō ngā rōpū me kī, e moata rawa te mate. Me kī i te katoa o te motu mō te ao Māori me kī, ngā āhuatanga katoa kai raro tonu te ao Māori e putu ana. Me kī, ka mate te ao Māori te nuinga o te wā tekau tau i mua noa atu o te ao Pākehā. Ko tā mātau e kī nei, he pai kē me whakaheke te tau e āhei ai te tangata whiwhi penihana, te pūtea rānei, ā, ka mutu, he painga anō rā ka puta ki ngā mea katoa o Aotearoa nei. Mō te ao Māori me kī, ngā tatauranga o te ao Māori, 4 ira 5 pai hēneti o mātau kua eke ki te 65 tau, pakeke noa atu rānei. Nō reira, ki taku mōhio, taku titiro ko tētahi o tērā hunga me kī te 28,260 o te ao Māori nei he mema tonu o roto i tēnei Whare Pāremata. Me kī mō te hunga Pākehā 14 ira 5 pai hēneti kua eke ki te 65 tau, pakeke noa atu rānei. Me kī pēnei au, o te hunga makawe hiriwā o Aotearoa, 5 ira 3 pai hēneti o te katoa o Aotearoa kua eke ki te 65 tau, pakeke atu rānei he Māori tonu.
E rua ngā take nunui kei roto i ēnei kaute. Tuatahi, e ai ki ngā kōrero whakatau tata me kī ki te 6500 Māori o te 65 tau pakeke noa atu rānei kai Ahitereiria e noho ana. Tuarua, e ai anō rā ki ngā tatauranga, kua rahi ake te hunga koeke Māori ā ngā tau tata kai mua i te aroaro, arā, mai i ngā tekau tau e 2, e 3 rānei kai mua i te aroaro. Nō reira, arā noa atu ngā take e tika ana kia whakariterite tātau i a tātau anō mō ngā tau kai mua i te aroaro. Mō te aha? Mō te hauora o te ao Māori i Aotearoa nei. Ehara i te mea kai te whakaaro noa ake mātau mō Aotearoa me tōna kotahi i roto i te ture nei. Kei te titiro anō hoki mātou ki ngā Kuki Airini, ki Whītī, ki Kiripati, ki Niue, ki Hāmoa, ki Tokerau, ki Tonga, ki Tuvalu, Vanuatu me ētahi atu me kī o Te Moana Nui A Kiwa i whakaingoatia i roto i te New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act o te tau 2001.
Nō reira, ko te painga o tēnei pire, e āhei ana te hunga koeke me kī, me te hunga tūmatauenga, te hunga e hiahia ana ki te haere ki tāwāhi ki reira noho ai, e haere ai rānei. Mēnā karekau he kirimana i waenganui i a Aotearoa me tētahi atu, mō te utu hauora nei, e āhei tonu ana rātau ki te whiwhi i te moni, i te pūtea me te penihana e kōrerohia ake nei. Āhua whai tonu i te āhuatanga o ngā pire pai kua tae mai ki te Whare Pāremata nei, e whakapai ake nei i te āhuatanga mō te hunga koeke. Ko tāku e whakaaro ake nei ko te Social Security (Long-term Residential Care) Amendment Act, te SuperGold Card legislation tae rā anō ki ētahi pūtea whakawātea ka āhei mō te hunga nohotahi, ngā tāne, wāhine rānei kia whiwhi pūtea tonu rātou. Katoa o ēnei he āhua pai. Nō reira, he pērā anō hoki tēnei pirei. Ehara i te mea kua mutu me kī te katoa o ngā āhuatanga ka mutu, me ngahau tātau. Ko tā te Pāti Māori e kī nei, mēnā hiahia ana tātau ki te whakamana i te hunga koeke me te hunga pakeke, mēnā e hiahia ana tātau ki te whakamana i a rātau tae rā anō ki ngā mea e tika ana kia whiwhi i a rātau, arā noa atu ngā mea hai whakariterite mā tātau. Ā, ka mutu, arā anō ngā mea me kī ka kimihia e te Pāti Māori i mua i te aroaro o te Kāwanatanga, Ko tā mātau e kī nei me titiro tātau ki te āhuatanga me kī o te noho-ā-whānau, o te noho-ā-kāinga kia āhei ai te hunga pakeke ki te noho atu ki ō rātou ake kāinga mēnā e hiahia ana ka mutu, kia whai wāhi anō rā me kī e whā pea ngā wā ki te whakatā.
He mea nui tēnei ki a au i te mea, kei te mōhio tonu au ki te āhuatanga o te tiaki i tētahi o tō whānau. I pērā rawa te āhuatanga o tōku ake tuahine. Ko tōna oranga, ko tōna hauora he mea nui ki a mātau o te whānau nō reira, kai te mōhio tonu ahau i tōna mutunga mai, kia riro mā te whānau te tangata e tiaki. He mea nui tērā ki ētahi o ngā whānau katoa me te mōhio anō hoki, tērā pea mēnā ka pērā, arā noa atu ngā painga ka puta. Ko te whakakore i te rārangi poka tinana, he take nui tērā ki a mātou. Ka mutu, ko te tuku o te kāwanatanga i ētahi pūtea mō ngā ratonga mate whawhati tata nei me kī, kia kaua kē e waiho ake ki roto i ngā ringaringa o te hunga mahi kore utu nei. Ko tā mātou e pīrangi nei me kaha tātau ki te tiaki i te hunga pakeke, ā, ka mutu, ko te hauora he kaupapa nui tērā ki a rātau, me te mōhio anō hoki ko tēnei mea o te whānau ora, ehara i te mea ko te rongoā i tōna kotahi, ko te mahere whakaora i tōna kotahi.
Ko te whānau ora, ko te tiaki me kī, te whānau ka mutu, ko te whakanui i te whānau, ko te whakapakari i te whānau kia whiwhi rātau i ngā painga e tika ana i roto i ngā ratonga katoa. Me whakanui i a rātou kia taea e rātau te puta me kī ki te whaiao, ki te ao mārama i runga i te mōhio kua ora te tinana. Ko tā mātau e pīrangi nei, ko te whakaora i te wairua o te whānau kia mōhio rātau, arā noa atu ngā huarahi hai whāinga kia puta te hauora ki tēnā, ki tēnā o rātau. Ā, nō reira, ko taku kōrero whakamutunga, “He tira kaumātua tērā te haere nā.” Me kaha nei tātau ki te tiaki i wā tātau pakeke te tūmanko ia, mō te wā roa ka mutu, me kaha nei tātau ki te whakaaro ake mō ētahi huarahi hou ki te tiaki i wā tātau pakeke kia taea e rātau te tiaki i a rātau anō ka mutu, ki te whai i ngā huarahi e hiahiatia nei e rātau. Ka tautoko te Pāti Māori i tēnei pire.
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[Greetings to you, Mr Assistant Speaker; and the House tonight, greetings to us. A golden principle within Māoridom is that due and proper respect is accorded to our kuia and kaumātua—our elders. Our older people are the foundations upon which our hope sits; they are literally the walking legacies that we model ourselves on. How pleasing indeed it is, therefore, that we have come to this bill. We support it because it is about taking due care of superannuitants and veterans. The context for reading this bill is, of course, a longstanding call that we in the Māori Party have made, promoting the need to raise the rate of superannuation and veterans’ pensions, while at the same time lowering the entitlement age for groups whose life expectancy is lower than average.
The Māori Party has always advocated lowering the age of entitlement to New Zealand superannuation to 60 yearsfor groups whose life expectancy is lower than average. The average mortality age for Māori across the socio-economic spectrum is around 10 years earlier than for non-Māori. It is our view that a lower entitlement age will allow more equitable uptake of New Zealand superannuation for all citizens. In the Māori population, just 4.5 percent of us are 65 years or older—I have very good reason to believe that at least one of that precious community of 28,260 older Māori is a current member of this House. In comparison with the non-Māori population, 14.5 percent are 65 years or older. Putting it another way, in that golden-oldie, silver-haired segment of our society, only 5.3 percent of the total population who are 65 years or older are Māori.
But there are a couple of important riders to these demographics. The first is that it is estimated that some 6,500 Māori aged 65 years or over are currently living in Australia. The second is the population trends, which tell us that the proportion of older Māori will increase quite rapidly over the next two or three decades. Therefore, there is every good reason to plan ahead to take ample consideration of the work we need to put in. For what purpose? For the health of Māoridom here in New Zealand —except that it is not just Aotearoa we are thinking of in this legislation. We are also including the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and the other Pacific nations identified in the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001.
This bill will enable superannuitants and veterans pensioners who wish to travel or live in another country where New Zealand does not have agreements relating to reciprocity of social security payments to still have the ability to receive New Zealand superannuation and pension payments. It continues the passage of positive legislation that has advanced opportunities for our elders. I am thinking of the Social Security (Long-term Residential Care) Amendment Act, the SuperGold Card legislation, and the progress made in extending the eligibility for the single or single living alone rate to include spouses and partners. Those were all initiatives that we were happy to support, as we will this bill, but that is not to say that everything is polished off and we should celebrate. The Māori Party is of the view that if we really want to value our ageing and older people, if we really want to afford them the status they are entitled to, then there are many things we need to deal with and will seek to raise with the Government. We believe there needs to be greater investment in whānau-based and home-based care options to enable older people to choose to remain in their homes, with access to respite care at least four times a year.
This is something I have a particular passion for, knowing the reality of the enduring challenges we faced as a whānau in the care of my late sister. Her care and ongoing well-being were of absolute priority to us, so I am in no doubt whatsoever that whānau care is something many families would love to be able to benefit from. The elimination of surgical waiting lists is an important future goal to us. Also important is the need for Government investment in ensuring the provision of emergency services instead of relyingon voluntary community efforts. We want to see every priority given to our aged and elderly. Excellent health care is a key part of this.
Of course, whānau ora is more than just prescriptions and treatment plans. F amily well-being is also about uplifting and strengthening whānau: ensuring whānau are properly resourced and have access to all services, invest in themselves, participate in society, and determine their futures. We want to restore a sense of confidence in whānau, that whānau is and can be a meaningful and secure centre from which to care well for one another. So my closing statement is: “That which traverses there is a company of elders.” Let us insist that the path of ageing is steady, sustainable, and strong. We must be bold enough to think of new ways to care for our aged and elderly in a way that enables them to tend for themselves and to pursue avenues they desire. The Māori Party supports this bill .]
Before I call the next member, the issue of central heating in the Chamber has been raised with me. People feel a bit warm. I have asked my trusty assistant to check on the matter. I am advised that the air conditioning has now been cranked up a notch, and things should cool down a bit in the Chamber. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, who knows?
It is my pleasure to stand in the Chamber tonight and support the Social Assistance (Payment of New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension Overseas) Amendment Bill. As society changes, it is important that legislation keeps abreast of those changes. This bill represents change because our society in New Zealand has changed. It has become a lot more multicultural and a lot more global.
Many families now have children, grandchildren, and siblings who live overseas and who intend to stay overseas and not come back to New Zealand. My own family is an example of that. I have a mother who lives in New Zealand and a sister who lives in Sydney. I have four cousins. One of them lives in Sydney and another lives in Brisbane. In my own family we are global, so when we need to get together as a family, when grandparents want to see the grandchildren, or when we want to visit our siblings to keep the family unit together, we have to get on a plane. Our society has changed and people are travelling a lot more, especially the elderly. They are travelling a lot more to keep that family unit together by visiting their siblings, their grandchildren, and their children. This bill is a result of change in our society that has meant that parents and grandparents now have to travel, and they do travel.
New Zealand has also become a very multicultural society where a lot of siblings and grandchildren live permanently in countries where the grandparents originally came from. For example, grandparents are going back to India or Asia for months at a time to visit their family.
This legislation is very positive and is keeping abreast of the times. Even though travel costs have reduced, many people who travel are on fixed incomes. Many elderly people save to go away, but if they lose their superannuation while they are overseas, they get into a bit of financial hardship. Not everybody who travels is wealthy, and a lot of people—especially the elderly—save to visit their family, because that is a priority in their lives.
This bill makes it easier for older people to travel or live overseas. The new provisions represent a modernisation of the overseas policy payment that has been in place since 1990. The Government is committed to ensuring that our older people are able to live in dignity and to participate fully in their community, whether that community is in New Zealand or in another country, and whether they participate in that community for 1 week, 1 month, or 6 months. It is important that they participate, and that they have dignity while doing so because they do have income. Forcing older people to remain in one country or preventing their ability to travel to a variety of countries serves no particular purpose, and is not in tune with the desires and aspirations of today’s retirees.
The Government is amending the legislation as the current system offers limited options. The current rules are preventing many of our older New Zealanders from moving to the country where they would like to live, or from travelling overseas. The current policies generally reflect the universal and resident-based nature of New Zealand’s system, and provide good protection for most New Zealanders. However, the recent review identified a number of specific issues with the policies on the treatment of overseas pensions, and the payment of New Zealand superannuation and veterans pension overseas.
The key change is a new, more generous maximum payment. Instead of the current flat rate of payment, older New Zealanders will be able to receive up to 100 percent, depending on the number of years they have resided in New Zealand. The bill will also free up the rules that restrict the ability of superannuitants and veterans pensioners to move around once they get overseas. It will allow payments to be made to those people who wish to reside in any country with which New Zealand has no social security agreement, whether they remain in such countries or begin travelling. It will also allow payment of superannuation and the veterans pension to those qualifying superannuitants and veterans pensioners who travel to, or in, or between any countries.
The amendments contained in the bill address the three issues with the current general portability provisions. The amendments will ensure fairer and more equitable treatment for superannuitants and veterans pensioners who wish to travel or reside overseas. The bill also proposes some technical amendments that will resolve some prior drafting errors and existing inconsistencies between the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001 and the War Pensions Act 1954. The bill amends the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001 and the War Pensions Act 1954 to make it easier for older New Zealanders to travel or live overseas. The new provisions will represent a modernisation of the payment overseas policy that has been in place since the 1990s.
The key features are, first, the payment of New Zealand superannuation and the veterans pension overseas based on a formula of 1/540th of the full rate for each month of residence in New Zealand between the ages of 20 and 65. Second, payment of New Zealand superannuation and veterans pensions will be made to superannuitants and veterans pensioners travelling to more than one country. The National-led Government is committed to ensuring that our older people are able to live in dignity and participate fully in their community, whether that community is in New Zealand or in other countries.
The purpose of the bill is to amend the legislation as the current system offers limited options. The current rules are preventing many of our older New Zealanders from travelling and from seeing their families. Currently there are three main ways in which New Zealand superannuation and the veterans pension can be paid to people resident overseas: general portability agreement, special portability agreement, and social security agreements. The current policies generally reflect the universal and residence-based nature of the New Zealand system, and provide protection for most New Zealanders.
However, the recent review identified a number of specific issues with the treatment of overseas pensions and the payment of New Zealand superannuation. There are three main issues that this legislation will address: the flat rate of 50 percent provides insufficient income to allow a reasonable standard of living in many countries; the current rules restrict the ability of older people to move to more than one country, because payment is linked to residency; and payment overseas at present is linked to residence overseas, and older people who wish to undertake long-term travel in another country or travel between countries cannot continue to receive their payments. Because of those issues, the bill will make the three main changes.
The key change is the more generous maximum payment. Instead of the current flat rate of payment, older New Zealanders will be able to receive up to 100 percent of New Zealand superannuation, depending on the number of years they have resided in New Zealand. Secondly, the bill will also free up the rules that restrict the ability of superannuitants and veterans pensioners to move around. Thirdly, it will allow payment for those people who wish to reside in any country. The bill also proposes some technical amendments that will resolve some prior drafting errors and existing inconsistencies between the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001 and the War Pensions Act 1954.
I look forward to this bill coming to the Social Services Committee and to the submissions that we will listen to. The last time this bill was amended, in 2001, there were 269 submissions, and I am sure there will be great interest in this bill this time as well. I commend this bill to the House. Thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker Barker.
Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker Barker. Greetings and acknowledgment to members of this House.
The Social Assistance (Payment of New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension Overseas) Amendment Bill is a great bill and I am privileged to have the opportunity to take a call on it. We in Labour will fully support this bill through the legislative process; this bill is, after all, a bill that the previous Labour Government did all the work on. Under the previous Labour Government, a review was initiated on the treatment of overseas pensions and the payment of New Zealand superannuation and the veterans pension overseas.
This review began in 2002 and was completed in October 2007. Appropriately, the review was undertaken by the Ministry of Social Development and Treasury. It is comforting to know that other Government agencies such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, the Inland Revenue Department, and the Department of Labour were consulted, and provided advice throughout the review. I am glad also that the review took into account the views expressed in correspondence to the Ministry of Social Development and to various Ministers at the time on the treatment of overseas pensions and the overseas payment provisions.
I want to therefore acknowledge my friend and colleague the Hon Ruth Dyson for all her work and effort in ensuring that this work took place. The Hon Ruth Dyson, as the previous Minister for Social Development and Employment, had a good rapport with all of our communities throughout New Zealand, and was in tune with the needs of our communities—in this case, with pensioners and veterans.
I also want to acknowledge the Minister for Social Development and Employment, the Hon Paula Bennett, for keeping this bill alive and for allowing it to proceed through the legislative system of this House. In my view, the Minister has done an extraordinary thing, and I suspect it would have required enormous courage to do so, as I have noticed that anything that Labour worked on or introduced, or that is associated with Labour, suddenly gets dumped. We have seen examples of this not only with the dumping of Ross Wilson as the chair of the Accident Compensation Corporation board but with the further dumping by the Minister for ACC of other board members. I acknowledge the Minister for bringing this bill through. Some in this House might ask why we should acknowledge the Hon Paula Bennett, when she did not do any of the work. I would like to think that she had the courage to convince her Cabinet colleagues that even though this bill had been introduced by the previous Labour Government, she should still advance it through this House. So I salute the Hon Paula Bennett.
Advancing this bill is also extraordinary because of the environment that the National Government has created around superannuation generally. I want to give members some context for the bill that we are now debating. I would say to members of this House that the National Government has created a lot of worry and uncertainty around superannuation. Earlier in the year the National Government created uncertainty around the future of the Superannuation Fund with its comments about borrowing to fund it, suggesting investment losses, and never, for one minute, recognising that the Superannuation Fund operates on a long-term strategy.
National has always been uncomfortable around superannuation and is now refusing to rule out plundering the fund. In fact, comments made by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance were captured in newspaper headlines. The National Business Review on 27 February this year stated: “Stopping super payment inevitable”. Another quote from the Southland Times on 25 February stated: “Key won’t rule out Super Fund suspension”. These kinds of headlines only remind Grey Power and senior citizens throughout New Zealand of the National Government in the 1990s. Members will know about the comment: “no ifs, no buts, no maybes”. Then the National Government of the 1990s broke National’s pre-election promise to scrap that surcharge, and instead increased it from 20 percent to 25 percent, and lowered the income exemption so that more superannuitants were affected by the surcharge. In 1998 the National Government linked superannuation to the level of the consumer price index. At the same time it cut its relative level from 65 percent to 60 percent of the average wage, which was estimated would lead to between one-third and one-half of New Zealand’s elderly living in poverty.
Yes, that is right. The newspaper headlines captured the National Government’s attitudes towards superannuation in the 1990s. I quote from the Evening Post of 13 January 1999: “Govt looked at bigger super cuts”. Another one is from the Daily News of 2 February 1999: “Super sacrifice”. That is the kind of background against which we now debate this bill. It is one of the reasons why I said that it must have taken courage for the Hon Paula Bennett to advance this bill, particularly when the rest of her front bench is intending to do other things with superannuation.
We come now to the bill, the Social Assistance (Payment of New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension Overseas) Amendment Bill. As I said, Labour is supporting this bill. It is aimed at ensuring that New Zealanders who wish to retire overseas are able to do so comfortably, in the country of their choice. When I look through the bill, I see that it is pro-family, as my colleague Dr Rajen Prasad has said.
This bill recognises that we, the ordinary New Zealand or Kiwi family, have international links. The Minister mentioned Croatia. In my electorate we have Māori whose family live in Japan and in China, and the parents like to visit their kids there and to stay a little. We have Pacific people who are linked to family in Rome and family in the USA. We have Latin American people, Chinese people, and people from the UK in my community. We have parents and grandparents who are travelling and wanting to spend time—sometimes a year, sometimes 2 years, sometimes more—with young relatives who live overseas.
I would be very much interested in hearing the views of some of these families with regard to this bill. I am pleased that it will be going to a select committee. In particular, we have church organisations that send out elderly people on missions, sometimes for 2 years, 3 years, 5 years, or longer, and I would be interested in hearing their view in terms of what impact, if any, this bill may have on them. I am also particularly interested in the views of Pacific communities. This bill specifies 22 Pacific countries that we will have relationships with under the bill, and I would be interested to know the views of some Pacific individuals in those specific communities who have experience in this regard.
I also heard earlier a member of the ACT Party mention the potential problems associated with our relationship with Australia. I have had a couple of families come to me with similar problems with Australia. Australians who have come here or New Zealanders who have gone to Australia, have had difficulty in securing their particular pension. I would be interested in hearing the views of families that have had difficulty in transporting their pension to or from Australia and New Zealand.
I can see that you are getting tired, Mr Assistant Speaker Roy, and my time is running out, so I am pretty pleased to speak in favour of this bill. Thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker.
Mr Assistant Speaker Roy, may you find this contribution even more electrifying!
It is wonderful to hear the member for Māngere and his colleagues all declaring their great support for this Social Assistance (Payment of New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension Overseas) Amendment Bill. But, yet again, they seem to find all sorts of ways of talking around it. In particular, I was astonished to hear that member, Su’a William Sio, remind the House yet again about the shambles in accident compensation that his party bequeathed to the new Government. Instead of his shedding crocodile tears over the future of Mr Ross Wilson, I say to Mr Sio that I think Mr Wilson will probably applaud this bill more than most members of the public, because the likelihood is that he will have plenty of chances to enjoy some travelling in the next few years.
I commend our excellent new Minister for Social Development and Employment for bringing this important bill before the House. As she noted in her introductory remarks, it is yet another example of a measure that the previous Government claimed it was promoting, but that languished on the Order Paper throughout its 9 long years of inactivity.
As my wonderful colleague Amy Adams points out, in her long and distinguished career in this House almost every measure that we have had to work on falls into this category. So it is great that we have, at long last, a Government that is getting on with the job. I suggest to members opposite that they reflect on why the previous Labour Government was so strong on the talk and so weak on the walk. It is no wonder that New Zealanders are overwhelmingly describing this Government as a breath of fresh air and as a Government that keeps its word and tackles the issues that matter.
It was a pity that the deputy leader of the Labour Opposition, like her colleague the member for Māngere, could not remain focused on the bill.
Mrs King, I think her name is—at least, this week. Instead she opted for more Labour Party scaremongering, just as Mr Sio has just done, over future superannuation arrangements generally. Well, let us put that issue to bed straight away, because I want to remind the House, and I am proud to remind the House, that the Prime Minister has repeatedly stressed his personal commitment and that of our Government to maintaining existing superannuation arrangements.
It is not only dishonest, I say to Mrs Chadwick, for the Labour Party to suggest otherwise but also actually cruel for her party to do that, because many retired people may be listening—in fact, I am sure that during this contribution the number of retired people listening has gone up fourfold—to the contributions of Mr Sio, Mrs King, and others, and wondering why a measure that is broadly supported in this House and very much in the interests of our retired people should be hijacked in such a misleading and dishonest manner. It is an irrelevant contribution; it is also a very, very unfair one.
As the chair of the Social Services Committee has noted, many will benefit from the provisions of the Social Assistance (Payment of New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension Overseas) Amendment Bill, and no doubt they will be chirping merrily over their cornflakes tomorrow morning as that memorable title trips off their tongues so effortlessly.
As Jo Goodhew noted, the status quo is no longer an option. I doubt whether many members of this House have not been contacted by constituents who are concerned about the inflexibility of the present arrangements. I know that Mr Woodhouse has had them beating a path to his door almost every day on this matter, and what a fine member he is in the way that he handles the whole issue.
Sad as we are to see older New Zealanders depart these shores, it is understandable that some take that option after watching their children and grandchildren settle overseas. Of course, as we all know, that was happening at an alarming rate during the term of the last Government, and it is to be hoped and expected that the exodus will slow considerably now that sensible government has been restored to New Zealand. It is certainly understandable that some of our older people opt for extended periods of travel after a lifetime in the workforce—and do they not deserve it? We are grateful to them; let us make it possible for them to go off and have that overseas trip that many of them have worked for literally for decades.
It was initially good to hear Dr Prasad make a more constructive contribution than the deputy leader of the Labour Opposition did. But even Dr Prasad resorted to dancing on the head of a pin as he tried to portray the Minister in charge of this bill—this wonderful Minister—as being somehow dubious about the bill that she is actively promoting through the House.
Maybe the Labour members are dancing on the head of the pin, I say to Dr Prasad, because they have had to drag themselves away from watching Dancing with the Stars tonight. I suggest that being on that programme would be a very good way for the member to occupy his time.
She is a very, very good Minister. As I said, the Minister is actively steering this bill through the House. She is fully committed to it. She has the strong support of all her colleagues on this side of the House, including those on the front bench, despite the nonsense that we had to listen to a few minutes ago.
We can only come to the conclusion that it is obviously a very strange and disconcerting experience for the members opposite to find themselves in Opposition, and to realise that they face being in Opposition for a very, very long time. They are struggling to function as an Opposition when, in their hearts, they know that they are facing a National Government that is firing on all cylinders, keeping its promises, and delivering so positively for the country.
Despite those members’ curious contributions, I welcome the indications from members opposite and from the minor parties that there will be broad support for this bill’s passage through the House. As a member of the Social Services Committee, I look forward to our work during the select committee process, and to bringing this bill back to the House for enactment at the earliest opportunity.
As Sue Bradford noted, the previous Government promised throughout its tenure to adopt this measure. We in the National-led Government are to get on with the job and do just that. Why our predecessors could not do it after 9 years at the helm is utterly baffling.
The Social Assistance (Payment of New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension Overseas) Amendment Bill gives our senior citizens the options they deserve. The current rules prevent many older New Zealanders from travelling overseas as they would wish, which is unfair and distressing for them. It is within the power of this House, in the next week or two, to alleviate their stress and to reduce that obstacle to the fulfilment of their aspirations. That is because this National-led Government is committed to ensuring that our older people are able to live in dignity and to participate fully in their communities, wherever they may be, whether in New Zealand or abroad. Forcing older people to remain in one country or preventing their ability to travel to a variety of countries serves no particular purpose. It is not in tune with the desires and aspirations of today’s retirees, and it is far, far short of what we should be able to offer in a civilised and prosperous nation.
The bill that we are debating will also free up the rules that restrict the ability of superannuitants and veterans pensioners to move around once they get overseas, and that is a very important part of this particular measure. It will allow people who wish to reside in countries with which New Zealand has no current social security agreements to access their entitlements, and to travel freely between such countries. They will have none of the current stress that if they begin in a country with which New Zealand has no such arrangement, they will find that their entitlement dries up right at the outset.
The bill will also allow the payment of superannuation and the veterans pension to those qualifying superannuitants and veterans pensioners who wish to travel to or between the countries—[Interruption] Mr Assistant Speaker—
I have 2 minutes to go—wonderful! I can see that members opposite are hoping for an extension of my time.
The amendments contained in the bill address the three main concerns that arise from the general portability provisions, which are a very important aspect of this measure. As I have mentioned, the amendments will ensure fairer and more equitable treatment for superannuitants and veteran pensioners who wish to travel or reside overseas. I am sure that most members of this House will be acquainted with people who will really appreciate this legislative change. I am particularly pleased that it is an acknowledgment of the wonderful contribution that our veterans have given to our country and our Commonwealth over many, many years. Our Government is committed to ensuring that our older citizens are able to live in dignity, enjoy their retirement, remain in touch with family and friends here and overseas, and contribute fully to their communities, wherever they choose to make them. Let us help them to do just that.
I commend this bill to the House, and I thank members for the broad support it clearly enjoys, even though from time to time we seem to have to listen to discussion of everything other than the bill.
It is a great privilege to rise and take a call in the first reading of the Social Assistance (Payment of New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension Overseas) Amendment Bill. It is a very exciting bill for the constituents of the Ōtaki electorate, because we have the highest number of people aged over 65 per capita of all electorates across New Zealand. Indeed, like many of the previous speakers in this evening’s debate who have been lobbied by their own constituents, for me this is an important bill, which the National Party is supporting in Government. I commend the good work of the Minister for Social Development and Employment, the Hon Paula Bennett, for bringing the bill into the House this evening.
I will make a couple of points. There are currently about 20,000 superannuitants under this regime who are paid a New Zealand pension or benefit while living overseas. These changes will benefit approximately 500 veterans per year. The cost is somewhere in the order of $6 million to $7 million over 4 years. This bill is extremely important. When members actually step back from the bill and think about the contributions that these people have made in their lives, whether it is through bringing up a family, supporting their children, paying taxes, or making a contribution to society, we ask why those people in their twilight years should not be given the opportunity to travel and collect their superannuation while they are overseas.
The important point is that quite a bit of this work is happening already, but the Government wants to make some further progressive steps to ensure that those veterans or pensioners who travel overseas will be able to collect this in a greater form. We currently have temporary absence provisions for those who are overseas for 26 weeks. We also have provisions for those who make a contribution to aid work. We have the social security agreement that is currently in place with countries like Australia, the Netherlands, Ireland, Greece, Jersey, Guernsey, Canada, and Denmark. Indeed, New Zealand superannuitants residing in the UK are entitled to the UK State pension.
The other important area that I wish to make a contribution on this evening is the special portability arrangement, whereby payment can be made at a rate of around 50 to 100 percent while the superannuitant intends to live for 52 weeks or more in 22 of the specified Pacific countries. I do not wish to name those 22 Pacific countries, but there are a whole variety of them across the Pacific.
In summing up, I say that this is a very busy Government. Indeed, it will be a very busy Social Services Committee that will work hard on this bill and, hopefully, report back to the House towards the end of the year. This side of the House wishes to support this bill, which is particularly favourable to those superannuitants and veterans pensioners across New Zealand. That is why I commend this bill to the House in its first reading this evening.