What's on the table for older voters? (Part 2)

The Second Course

Welcome to the 2nd course of Lifetime’s political dinner party. A fortnight ago we talked to our guests to the right side of the table about their election promises for 2017. Now we’re turning to our left.

Like National, Labour sits central. The party’s new spokesperson for Health, Dr David Clark has spent a large majority of the year focused on updating their 2010 analysis of aged care with the Green Party and Grey Power.

After 10 public meetings across the country it appears not much has changed since 2010 and their new report is imminent.

“The country’s DHBs are simply not getting enough money to meet the costs of New Zealand’s growing elderly population. Infometrics has identified that since 2009 there’s been a $2.3 billion shortfall in Crown Health expenditure. We want to restore that shortfall over time. So no we’re not offering tax cuts – we want to provide affordable access to quality healthcare.”

Labour is also concerned about elder abuse and declining mental health. They want an independent aged care commissioner (recommended but not taken up in 2010) and a star ratings system for rest homes and other aged care facilities. And they want to ensure that aged care assessments in future are done in person.

“How can you really assess how someone is living if you can’t actually see them and where they live?”

The Labour Party is also pledging to immediately invest $500 million into the Superannuation Fund, after National ceased payments in 2009.

Jacinda Ardern, leader of the Labour Party

Barry Coates of the Green Party is crystal clear when it comes to their policy on Super.

“We will not change the age of NZ Super, or the indexing, or the level. Our superannuation scheme is the envy of the world and we’re not convinced it is unaffordable. National’s half-hearted tinkering to take effect in 2040 makes no sense to us. There are just so many unknowns.” 

The Greens also want to create purpose-built, rent-assisted living units for older people in all areas (including rural) so that ageing at home becomes a viable reality.

“There needs to be more flexible housing options for people not in their own homes or retirement villages. And it can’t just be any old apartment – a whole new design is required.”

And they want to reintroduce lifelong learning. “The current government has essentially blown up community education. We want to help people continue to learn, contribute to society and in doing so positively support their mental health.”

Coates urges voters to consider their legacy.

“We all need to really raise our gaze about what is important to us as a society. It shouldn’t be about what’s in our personal interests - the gold card with all the perks. It’s about what sort of society we want to leave behind.”

Barry Coates, Green Party

Gareth Morgan from The Opportunities Party would agree.

“I want to create a country that older people feel proud to pass on to their children, where the environment is in no worse shape than when they inherited it and preferably better; where poverty is eradicated because we will not tolerate it; and where the economy benefits from the efficient allocation of savings and investment because we have eradicated all tax-favoured income types and tax shelters that asset owners can exploit.”

The self-defined anti-establishment politician has compared himself to Donald Trump.

“I think what we’ve seen in both the US and now the UK as well as in France, is voters being sick of the same old, same old and calling for renewal, for governments to meet the challenges that the people feel are overpowering them. The rises in inequality, the apparent unfairness of tax, the protection of privileged elites, the helplessness in the face of unbridled immigration - are all examples of what has driven the calls for change. And yet it has proven very difficult for those changes to be generated from within the ranks of establishment parties”.

He wants to cut income tax rates but also tax homeowners on their assets.

“The cuts in income tax rates is a big positive; relieving the pressure on younger generations, pressures which are keenly felt by their parents and grandparents as well as seen by many older people as well overdue.” 

He also wants to introduce Universal Basic Income (UBI) but means test superannuation.

“NZ Superannuation is way too generous and it needs to be cut back for those who don’t need it. So we propose that the way to fix the NZ Superannuation problem is not to move the age of entitlement but rather to means test that benefit.  Any individual aged 65 or over with an income (directly earned or beneficial) of more than $50k per annum would not be eligible for more than the $10,000 elders UBI that we are offering. An individual who had zero income would be eligible for a level of overall benefit equivalent to that they receive currently. And we don’t propose to do that in 2040, we want to do it immediately and use the savings to combat poverty.”

Depending on what poll you’re looking at TOP is currently sitting at between 0.8% and 2%. With 5% needed to get into parliament Morgan is undaunted. 

“There are 20% undecided voters - very high indeed for this time in the election cycle. Our policies will appeal primarily although not exclusively to those who have been shafted by the status quo - young people and poorer people. In general, those cohorts are not active voters. So our expectation is that because our policies are just better - they are after all best practice in terms of what is favoured by the policy advisory and research community and they are not tainted by political self-interest - that voters who are prepared to read policy and decide on supporting what’s best for New Zealand will support TOP.”

Gareth Morgan, TOP Party

Finally, across the table, sitting on his own but looming large, is NZ First’s Winston Peters. Once again, he’s predicted to be the game changer if National can't get a majority with their traditional support partners.

His website promises to cement NZ Super in place at 65 years, and a raft of SuperGold card benefits including a 10% discount on power bills in the winter and three free doctor visits a year.

NZ First is promising a set of national standards for aged home care that would be monitored and enforced. He also wants 1800 more police, the Christchurch Cathedral rebuilt, and Pike River re-entered.

So that’s dinner done.

With just over six weeks until we go to the polls, the proof will of course be in the pudding.

Winston Peters, leader of NZ First

Key dates in the lead up to the September 23 election:

  • Tuesday 22 August: Dissolution of Parliament.
  • Wednesday 23 August: Writ Day; Governor General issues formal direction to the Electoral Commission to hold the election.
  • Wednesday 6 September: Overseas Voting starts.
  • Monday 11 September: Advance Voting starts.
  • Friday 22 September: Advance Voting ends; Last day to enrol for the election.
  • Friday 22 September: Midnight: Regulated period ends. All election advertising must end and election signs must be taken down.
  • Saturday 23 September: Election Day: Polling places open from 9.00am to 7.00pm.
  • Election Night: Preliminary results released progressively from 7.00pm.
  • Saturday 7 October: Official results for general election declared (including special declaration votes).

Article written by Hannah Hill, Lifetime Retirement Income.

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