Labour leader Andrew Little appears to have been forced into the first dramatic u-turn of his leadership, backing down on comments Labour would look at a a form of superannuation means testing for over-65 year olds who were still working.
At a business breakfast this morning, Mr Little was asked by the audience whether Labour was considering means testing super. He replied that Labour would look at the fairness issue of those aged over 65 working and getting super as well.
Mr Little was also asked by media afterwards whether Labour would look at means testing.
"Yep, I don't think we can avoid looking at it. When you look at the growing cost of superannuation, like 2018 over $15 billion a year and by 2030 $30 billion a year."
He believed the age of entitlement should stay at 65 "but we have to address the fairness issue for those who continue to work and then also receive superannuation."
"You've got people over 65 able to keep on working, earning a good income, working alongside people who are doing the same or similar work not getting it. Is it right that the person over 65 on a fulltime income should also get this income supplement? That's the issue. There's a fairness question there and a fairness question has to be looked at."
He said he believed that situation was unfair.
Labour campaigned on raising the age of superannuation in 2014 and Mr Little said the party was still reviewing the policy, a process he expected to take some time.
According to the Household Labour Force survey, 140,000 people aged over-65 are in work, 22 per cent of all over-65's. That is up from 7 per cent in 1999 and 15 per cent in 2007.
Asked whether there was a public appetite for means testing, he said New Zealanders wanted to know super was sustainable, "that when you get to the age of 65 and you can't work that you can get superannuation. And people want it to be fair. So we have to look at all those factors."
Asked if that meant he was no longer committed to universality for superannuation he replied "I'm committed to fairness in our superannuation scheme. The principle thing is to have a fair scheme. We want it to be as universal as possible, in the end we want a fair scheme. It's an issue we have to deal with and we are going to look at it."
More work was required before a solution could be proposed, but the rising cost of superannuation had to be confronted.
"We have to be responsible and we have to be fair. But we've got to address that question. Somebody has to do it because this government isn't."
However, soon after the first reports about his comments a spokeswoman denied he was talking about means testing and said any suggestion of changing superannuation entitlements for workers aged over 65 "was never on the table, is off the table and he wasn't talking about means testing in any form."
"While all policies are under review means testing is not being considered in any form."