Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Few votes, lots of respect

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Phil Goff. Photo / APN
Phil Goff. Photo / APN

I suppose that when everyone is telling you that you are toast, you can take a few chances.

Certainly that seems to be what Labour is doing with the official launch of the party's election campaign this week. They're scoring abysmally in every poll that's been taken and so they've been forced to come up with the sort of election policies that will get them noticed.

Their first electoral explosion came some months ago with the announcement that Labour would introduce a capital gains tax; this week, they've suggested that the age of eligibility for national superannuation should be raised to 67 with membership of KiwiSaver to be made compulsory.

In the past, both main political parties have steered clear of tinkering with the age of eligibility. They've feared the wrath of Grey Power and no party wants to provide the catalyst for the resurrection of Winston Peters, the pensioners' pinup boy.

But Phil Goff is quite right in saying that our high debt, our lack of savings and our ageing population make a universal super at 65 a luxury we may not be able to afford. Thirteen per cent of total government expenditure goes on super and Treasury estimates that by 2050, that figure will be 22 per cent.

Other countries have had to bite the bullet after doing the sums - Australia and Britain being two examples - and Labour estimates that the Crown could save more than $100 billion over 20 years if the age of eligibility was raised.

It's tricky though - there are some people who are perfectly capable of working well past 65; others have done heavy physical work all their lives and are simply praying their bodies stay in one piece until they qualify for superannuation.

It would be nice to live in a world where people who didn't need the pension didn't take it, but I guess that's unrealistic.

I hate the thought of our kids being burdened with student debt, struggling to pay the mortgages on overpriced houses that will help fund the baby boomers' retirements and being crippled with high taxes to pay for the expensive health care and superannuation of those same baby boomers.

My generation has had it pretty good - our grandparents and parents had low expectations and high taxes; we've been fortunate to have the opposite, high expectations of our quality of life and low taxation. But you always have to pay the piper and maybe we should stop living in the moment and look at the sort of future we want our children and grandchildren to have.

I'm not sure Labour will win any votes by tinkering with super eligibility. But it should certainly win them respect for having the courage to put the issue on the table.

- Herald on Sunday

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