Adam Bennett 's Opinion

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Adam Bennett: Pension and Peters a tricky issue

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New Zealand First Party leader Winston Peters. Photo / Natalie Slade
New Zealand First Party leader Winston Peters. Photo / Natalie Slade

In response to a key political question put to him incessantly by reporters over the weekend, Winston Peters has given another resounding "no".

But with Mr Peters, no doesn't always mean what it appears to.

At the end of a week where the National Government was challenged on its view that NZ Super was affordable in the long term with a pension age of 65, it found some common ground with Mr Peters, who said keeping it at that level would be a bottom line for NZ First in any coalition talks following the 2014 election.

An unconvinced Prime Minister John Key challenged Mr Peters to make it clear whether NZ First could form a coalition with Labour in 2014 if the larger party maintained its policy to lift the pension age to 67 over 12 years from 2020 onwards.

Mr Key said the NZ First leader wouldn't do that because he was "tricky".

Variations of that question featured in a game of cat and mouse as media covering NZ First's conference at the weekend tried to pin Mr Peters down on his bottom line.

He did make it clear NZ First would never support Labour's policy. But then the Maori Party doesn't support a number of National's policies but the two parties have agreed to differ on those and they are still in coalition together.

The closest to an unequivocal answer came when Mr Peters was asked if NZ First could work with Labour in 2014 if the larger party maintained its Super age policy.

The answer was a clear "no".

Mr Peters said NZ First could never be part of a government that raised the pension age, but Labour's policy wouldn't do that until 2020 - three elections away. Mr Peters is unlikely to be around by then.

Labour could potentially get around Mr Peters' bottom line by simply parking the policy during the 2014-2017 term while giving a signal it remained on the backburner.

And while Mr Peters told the Herald last week that he was unconvinced by current advice from the likes of the Treasury and the finance industry that the increase was necessary, he didn't rule out changing his mind if the evidence was more compelling.

So does Labour's pension-age policy rule out a coalition with NZ First?

The question, if not the answer, remains a tricky one.

- NZ Herald

Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald. He joined the Press Gallery in 2010 after nine years as a business and finance reporter for the Business Herald and New Zealand Press Association. He has a degree in English Literature from Victoria University and a post graduate diploma in journalism from Massey University.

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