Want to decide what the National Party’s policies are going to be? There’s no need to attend interminable local branch meetings, or have an awkward dinner with a senior MP and hand them a $50,000 cheque.
No, just attend one of Christopher Luxon’s public meetings and ask him a question. Whatever you want to hear, whatever increases the chances you’ll vote for him, he’ll be only too happy to tell you that’s National’s policy now.
Want to stop an apartment building being built down the street in your leafy suburb? Luxon will rip up the bipartisan housing accord and limit other people’s property rights to win your vote.
Don’t like all this “Māori stuff” – like the outrageous idea that government agencies and street signs should use the indigenous, official language of Aotearoa, te reo Māori, alongside te reo Pākehā? Well, Mr Luxon agrees with you too, now.
Even though Oranga Tamariki was so named under a National Government and he tried to trademark “kia ora” when he was chief executive of Air New Zealand, he’ll tell you te reo Māori is too confusing, if it makes you more likely to vote for him.
Want a tax cut on your rental? Mr Luxon says he’ll give you one. Worried about government debt? Mr Luxon will pledge to get it down. Afraid he’ll cut public services? Mr Luxon will tell you he’ll increase funding (and never mind about when he was caught on a hot mic in Parliament saying he would cut “so much”).
Want to see how National can increase spending, cut income and cut debt all at the same time? Well, he’ll show you how that all adds up… eventually, as close before the election as possible. For now, just trust him.
But what if you’re not one of the voters Luxon wants? What if you’re a “bottom feeder” in Luxon’s lingo, an ordinary working Kiwi?
No minimum wage rise for you; Luxon complains it makes his takeaway coffee more expensive. No Labour Day holiday; Luxon thinks it should be scrapped as a trade-off for Matariki. No help to buy an EV or hybrid and no help for your work to cut emissions while saving jobs in New Zealand. No Fair Pay Agreements, no 10 days sick leave, no free prescriptions; Luxon opposes them all.
And you’ll have to work an extra two years or save an extra $100,000 when National and Act increase the superannuation age and gut KiwiSaver.
For the wealthy voters Luxon is targeting, raising the superannuation is no big deal. Save an extra $100 a week or work two more years in the office. No biggie.
But for tradies, retail and manufacturing workers, anyone putting in hard graft, the prospect of having to work two more years in your 60s is nothing to shrug off. And the idea of saving $100 more a week to make up for the lost super is pure fantasy.
On average, Māori men only live to 73. So increasing the superannuation age from 65 to 67 is taking away a quarter of their retirement.
The Retirement Commissioner is against raising the age because it would hit women, Māori, Pasifika and people on lower incomes.
The fact is we can afford the slowly increasing cost. In fact, National’s tax cuts would cost more than lifting the superannuation age would save. It’s about priorities. And Luxon’s priority is winning the votes of landlords and the well-heeled, not a dignified retirement for everyone else.
But Luxon and National may have misjudged in their campaign to raise the retirement age. Because the biggest opponents of politicians screwing around with superannuation are retirees themselves.
Age Concern and Grey Power are adamant that the super age should remain at 65, not because it affects their members directly, but because once a government starts to chip away at superannuation, who knows where they will stop.
Raising the age is the thin end of the wedge. Act would certainly be pushing for deeper cuts to what retirees get – including decoupling super from wages – and others would be pushing for means testing.
A great many older people depend on superannuation for all or a large portion of their income. They may find they’re a lot less worried about bilingual road signs when the prospect of a National-Act government means their super is under threat. I say let’s look after our kaumātua, one day hopefully we will all reach the age where we can deservedly sit back and watch our adoring mokopuna make our world a better one. Kia ora.
Shane Te Pou (Ngāi Tūhoe) is a commentator, blogger and former Labour Party activist.