If John Key hadn't been planning to go into next year's election promising to keep pensioners' free travel entitlements on the SuperGold Card, he almost certainly will be now.

At yesterday's post-Cabinet press conference, the Prime Minister indicated he would take the policy into the next election.

"That would be my expectation," he said, giving himself a little wiggle room.

That less-than-definitive answer will be enough to turn a "probably" into a "probably not" in the hands of former New Zealand First MP Winston Peters, who seized upon the issue last week on prime-time television.

Breakfast host Paul Henry unkindly noted yesterday when interviewing Key: "The most dangerous thing about this announcement was that those of us with sensitive hearing could hear the screws swivelling around on Winston Peters' coffin lid as you were talking about it."

Henry also reminded Key that 500,000 votes were at stake.

The nimbleness of the Government's response to Grey Power concerns suggests it had not forgotten that fact.

The travel freebie is one of several issues that are getting the better of the Government at present.

The likely rise in GST in a "tax-cut switch" and potential mining of the conservation estate have been well worked by the Opposition and interest groups to exploit the vacuum while policy is being formed.

Key took the rare step at his post-Cabinet press conference yesterday of referring to "hysterical" media coverage over mining on the conservation estate.

All three issues - SuperGold Card review, GST rise and mining in national parks - have one thing in common: they were not flagged at the last election.

Each leaves the Government exposed to the label of "hidden agenda".

The review of the SuperGold Card travel concessions was revealed in December last year by the Herald, including the review of the Waiheke ferry subsidy.

The issue was revived last week when Transport Minister Steven Joyce said in a press statement that the consultation part of the review was now beginning.

It turned out to be the shortest consultation in history. A series of headlines such as "Seniors may have free travel perk cut" (the Nelson Mail) and "Hidden agenda fear over gold card" (Bay of Plenty Times) brought a swift assurance by Joyce that the entitlements would remain, and that he was only trying to get a better deal from the transport operators who are paid by the Government for the pensioner fares.

Key insisted yesterday that free bus, rail and ferry trips as they stand were never the issue.

However, Joyce's own press statement suggests otherwise.

One of the issues the review is to consider is "the eligibility of certain high-cost services - including the Waiheke ferry and the train service between Wellington and the Wairarapa".

Eligibility issues now appear to be off the agenda for a number of reasons - about 500,000 of them.