Elderly, young families first in line for Gareth Morgan's 'universal income' policy
The elderly and families with young children would be the first to receive a $200-a-week "universal income" for all Kiwis, under a plan from The Opportunities Party.
Millionaire economist Gareth Morgan announced his party's policy for what it calls an "unconditional basic income", or UBI, in Christchurch on Tuesday night as its final policy heading into this year's election.
Morgan, who has previously talked about the benefits of a UBI, said a universal payment for every Kiwi would give them more choices on how to spend their time, eliminate "the poverty trap", and recognise the work done by over a million Kiwis who worked but were not paid.
The party's policy was "starting along the road" to a true UBI, with two groups the first to receive the payment.
Families with children younger than three, or six if adopted or fostered, would receive $200 per family each week, instead of paid parental leave.
Morgan's party would also replace the current NZ Super scheme with a $200 weekly payment for Kiwis older than 65.
Elderly Kiwis who satisfied a means test would receive an extra $7500 each year, topping them up to the current level of Super payments. Anyone with effective income up to $50,000 would qualify for some, or all, of the remainder.
Morgan said the UBI for young families would be "the most potent boost to their ability to nurture their children in their most vulnerable years".
"This change starts to honour the millions of hours of unpaid work associated with child rearing, without which our economy would collapse."
SUPER CHANGES TO HELP FAMILIES
While a full UBI was the party's goal, Morgan said changes to the income tax system would first need to take place.
"It is unlikely that a UBI will ever totally replace targeted social assistance but it certainly will markedly reduce our reliance on targeting, with its stigma-laden selection criteria and its perverse impact on behaviour."
The party would also change eligibility rules for low-income families applying for the in-work tax credit, while providing free full-time childcare for low-income working parents with children between one and three.
Morgan said the changes would be cost neutral, with funding for families coming from changes to the Super scheme.
"NZ Superannuation, the most generous of all social benefits, is just too high. It needs to come down – the establishment parties are ducking and diving around raising the age of eligibility to achieve that.
"Next year [my wife] Joanne and I qualify for $40,000 New Zealand Super. I don't need a cent of it. What they hell are you doing giving it to me?"
The move away from the current super model was a major ideological shift, but Morgan was confident voters would warm to it.
"Most people are really reasonable. What NZ Super is doing is crowding out what the Government can do elsewhere where there's real need. You say that to a New Zealander, even one that's going into super, and they'll say 'fix the need'."
Labour considered a UBI last year as part of its Future of Work Commission, but the idea did not make it into the final policy.