Helping people survive

FROM THE BEEHIVE

RINO TIRIKATENE
Last updated 15:02 11/12/2013

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OPINION: A couple of things have been bothering me this year that the Labour Party will continue to address in policy for next year's election.

Ratana Pa in January and Waitangi Day in February are times I feel a reconnection and reflection on where our tupuna wanted us to head as a nation. The debates are always invigorating and provide valuable insights of what is going on across the nation.

This year's stories have not been something to celebrate. Discussions reverberate through our communities of job losses and rises in rent, rates, food, power and petrol prices. Many talk of their children and grandchildren moving to Australia as they are skilled and can pick up jobs in the building sector. They can't wait any longer for the insurance firms to sort themselves out in Christchurch.

These reflections remind me of the valuable policies - Working for Families, KiwiSaver and the Cullen/New Zealand Superannuation Fund - that the previous Labour Government put in place between 1999 and 2008 and that allowed many whanau endure this economic recession.

Working for Families package, introduced April 1, 2005, had three primary aims: to make work pay; to ensure income adequacy; and to support people "into work". In 2013, it is providing support to middle-income families of three or more children because real wages are not keeping up with the cost of living. That was not the intent but is now the reality for working families. John Key, called the scheme "communism by stealth" but has not repealed or cut back the tax credits.

KiwiSaver was aimed at improving New Zealand's low average rate of saving by introducing a universal retirement savings fund. A month after it was introduced in July 2007, 130,000 people had signed up. By May 2012, nearly 2 million had joined. Kiwisaver assets have grown from $954 million at June 2008 to $16.5 billion as at September 30.

Recent changes by the Reserve Bank have removed the option for many of using the first five years of contributions as a deposit for their first home. These decisions are made by people whose parents were able to capitalise on their Family Benefits in the 1960s and 70s to have a deposit to buy their first family home.

These are the issues we need to talk about and we need to build a platform that creates positive economic change for the next 25 years. We don't need quick-fix three-year election promises.

» Rino Tirikatene (Labour) is the MP for Te Tai Tonga.

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