Tom O'Connor: Millennials and Boomers need to stand together at the polls

Steven Joyce and Prime Minister Bill English announce plans to lift the retirement age to 67.
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Steven Joyce and Prime Minister Bill English announce plans to lift the retirement age to 67.

OPINION: It seems that when politicians have trouble convincing voters about new policy of any complexity they try to confuse them. Others in favour of the new policy, but not directly responsible for implementing it, will often spread misinformation and repeat so often it becomes accepted as fact.

As the national president of the Grey Power Federation I have seen this in action over the past year or more in discussions about national superannuation, the pension drawn by people over 65. The reality is that lifting the age of entitlement because national superannuation had become unaffordable has become an ill-founded mantra of the far right with no solid evidence to support it.

The other comment, that the so-called Baby Boomer population have "had all the good years and left nothing for anyone else", is equally inaccurate and both are classic examples of deliberate misinformation. In this case it appears to be an attempt to cause a division between the Baby Boomers and those of the Millennial generation, those born after 1982.

The generation now in their retirement years and the one before them built the hydro dams, steel mills and the industrial infrastructure which underpins today's thriving economy. Certainly they earned good wages but they worked hard in dangerous industries and paid massive taxes, up to 33%, to fund those developments. Many did not live long enough to collect national superannuation and that includes high numbers Maori and Pasifika people. A portion of the big taxes they paid was, supposedly, set aside, by agreement with government and matched with a government contribution, to fund national superannuation. The government suspended payments into the scheme in 2008 and still gave the pension to immigrants after only 10 years' residency in New Zealand so it is a bit rich to now suggest the scheme is unaffordable.

National superannuation is not a benefit or a charity and amounts to less than 4% of GDP. Even if the amount currently paid doubles over the next 20 years, GDP will probably increase by a similar amount or more.

To even suggest that those people in physically demanding occupations should carry on working until 67 is simply unacceptable in a country as wealthy as New Zealand.

That wealth can be measured in many ways and accountants and Treasury officials can use any measure to prove or disprove almost anything.

If, however, we take a broad angle view of our nation, we can see that there are only 4 million of us but we produce enough food, agricultural produce and industrial goods to feed and provide for an estimated 34 million who don't live here. That makes us enormously wealthy by any measure. For us to have hungry school children, homeless families and old people forced to work until 67 because we can't afford their meagre pension is simply unacceptable in a civilised country and a clear indication that we have a serious problem with the current economic system not an unaffordable pension scheme. Even uncivilised people look after their old folks better than that.

There is much more to this important conversation than the cost of national superannuation. We also need to look at the system of distributing the nation's collective wealth, particularly at those large national and international corporations which do not pay their fair share of taxes. We also have a growing number of extremely wealthy individuals who pay little taxes. They are not acting unlawfully as our system and laws allow them to avoid taxation. It is a worldwide problem created by the failed experiment in neoliberalism and unmitigated market forces over the past few decades.

The proposed new age of entitlement of 67 will only affect people currently younger than 45 unless that is changed after the election. That happened when the age of entitlement was changed from 60 to 65 some years ago. It was supposed to be phased in over 20 years but the time frame was shortened to eight years after the election.

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Unless there are dramatic changes to the low wage economy we have had since the 1980s, the Millennial generation will not be able to put much aside for retirement. It is the future national superannuation of these people we, as a caring nation, must ensure is protected from the political fundamentalists.

For that to happen the Millennial generation will have to stand alongside the Baby Boomers, go to the election booths together and send a very clear message to all candidates in the general election later this year. Their future security relies on that alone.

 - Stuff

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