New Zealand’s Labour party is out of office, opposing the ruling centre-right National party. To my surprise, the Labour leader recently brought up the possibility of re-introducing means-tests for the country’s universal pension, known as Superannuation. Some years ago, for a short period, ‘super’ benefits were clawed back from taxpayers with high reported incomes. The income-tests proved to be very unpopular, were removed after a national referendum, and the universal pension became a dreaded ‘third rail’ that politicians – until now – feared to touch.
[Centre-left] Labour leader Andrew Little has raised the ghost of broken promises past with talk of means testing the state pension. ….
On Friday morning, during a post-Budget speech, where Opposition leaders traditionally towel the Government for its lack of vision/broken promises/miserliness/feathering of mates’ nests, he managed to blurt out something that sounded like means testing state superannuation payments [New Zealand’s universal pension].
Now we know it wasn’t that, because his office said so – and so did his finance spokesman Grant Robertson.
But when someone at the top of politics starts musing about whether it is fair that those who continue working past 65 also get the state pension it is hard to think it is anything else. [Emphasis added.]
Unless, that is, what he was nutting around was withholding super from those earning wages and salaries past 65, but not those who earn other income such as dividends, rents, business income or …. capital gains?
Does he, a Labour leader, really think someone working 40 hours a week should miss out on super but not someone earning $2000 a week from investment income? [….]
Little had better have a convincing argument, because his thoughts conjures up memories of the Lange-Bolger years and the dreaded surtax, a form of means testing the universal pension […]. Prime Minister Jim Bolger famously promised to scrap it in 1993 and then retained it – a major reason why [the centre-right National party has]… been so careful to be unequivocal about leaving super alone since they took office.
Vernon Small, “What was Andrew Little thinking?“, Stuff (Fairfax Digital), 22 May 2015.