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Q+A: Panel discusses Winston Peters interview

Published: 4:04PM Sunday June 17, 2012 Source: Q+A

In response to WINSTON PETERS interview

GREG BOYED
Now to our panel. Dr Raymond Miller, Matt McCarten and Matthew Hooton. First of all, Raymond, he's not ruling in working with anyone, he's not ruling out working with anyone. But his policies pretty much rule out working with anybody, doesn't it?

RAYMOND MILLER - Political Scientist
Well, this is vintage Winston Peters. It's kind of us versus the rest. In fact, perhaps me versus the rest, because he's taken this role now for decades. He's very careful about future plans, because he draws support from both National and Labour. He doesn't want to say, 'I'm going to do a deal with Labour,' because he knows he's going to alienate a lot of prospective National voters. So what he's doing is he's saying, 'No, no.' He's hedging his bets. Now, the interesting thing about the 65 year retirement age is, of course, that he's banking on perhaps National having to agree to extend the retirement age at some stage in the future. So he's going to be the politician who's not only representing the 65-plus, but now he's moving down a generation to people in their 30s and 40s who are worried about retirement, and Winston will be the person who says, 'Look, I'm the calming influence. I'm the status quo politician. 65 it is.'

GREG On the subject of numbers, Matt, the 66% to 68% income side of things, that's just seen as unfeasible by most people.

MATT McCARTEN - Unite Union
 Yes. It depends on how you look at it. Can I just say, if NZ First sits at 65, which it will, it will actually help them. I don't think for a minute that anyone here believes that the next government is going to support raising the age if NZ First is in Parliament, because they're going to need it. But, anyway, on sustainability, you know, yes, there's a question. Everyone is focusing on the age. You know, is anyone addressing the fact that people like Winston are superannuates at the same time as collecting an MP's salary? He's 67, so he's been collecting the pension for the last two years. Now, has anyone addressed that, about how we have this double dipping? You know, the workforce, a lot of the white collar workforce, are working into their 70s. But they're still getting their super. Does that get addressed?

GREG Are we spending a lot of time and energy, Matthew Hooton, on this age? As Matt just pointed out, it's not an uncommon scenario, when that number isn't actually as important as the likes of Winston Peters are making it out to be.

MATTHEW HOOTON - Political Consultant
 Well, the proposal that's on the table from one of the government's coalition partners United Future is that they look at a flexi superannuation system, where if you're a manual worker, you can retire earlier at a lower rate. And if you're a white collar worker, you retire later at a higher rate. And, interestingly enough, that is on the government's agenda to have a discussion document on that topic. It's a promise to their coalition partner United Future. So there is going to be a debate on this.

MATT Well, you've got Peter Neilson who is going to be on soon to discuss this, right? But also the other thing that has not been discussed is all this is actually an agenda being pushed by business interests on KiwiSaver to get rid of superannuation altogether.

RAYMOND But I think, Matt, I mean, the issue is not 65. I agree. The issue isn't the retirement age, as such. But the government has tended to ring-fence this issue and say, 'Let's not talk about the future.' When in fact Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, many countries, are addressing this issue. What are we going to do about an ageing population? How are we going to support it?

MATTHEW Well, we're not going to do anything about it, because Winston Peters will almost certainly hold the balance of power.

GREG All right. We will be back with you in a moment.

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