Raising superannuation age: Winston’s gain, Bill’s loss?

Today an announcement was made that the minimum age before a New Zealander becomes eligible for superannuation, shall increase to 67 starting in 2037. The announcement which refutes former Prime Minister John Key’s decision to not touch superannuation might have been thought of by Cabinet as a bold thing to do, and it is, but did National look at history before making the announcement?

It would not appear so.

This could be the single biggest mistake of Prime Minister Bill English’s career. Coming to the end of three terms of a historically popular Government, Mr English had two tasks:

  1. Carry National to the 2017 Election
  2. Win the 2017 Election

There seems to be no doubt that Mr English will pull of the first. His popularity with New Zealanders is, despite recent progress with Labour winning two by-elections handsomely and installing Jacinda Ardern as deputy leader, still very good for a Prime Minister leading a third term Government

But now, National appear to have made a staggering mistake. By announcing – even if it is 20 years from now before it starts – that the minimum age before superannuation can kick in will be raised to 67, this three term National Government may have signed its own death warrant. And although we need to see a poll first to see how much this changes the support for individual opposition parties, the certainty that the election year ammunition stocks for the coming mud fest just got replenished, is absolute.

Far from understanding the mood of New Zealanders regarding superannuation, the Government appear to have completely misread it. Opposition parties and allies alike savaged the announcement. When National party supporter in chief and Seven Sharp host Mike Hosking tells National it has made a mistake, very likely it really HAS made a mistake.

The Opposition, Labour and New Zealand First in particular, must be beside themselves with glee. Here is a potential election winning issue – if they announce bold policy that they are prepared to defend – right here. Not only does it potentially alienate the Grey Power voters who for the most part just want a stable superannuation that they can use to fund their retirement, it also alienates the younger voters who are in the process of putting together a superannuation fund. Raising the age, but desisting doing it for 20 years means that when people like my elder cousins who will be in their mid 40’s this year reach retirement age, it will suddenly be knocked back two more years.

How rude is that?

When one combines this with the farcical state of our fresh water resources and the farcical attempts to justify new standards of water quality that simply do not work, suddenly National have a major problem on their hands. The Greens and Labour can get traction out of this issue, whilst New Zealand and its leader Winston Peters could gain substantially from the superannuation announcement. The second task that Bill English has to achieve in order for a fourth term National-led Government to form, just got a lot harder.

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