Labour leader David Shearer has revived calls to raise the pension age and is calling on National to support the policy.
In a speech due to be delivered today, Shearer said the existing pension age of 65 was unsustainable and the Government should be “straight up” with people about that fact.
“Labour will be straight – the status quo is unsustainable. we need a genuine cross-party solution that ensures a fair outcome for everyone, especially those who need to retire earlier and as we move to a gradual rise in retirement age.”
Labour campaigned on raising the retirement age at the last election but National says it is affordable in its current form and won’t follow suit.
It has accused Labour of needing to raise the retirement age to pay for unaffordable promises.
Prime Minister John Key has pledged to resign rather than tinker with the age of eligibility for the pension or the current level of entitlements.
Being a cynical person I suspect Labour’s stance on this is primarily because they want to force Key to break his promise. But regardless of their motivation, good policy is good policy and Shearer is right that the current scheme is unsustainable.
I also welcome the call for a cross-party solution. This “solution” though should not just look at the retirement age, but also issues such as indexing, income and asset testing and the like. Our current scheme is the most generous in the world as it has no means testing of any sort, and is linked to the median wage. Ideally a cross-party group would take a first principles approach, and say “What sot of public superannuation scheme should be operating in 30 years time that is fair and affordable”.
Now any changes to superannuation would not take effect for 15+ years so as to not disadvantage those near retirement, who have made decisions based on current policies. That means that changing superannuation policy will have no impact on the short to medium term goal of getting out of deficit and into a cycle of sustainable surpluses. However it can make a significant difference long-term.
The first step should be an agreement between all parliamentary parties that the existing scheme shall remain in place for all those who will retire before 2025, so were born before 1960. Even John Key should be able to agree to that without breaking his pledge. Sure it implies a different regime post 2025, but that is different to actually agreeing on any change.
If one could get all the parties to agree on ring-fencing the pre-2025 retireees, then a multi-party group could be formed on the basis they won’t agree on post-2025 superannuation, but instead devise a model that all parties say is fair – and put it to a public referendum. That way it is the public deciding, not the Government.