So much for the theory that Winston Peters was mellowing into Parliament’s version of everyone’s favourite, if somewhat cranky and irascible, uncle.
It was a more familiar Peters who delivered the leader’s address at New Zealand First’s annual convention last Sunday.
The speech was not so much a dog whistle as a wolf howl for attention. There was certainly no coded language to decipher.
His pinging of Chinese immigrants for allegedly sponging off New Zealanders by picking up state-funded super payments and other entitlements without paying any income tax was unquestionably populist – so much so that he was almost parodying himself.
A lot of people view Peters as a benign joker like figure. I’m not one of them. I think he has a history of scape-goating, and trying to convince people that it is the fault of some other group that they can’t receive more money or jobs or benefits.
He instead rationalised his accusation of freeloading by arguing that New Zealanders needed to know all the facts about superannuation rather than being manipulated by the savings and insurance industry into believing there was a “crisis” which required an end to universality in the payment of the state-funded pension.
Peters knows that superannuation is not sustainable. He argued so in 1997, when he proposed compulsory superannuation, saying that people “do not believe that the current arrangements will be there to deliver the same level of assistance in retirement that their parents currently enjoy”. Even worse Peters proposes superannuation be made even more expensive, with an increase in the floor.
It actually did not add up at all. Peters is the one choosing not to put all the facts on the table, especially major Government policy changes affecting those applying for residency under Immigration New Zealand’s family and parent categories.
While Peters rails against Chinese immigrants supposedly gobbling up the super – but then refuses to say what he would do about it – the National-led Government has quietly stolen a march on him. …
What is clear is that imminent changes to immigration rules are going to screen out those unlikely to pay tax.
The parent stream is currently closed pending the introduction of a new two-tier category.
Those applicants earning more than $27,203 a year as singles or nearly $40,000 if they are a couple will be able to go into tier one. They will also have to bring with them at least $500,000 in “settlement funds”.
Their sponsoring adult son or daughter will have to have an annual income of at least $65,000 and have been a New Zealand resident for at least three years.
Those who cannot meet these requirements will go into tier two where the only financial obligation is a lower benchmark of nearly $34,000 in income required of the sponsoring adult child .
Tier one applicants, not surprisingly, will get priority. As do a separate category of parents who can gain entry if they invest a minimum $1 million in New Zealand for at least four years.
With a two-year wait already for applications to be processed and a capped annual limit of 4000 on the number of parents approved for residency, those in tier two could be waiting years to get to the front of the queue.
So in fact the Government has already acted to mitigate the issue that Peters talked about.
Peters also used his convention speech that day to climb into the council for calling for the age of eligibility for super to be lifted to 67.
Claiming the council would be pushing for the privatisation of super, he also rounded on its chair, his old bete noire Jenny Shipley, who openly campaigned against Peters’ proposed compulsory savings scheme while National was in coalition with New Zealand First in the late 1990s.
This is such a bending of truth, it is hilarious. Peters proposal in 1997 was to effectively privatise superannuation, and Shipley was a prominent campaigner against it.