Labour leader strong on super stance

Central Leader - - HEALTH & BEAUTY - TRACYWATKINS

Prime Min­is­ter Bill English be­lieves other par­ties will even­tu­ally get on board over raising the pen­sion age - but Labour leader An­drew Lit­tle says not on his watch.

Labour cam­paigned on raising the pen­sion age at the last elec­tion but Lit­tle ditched the pol­icy af­ter his pre­de­ces­sor David Cun­liffe was forced to step down.

In an echo of for­mer prime min­is­ter John Key, Lit­tle is peg­ging his lead­er­ship to the pol­icy.

Asked if Labour could sup­port a rise in the pen­sion age, Lit­tle re­sponded: ‘‘Not while I’m leader. I stood for the lead­er­ship of the party, went round the party mem­bers and won that vote. It was pretty clear they did want us to stick with 65 as the age of el­i­gi­bil­ity. It is the party pol­icy and I don’t see that chang­ing.’’

English an­nounced on Mon­day that if re-elected Na­tional would pro­gres­sively raise the age for superannuation from 65 to 67, start­ing in 2037 and be­ing fully im­ple­mented by 2040.

He said Tues­day other politi­cians were stand­ing back to see how vot­ers re­acted be­fore de­cid­ing if they could sup­port the pol­icy.

‘‘I won’t be sur­prised if politi­cians’ ini­tial re­ac­tion is that this is a dif­fi­cult is­sue and they’d like to see how it’s go­ing to run with the pub­lic be­fore they de­cided they could sup­port it.’’

But Lit­tle said there was an is­sue of fair­ness, par­tic­u­larly with peo­ple en­gaged in phys­i­cal work.

‘‘I’ve dealt with peo­ple who are strug­gling to work till 65 now be­fore they can re­tire with na­tional super. I just do not see it as fair or rea­son­able that they have to work an­other cou­ple of years.’’

Na­tional ap­pears to be confident, how­ever, that by push­ing the qual­i­fy­ing date out till 2040, it has less­ened the likely po­lit­i­cal fall­out. But it won’t progress legis- la­tion till af­ter the 2017 elec­tion, mean­ing any coali­tion agree­ments could scut­tle it be­fore the plan is even im­ple­mented.

Fu­ture Par­lia­ments could also eas­ily re­verse it with seven par­lia­men­tary terms be­tween now and when the pol­icy takes ef­fect.

Key to whether the pro­posal will go any­where is NZ First leader Win­ston Peters, who has made en­shrin­ing the pen­sion age a bot­tom line at pre­vi­ous elec­tions - though Peters re­fused to be pinned down on whether that would again be the case, say­ing the change was so far ahead it was ‘‘mean­ing­less’’.

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