Tough choice on su­per­an­nu­a­tion


Aus­tralian po­lit­i­cal land­scape for years, and new and more se­vere as­set test­ing rules will kick in next month.

At that point an es­ti­mated 330,000 Aus­tralian pen­sion­ers will see their pensions re­duced, with 100,000 due to lose their pensions en­tirely.

Sim­i­lar ac­tions in New Zealand are vir­tu­ally in­con­ceiv­able. For both ma­jor par­ties, as­set test­ing of in­come (and re­duc­tions in the tax­payer sup­port for wealthy over 65s) is sim­ply not on their po­lit­i­cal agenda.

Once the el­derly hit the age of en­ti­tle­ment, pensions are treated as a univer­sal ben­e­fit.

Oddly, this univer­sal en­ti­tle­ment stands in stark con­trast to the way that English and his new deputy Paula Ben­nett have treated the other big ticket items on the wel­fare pro­gramme.

Strict tar­get­ing rules gov­ern

Su­per­an­nu­a­tion al­ready dom­i­nates wel­fare spend­ing and costs taxpayers roughly $11 bil­lion a year to sup­port.

the ac­cess to most ben­e­fits, and since 2015 the English/Ben­nett duo have talked loud and long about us­ing Big Data to iden­tify the truly needy, so that wel­fare spend­ing gets re­served for those most at risk.

Such logic goes out the win­dow how­ever, when it comes to na­tional su­per­an­nu­a­tion.

Since tak­ing over as PM, English has flagged the need for a de­bate on the sub­ject. Al­ready, he has in­di­cated that he won’t nec­es­sar­ily sus­tain John Key’s pledge not to raise the age of el­i­gi­bil­ity.

Labour leader An­drew Lit­tle has im­me­di­ately sensed a po­lit­i­cal op­por­tu­nity: Na­tional, Lit­tle says, can’t be trusted on this is­sue.

Cur­rently, Gareth Mor­gan seems to be the only politi­cian will­ing to ques­tion whether busi­ness-as-usual on pensions pol­icy can re­main af­ford­able.

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