Friday, May 31, 2019

"Sign of hopelessness"

This was in yesterday's DomPost. Most columns these days I scan or lose interest in rapidly. I'm not sure if that's a fault with me or the writers. Maybe a bit of both. But this one gripped me; made me profoundly sad. It's written by court reporter Marty Sharpe whose writing has touched a chord with me before.

No more Super for non-qualifying spouses

Below is a post I wrote in 2015:

Most people think you have to be 65 to qualify for NZ Super. But there is a group of individuals who receive Super as 'non-qualified' recipients. A minority are over 65 and don't meet necessary residency qualifications but almost 12,000 are under sixty-five; 3,689 are under 60.

Generally the male turns 65 and can reject the single rate ($345.72 net weekly) for two married rates (2 x $273.82 net weekly or $547.64 combined). The decision to include or exclude  lies with the Superannuitant. The effect is the government has to pay 58% more.

An OIA supplied the numbers at December 2014:

88 percent of non-qualifying spouses are female.

Here's the ethnicity breakdown:

It appears only partners in marriage or civil unions can receive the 'non-qualified' payment. That's borne out by the ethnicity breakdown. Maori have a  low marriage rate.

At the same date there were 650,636 Superannuitants aged 65 and over.  So just under 2 percent have a non-qualified spouse.

Annual payments to non-qualified spouses amount to $133 million.

Now that mightn't be a big deal against the total Super bill, but significant anomalies are occurring.

1/ For the purposes of an unemployment or sickness benefit, the law similarly recognises marriages and civil unions. However it also recognises de facto relationships. How long before under 65 year-old de facto partners of Superannuitants start pushing for Super payments?

 2/ In the case of unemployment or disability, the rate for two partners is exactly half of the single rate. For non-qualifying partners of Superannuitants the payment is 79 percent of the single rate. How long before partners of unemployed or disabled beneficiaries under 65 start challenging on the basis of discrimination? 

Beneficiary advocates are notoriously active so it surprises me that this hasn't already become an issue.

Perhaps most people aren't aware that under 65s can collect Super via their 65 or older husband (or more unusually, wife)?

Would appreciate hearing from readers whether they were aware of this. A simple 'yes' or 'no' would be fine.

Yesterday the government announced:

From 1 July 2020, the Government is closing the non-qualified partner provision, and removing the direct deduction of a government-administered overseas pension received by a superannuitant’s partner from that superannuitant’s NZ Super or the Veteran’s Pension...
The changes reflect society today. In most households both partners work. There is no longer a ‘principal breadwinner’ whose retirement marks the retirement of both partners.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Paying for three Labour bribes

(Left click to enlarge)


Labour's universal bribes - Winter Energy and Best Start - account for almost $1 billion by 2023

Family Tax Credit ballooned by 39% in 2019 due to Families Package

Paid Parental Leave  reaches $500m in 2023 extending from 14 to 18 weeks initially and shooting up to 26 weeks in 2020

(All dependent on Labour winning next election of course though who would put money on National abolishing the bribes?)

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The vilification of landlords

Yet another story in stuff about the woeful circumstances of a tenant because of the implied greed of landlords. As one person comments these "endless articles blaming landlords"  don't help anyone. Landlords are not raking it in.

 "As shown in Figure 1.3 and Appendix Table 3 rental investment yields have fallen gradually from 6% to 7% in 1997 to 3.5% to 5% in 2017. Such rates of return are now below mortgage interest rates and are close to low-risk deposit rates."

The 2018/19 yields will fall even lower as the current government imposes greater regulation and significant increased costs. Insurance and rates only go up.Yields at this level suggest that rents are not unfairly or unreasonably high. In fact they are too low. I would suggest that at least some landlords are holding rents down to keep good tenants.


Sunday, May 26, 2019

Marilyn Waring was bullied and became one

Marilyn Waring keeps popping up on the back of her new book.

I was speaking at a conference, my topic being the US Welfare Reforms and what NZ could learn from them. Just a couple of minutes into my presentation Marilyn Waring put her hand up. I had to stop. She said, "This isn't working for me." I can't remember how I responded. Probably just barreled on. Later she had another go and I remember now what it was about.

Here's a post I wrote in 2013.


After years of trying to tell people that sole parents spend many, many years on benefit I see MSD has just released a statement containing this:

"...sole parents spend an average 15.8 years on benefit with a lifetime cost of $234,000."

I have repeatedly talked about Professor Bob Gregory's Australian research which found sole parents spend an average of 12 years on welfare not including benefits they may move to when they no longer had dependent children.

People have derided me for it in public forums. For instance Marilyn Waring sneeringly telling an audience I had included time spent on Super. Time and again politicians, welfare advocates, bloggers etc have sought to convince the population that the average time spent on the DPB is, most commonly, only about 3 years. They look at the available data but don't understand it.

Waring was a Professor of Public Policy at the time. Essentially it was her way or the highway and she plenty of fellow travellers. Their strategy then was to shut down by discrediting what they didn't like. And it continues today. My opposition to the DPB would possibly be classified as hate speech by some.

But I shake my head when I hear Marilyn Waring talking about the bullying she took. She knew how to dish it out.

David Seymour's response to Newshub...

...which they refused to publish. If you haven't already seen it at Kiwiblog here it is:

David Seymour on free speech

“Let it be known, the public beating has not gone out of fashion.” So goes the quote from the movie Thank You for Smoking, as politicians attack the wildly unpopular protagonist, a tobacco lobbyist.

I’ve found those words to be true over the past week and it has strengthened my belief in the importance of freedom of expression.

To recap, I was asked about Green MP Golriz Ghahraman’s stance on free speech. In her own words “it is vital that the public is involved in a conversation about what speech meets the threshold for being regulated, and what mix of enforcement tools should be used.”

I believe that such an idea, and by extension politicians who promote it, is a danger to our free society. When asked about Ghahraman’s position, in the middle of a 15-minute radio interview, I responded that I thought she was a ‘menace to freedom.’

What has followed has been extraordinary. It has been a lesson in how beat-ups and witch-hunts occur, and why it’s so important that we retain laws that allow us to express ourselves freely. By Tuesday afternoon, I was being asked by media if I was responsible for Ghahraman requiring a security detail. It was clearly a rhetorical question.

Politicians, journalists and other establishment figures have lined up to denounce my comment.

National’s position is that being nice to people who threaten free speech is more important than defending freedom itself. The Greens have said it’s my fault that a few nutcases are threatening an MP. The Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians wrote, asking me to apologise for my comment. I should have known it was not a sincere gesture because the letter was duly released to the media who happily published it with barely a response from me. Other women MPs told me they’d known nothing about it. Surprisingly, Trevor Mallard went on TV and said I was a bully. The Speaker is supposed to be Parliament’s neutral referee.

A number of journalists have attacked me. The media should be the loudest cheerleaders for freedom of expression. Their job relies on freedom of expression, and freedom and democracy rely on the media doing their job.

Were it not for ACT, Parliament would be sleepwalking towards tighter speech laws. The media wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Only a few brave academics might raise their heads above the parapet.

There is something not right about this situation. If my comment endangered Ghahraman, then the response of media and politicians has multiplied its airplay exponentially. That response has been driven by the very people accusing me of endangering Ghahraman.

Because I do not think anyone should be endangered for engaging in political debate, I am reluctant to respond any further, but it’s difficult when the very people who say they’re concerned are using the situation to attack me politically. After all, the media cited a ‘source,’ then Ghahraman herself, when reporting the new security arrangements and attributing them to me.

My detractors believe that expressing a genuinely held view on an important issue makes me responsible for threats of violence. They are wrong. My comments do not come close to giving me such responsibility. And the current law is easily on my side.

This belief absolves the real perpetrators – those making the threats – of responsibility. It also introduces the worrying implication that some MPs are unable to fully participate or be criticised because there are violent threats. It’s a belief that allows violent thugs to set the agenda.

The response to my comment proves we cannot trust government to enforce hate speech laws. Imagine if the state had even greater powers to punish speech at its disposal. Some state agency would now be using that power to investigate and punish a sitting MP’s genuinely-held views.

Hate speech laws turn debate into a popularity contest where the winners get to silence views they don’t like by using the power of the state. Tighter restrictions on speech can only mean giving some agency the power to punish people for saying things that do not incite harm but are merely offensive or distasteful. In other words, what you can think is determined by what is popular.

ACT will continue to defend the critical principle that nobody should ever be punished by the power of the state on the basis of opinion.