By Jacinda Ardern
There’s been a lot of chat this week about superannuation. I will admit it’s a conversation that Labour at least has been very keen to have, and rightly so. My peers, however, sit on the opposite side of the spectrum. Not only do 30-something Kiwis not really talk about their future financial security, we collectively don’t plan for it either. That means we are now faced with two problems: A government which refuses to address the giant issue in the room and a generation which, to date, hasn’t forced them to. It’s time all of that changed, for the sake of one little word: Sustainability.
Sustainability has become one of ‘those’ words in politics. It risks becoming to politics what ‘synergy’ is to management speak - over used, and in some cases, an excuse. There was a prime example this budget round. It wasn’t just class sizes that took a big hit in the education sector. Tertiary education did too. Rather than seeing the education of young people as an investment, the Government’s policy has been to narrow eligibility of allowances. It's a policy that will have a massive impact.
I know of a current graduate studying to be an educational psychologist to work with deaf students (an area where we have a massive skills gap), who is being left with little choice but to put an end to her studies. And what has the government’s reasoning been for such a short sighted change? They claim it’s all about the sustainability of tertiary education.
Why is it that, if there are sacrifices to be made and questions about sustainability, it is young people that it lands on? If this government was genuinely interested in the issue of sustainability, it would look first at superannuation - and not to butcher it, but to ensure its survival.
In three years, superannuation will cost more than the entire education budget; preschool, primary, secondary and tertiary put together.
It will grow to be 20 times the cost of unemployment benefits. We need to ask if the universal age of super is set at the right place. But rather than tackle this big issue for the sake of future generations who want a home, a secure retirement and a country with a sound savings plan, they continue to target them and burden them with debt.
Politics can’t just be about making decisions that anger the least number of people possible, it has to be about doing the right thing. Labour’s view that superannuation should be lifted is one that we think needs to be phased in from 2020, and one that requires some thinking around how we assist those who work in hard physical jobs who have no choice but to retire earlier than most. That all requires thinking and decisions now so that my generation not only has a fair chance to save, but a chance of having a universal super scheme in the first place. That’s the message we should all be talking about.
Jacinda Ardern is the Labour Party's Social Development Spokesperson.