The Green Party

Green and clean message: the policy is unfair - but this is no reason to do anything about it


No trustworthy partner for change

I admit that I have voted for the Greens in the 2017 election in a tactical move to keep them in Parliament and form a coalition government with Labour. I thought as both parties consider the Direct Deduction Policy - now Sections 187-191 of the Social Security Act, formerly Section 70 - unfair and aspects of it even in breach of Human Rights, that they would be the perfect combination for change. But not so.

While both - and in this case everyone in Parliament - has lately voted for the end of the Spousal Provision [which came into force on 9 November 2020], the Greens have disappointed all along.

They even have a Human Rights expert/lawyer in their caucus who is their official spokesperson on Human Rights. But obviously Golriz Ghahraman is not interested in looking into Human Rights issues if they only affect pensioners. I wrote to her some time ago and asked her to please have a look at the Human Rights aspect of the policy, as it breaches the right to property, the right to be free from discrimination etc. But, as said, there was no interest at all.

Golriz Ghahraman seems more interested in the (voting) rights of lowlives and other things pensioners might object to. Her office let me know that my correspondence was forwarded to the social development spokesperson of whom I cannot even remember the name. Needless to say that I have never received a reply from there.

Equally needless to say that I am not interested any longer in a party which does not use the potential of their MPs to the best of the people they represent in Parliament. Well, it might just be that they don't have much potential anyway, given the kind of policies they are promoting, thinking this might increase their vote.

It surely is not easy to be a supporting party outside the government only. And it is not easy to set the tone when you are only part of a puzzle. But if the official Human Rights spokesperson and trained Human Rights lawyer isn't willing to look into the Human Rights aspect of a law, then there really is no point in even considering to support the Greens.

When the Greens were still answering...

"Only if the overseas pension is funded through taxation..."

In October 2008 Green Party spokeswoman Sue Kedgley wrote her party's stance on Section 70 (now Sections 187-191) in a letter a pensioner forwarded to us.

"... we needed to finalise our policy on this issue. I am replying on behalf of the Green Party as Superannuation Spokesperson.

The Green Party policy is:

'To restrict the dollar for dollar abatement regime on overseas pensions to apply only if the overseas pension is paid from overseas government schemes funded through taxation (similar to New Zealand benefits); and treat income from contributory overseas pension, superannuation and savings schemes no differently from other income for benefit abatement purposes.'

The Green Party agrees with you that it is unfair the money you contributed from your wages into a pension scheme overseas is being taken from you because the New Zealand Government cannot differentiate between contributory or government pension schemes.

Let me assure you we will continue to lobby the Government on this issue on your behalf."

Keeping on the issue

You can trust that the Green Party's view has not changed a jot. In a speech at Parliament in May 2009, Sue Bradford confirmed that the Greens will keep on the issue and demand justice for New Zealanders with overseas pensions.

Here are some excerpts from the speech:

"This matter has been raised time and time again by people aggrieved by the fundamental unfairness of arbitrarily missing out on the benefits of contributory pension funds that they have been part of, often for a substantial part of their working lives, because of the unfair provisions imposed by Section 70 of the Social Security Act.

The issue is really quite simple. If overseas pensions are paid from taxation revenue gathered by overseas governments, as New Zealand Superannuation and benefits paid under the Social Security Act are, then a dollar for dollar deduction is quite appropriate. But if a portion of the revenue for such overseas pension schemes is from contributions by employees, then the dollar for dollar deduction is simply unfair. Whether an overseas government, or a private fund, administers the scheme should be an irrelevant consideration.

The previous Government promised for most of its tenure to address this issue. Legislation was promised to be introduced in the last Parliamentary term. When this Bill (note: the 2009 Amendment Act about Portability) was introduced, I expected the Bill to address the issue. It does not, and both New Zealanders living overseas and contributing to pension schemes administered by overseas governments and immigrants to New Zealand who have contributed to such schemes for many years before coming here will continue to be unfairly penalised unless urgent action is taken.

I have heard National members talking about this in a most sympathetic and understanding manner in years gone by when they were in Opposition. I hope that in this new Parliament we might see some progress made on this broader and more significant problem.

I invite the Minister (note: Paula Bennett) to consider amending this Bill to address this issue as an option, and invite her to meet with me to discuss ways in which the gross unfairness of section 70 of the Social Security Act can be most readily addressed. If the National Party remains true to the statements of its spokespeople when in Opposition, this is an issue we can work together on."


Still supporting the end of the Direct Deduction Policy

Contacting the Green Party on their stance on Section 70, their spokesperson confirmed that the party still has the view that the dollar-for-dollar abatement of non-taxpayer funded overseas pensions is unfair and that it should stop immediately.

The Green Party wrote to us:

"I can confirm that it is Green Party Policy to end the dollar-for-dollar abatement of non-taxpayer funded overseas pensions." We were also provided the link to the policy.

Hidden in the depths of a plethora of policies, the Greens' policy on overseas pensions can be found in section 2 of their Income Support Policy (page 3, letter l = L) and reads as follows:

"The Green Party will:

[...] 5. Repeal the much amended, complex and cumbersome Social Security Act 1964, and replace it with a new and clearly written Social Security Act with a view to: [...]

l. Restrict the dollar for dollar abatement regime on overseas pensions to apply only if the overseas pension is paid from overseas government schemes funded through taxation (similar to New Zealand benefits); and treat income from contributory overseas pension, superannuation and savings schemes no differently from other income for benefit abatement purposes."


No Action from Greens

While the Green Party were fast to confirm that they were still supporting the end of the direct deduction of contributory pensions before the General Election, they have fallen asleep on the issue since being re-elected into Parliament a year ago. You would not think that they are even part of the new Labour-led government. (No, Winston Peters, we don't write "Coalition government", we still dare to use the word Labour.)

We have contacted the party and their leader James Shaw several times, just to find out if they have tried to get their views heard - which they had emailed us on 14 September 2017 (see above). But not a word back.

It is a slap in the face of everyone who has voted for them in order to get them over the 5% threshold and into government.

(Last update: 23.11.2021)

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