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Posts Tagged ‘kiwisaver’

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 13: Kiwisaver – another broken promise

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In the past, when governments broke promises, they were clumsy, heavy-handed, and were punished at the polls.

Political parties and their strategists have learned from those mistakes. Now, when promises are broken, they are done gradually, by incremental steps.  So when the media picks up on it and reports, the public barely notices nor cares.

One such recent broken promise was National’s dumping of the Kiwisaver $1,000 kick-start government contribution, revealed in this year’s Budget.

On 9 July 2008, Key gave a hint as to National’s intentions toward Kiwisaver;

“There won’t be radical changes. There will be some modest changes to KiwiSaver. We will announce that pretty soon.”

On 8 October 2008 – precisely one month before the general election that year – Bill English outlined National’s policy toward Kiwisaver if they became government;

National is proposing three changes to KiwiSaver. These changes will make KiwiSaver fairer, more affordable for current and future members, and more enduring in the long-term.

The three changes National is planning are:

First, a reduction in the minimum contributions demanded of employees.

At the moment, most KiwiSaver members are required to contribute 4% of their income to KiwiSaver. In return, they receive a contribution from their employer equal to 1% of their income. As an interim measure, Labour has allowed some KiwiSaver members to make a more affordable contribution, of 2%. In return they receive an equal contribution from their employer.

National thinks this 2 +2 arrangement is fair and affordable. We disagree with Labour’s plans to ramp-up KiwiSaver over the next three years.

National will make KiwiSaver a 2+2 scheme. Once this is bedded down, however, we will consider offering an alternative 3+3 scheme option, as and when economic conditions permit.

Let me stress that those who want to contribute more than 2% of their wages to KiwiSaver will still have that option. And employers who want to match contributions beyond 2% will still have that option, too.

Second, National will remove the tax credit that is currently paid to employers whose staff are enrolled in KiwiSaver. This will have no effect on the amount of money that goes into New Zealanders’ KiwiSaver accounts.

This subsidy was a transitional tool but it creates a complex money-go-round. It simply doesn’t meet National’s test for effective, disciplined government spending.

I note that the net effect for employers will be small, once they take into account the lower minimum contribution rate.

Finally, National will repeal recent legislation which effectively discriminates against some employees who can’t afford to join KiwiSaver.

However, we will keep a safeguard in place, by amending the KiwiSaver Act to make it explicit that no employee can have their gross taxable pay reduced as a consequence of joining KiwiSaver.

National believes that these three changes to KiwiSaver will make it a fairer, more affordable and more enduring savings scheme.

No mention of cutting the $1,000 kickstart  contribution by government.

In fact, National made no mention whatsoever of removing the $,1000 kickstart contribution at the last election. Claire Trevett at the NZ Herald wrote this informative piece on the issue;

A broken promise is when someone reneges on something they promised to do or not do.

If you were silent, say, about axing the $1000 kickstart payment for new KiwiSaver members, it is not a broken promise, strictly speaking.

But it is an act of bad faith, especially when it happens in the first Budget following an election in which kickstart payments were not mentioned.

The amount of tinkering and tampering with the KiwiSaver scheme since it was announced in 2005 is incredible.

Most of Labour’s changes served to benefit the saver at the expense of the public purse. Not surprising seeing as it began the scheme.

And most of National’s tampering has reduced benefits to the saver and helped the public purse.

Very few other media commentators and columnists have taken National to task for what is undeniably a blatant election broken promise.

Cutting the $1,000 kick-start contribution is short-sighted. Even English had to admit on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘, on 23 May;

“…and New Zealand savings rates are now— have been positive for five years for the first time in decades.”

Our improved saving record has not come about because of anything National has done (despite English’s insistence). In fact, National has undermined every effort to improve this country’s dismal savings record.

In 1975, the then-Muldoon-led National government dumped the previous Labour government’s superannuation savings-policy. This cost our nation an estimated $278 billion (according to Infometrics and  the Financial Services Council).

The 2014 Infometrics report calculated that;

“… a worker on the average wage would have saved $256,000 in the scheme over the past 40 years.”

But Muldoon could not wait to get his meddling hands on the scheme, and like many things he touched, it died.

The same applies to the current Kiwisaver scheme.

The current Key-led National government’s piece by piece  gutting of Kiwisaver – ongoing since 2008 – confirms that no superannuation savings scheme is safe from that party’s political interference.

In this instance, removing the $1,000 kick-start contribution is a direct consequence of National’s ill-conceived tax cuts in 2009 and 2010, which left a gaping hole in National’s taxation-revenue.

In effect, New Zealanders continue to pay for those two unaffordable tax-cuts, whether by cutting back on government services such as bio-security; under-funding social organisations such as Relationships Aotearoa; increasing government user-charges such as Family Court fees, medical prescriptions; taxing children; introducing new taxes, etc, etc, etc.

National was so desperate to win the 2008 general election that despite the Global Financial Crisis, it proceeded with tax cuts that we simply could not afford.

National must now cut every form of expenditure it thinks it can get away with, if it is to escape the prospect of another Budget deficit next year.

We are the ones paying for what, essentially, was an election bribe.

On this occasion, though, our children will end up paying as well.

Addendum1

For more invaluable information, refer to Audrey Young’s excellent piece in the Herald, Why axing kickstart is an act of bad faith.

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References

Radio NZ: PM defends scrapping of KiwiSaver kickstart

NBR: Key signals ‘modest changes’ to KiwiSaver

Wikipedia: 2008 General Election

Bill English: National’s Economic Management Plan

NZ Herald:  Why axing kickstart is an act of bad faith

Fairfax media: Compulsory super ‘would be worth $278b’

Scoop media: National Reveals Biosecurity Cuts

NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse: Changes signalled to funding of community organisations; Relationships Aotearoa may close

Scoop media: Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase

NZ Herald: Prescription fees increase

NZ Herald: Budget 2012 ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour

Fairfax media: International airfares will rise new departure tax

Additional

NZ Herald:  National denies it misled voters over taxes

Previous related blogposts

Regret at dumping compulsory super – only 37 years too late

Did National knowingly commit economic sabotage post-2008?

Budget 2013: Suffer the little children… to starve

National guts Kiwisaver

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 12: No More Asset Sales (Kind of)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 May 2015.

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Letter to the Editor: Labour’s cunning plan (v.2)

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FROM:   "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE:    Wed, 30 Apr 2014 21:33:36 +1200
TO:      "The Listener" <> 

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The Editor
THE LISTENER
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David Parker's Reserve Bank-Kiwisaver Variable Savings Rate
is a very clever piece of policy which is so elegantly
simple but so wonderfully clever at the same time. The
question I keep asking is why no one has thought of it
before!

It's intriguing that thus far the only criticism seems to be
based on Labour-bashing rather than any serious analysis.

Although it's interesting to note that Federated Farmers 
and the Northern Employers and Manufacturers' Association 
are open minded about it  - which is  all anyone can ask,
really.

For the Nats - they are panicking. The common spin is that
Labour's policy is "confused". Not exactly a resounding
rebuttal of the Variable Savings Rate - but expect their
Party strategists to get into high gear very shortly.

The funniest thing though, is the number of right wingers
who seem to prefer their cash to be siphoned off to overseas
banks - rather than invested and returned to them. I know
right-wingers are blinkered and see the world in Black &
White terms but this is a whole new  level of dogmatic
dumbness even for them.

If Labour can come up with more initiatives like this -
September 20th will see a new government. 



-Frank Macskasy
[address & phone number supplied]

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References

Radio NZ: Labour makes monetary policy change

Federated Farmers of NZ: Federated Farmers keen on Labour’s monetary policy detail


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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Letter to the Editor: Labour’s cunning plan

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FROM:   "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE:    Wed, 30 Apr 2014 12:13:21 +1200
TO:     "Dominion Post" <letters@dompost.co.nz> 

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The Editor
Dominion Post

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Labour's new policy to replace OCR interest rates with a
variable Kiwisaver rate is ingenuous and common sense. It
beggars belief that it hasn't been thought up before.

Instead of higher interest rates which force mortgage rates
rises, New Zealanders will make higher payments to their
Kiwisaver account.

The difference is obvious - paid to Kiwisaver, we get to
keep our money. Paid to banks, that money disappears off to
Australia  as billion-dollar profits.

Bill English's criticism that Labour's plan would impact
unfairly on the poor and low/fixed income families is
laughable. When has National ever been concerned about the
welfare of the poor?

English forgets that when the OCR rises, so do mortgage
rates. And rents follow. So low/fixed income families cannot
escape the current RBNZ policy of restraining inflation
through interest rates. 

Australia has over A$1.6 trillion saved in their compulsory
savings account. Had we kept own own savings scheme,
implemented by the Kirk-led government in 1973, NZ would
have saved NZ$278 billion by now. We would not be so reliant
on overseas capital.

But Muldoon scrapped it shortly after the 1975 election, and
we have been "captive" to foreign banks ever since.

Let us not make the same mistake twice.





-Frank Macskasy
[address & phone number supplied]

 

 

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References

Radio NZ: Labour makes monetary policy change

Fairfax media:  Bob each way on effects of a lower dollar


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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National guts Kiwisaver

13 August 2013 4 comments

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Released today at the National Party annual conference in nelson;

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National tackles first home affordability

Source: NZ Herald – National tackles first home affordability

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Kiwisaver was set up in July 2007 by Labour Finance Minister, Michael Cullen, to motivate New Zealanders to save for their retirement. Our Aussie cuzzies already have about A$1.3 trillion saved in their compulsory super schemes – we are lagging way behind.

“After more than a decade of compulsory contributions, Australian workers have over $1.28 trillion in superannuation assets. Australians now have more money invested in managed funds per capita than any other economy.” Source

A similar scheme, implemented by the Norman Kirk-led Labour government in 1973, was scrapped by National’s then-Prime minister, Robert Muldoon, in 1975. National has a horrendous track record when it comes to planning and motivating New Zealanders to save for retirement.

Instead of saving for retirement, we tend to invest in “bricks and mortar” – rental properties. This is not saving as it relies heavily on borrowing from overseas lenders to finance. Those borrowings are other peoples’ savings.

So in effect we are borrowing other peoples’ savings to invest in rental properties which we are using for our retirement “savings” – other peoples’ savings being used to build up our own “savings”.

This is not just “false wealth” and damaging to our economy (those borrowings have to be re-paid eventually) – it is sheer economic lunacy on a grand scale. Note the green line in the chart below – it is private debt incurred from overseas;

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Source

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And the National Party turns a blind eye to it.

As a result, our savings is meagre enough as it is.

The ANZ and ASB summed it up with brutal reality,

ASB’s executive general manager wealth and insurance Blair Turnball said someone who wanted to live off $40,000 a year needed to retire with a pool of around $600,000 if they wanted to make it last for 25 years – the timeframe in which people felt they could live beyond the retirement age.

“This [$70,000] is $530,000 less than the average respondent in our survey aspired to, and only 55 per cent of the aspiration annual $40,000 income. It is alarming how big the gap is.”

Source: NZ Herald – Kiwis ‘not saving enough to retire on’

John Body, managing director ANZ Wealth and Private Banking New Zealand, said New Zealanders were saving around 2 to 3 per cent of their take-home pay whereas Australians were saving 9 per cent and many in Asia were saving 12 per cent.

“We are just not saving enough.”

Source: IBID

For Key and his incompetant  government to allow New Zealanders to tap into their Kiwisaver funds undermines the very purpose for it. In fact, he’s made the situation, as outlined by the ANZ and ASB, even worse.

We’re back to square one; people investing in bricks and mortar instead of saving for their retirement.

There are other ways to get Kiwis into their first homes without subverting Kiwisaver. National apparently chooses not to consider any of them.

In July 2008, Key made this public pledge,

“There won’t be radical changes. There will be some modest changes to KiwiSaver.”

Source: NBR –  Key signals ‘modest changes’ to KiwiSaver

This most certainly constitutes a radical departure from Kiwisaver’s original intent.

Allowing people to withdraw from their Kiwisaver savings account to invest in housing may work for the very short term; Key has “solved” a potential election nightmare for himself and his Party.

But for the future of this country, and the hundreds of thousands of baby-boomers soon to hit retirement – he has left us a ticking time-bomb.

Political expediency wins out again.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 August 2013.

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams

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– Politics on Nine To Noon –

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– Monday 12 August 2013 –

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– Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams –

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

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Radio NZ logo - Politics on nine to noon

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams (24′ 26″ )

Discussing,

  • the government’s recent housing announcements and changes to Kiwisaver,
  • the multiple inquiries into the Fonterra food safety scandal,
  • and the government backdown over proposed changes to fishing regulations.

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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Our growing housing problem…

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Muldoon and Key

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“Ministers have signalled that changes could include widening access to KiwiSaver contributions and subsidies, as well as boosting the government-guaranteed Welcome Home Loan scheme that is exempt from LVR calculations. “

Source: Fairfax Media – Few first home buyer details in PM speech

Well, so much for saving for our retirement instead of investing in property and thus fuelling an unsustainable, speculative housing bubble. The whole point of Kiwisaver was twofold,

  1. To create a local investment fund from which business could borrow, so we were not so desperately reliant on foreign capital. Our Aussie cuzzies currently have A$1.3 trillion-dollars invested in their  compulsory savings funds.
  2. To give New Zealanders – especially baby-boomers – a better standard of living upon their retirement.

In July 2008, Key promised not to interfere with Kiwisaver –  “there won’t be radical changes…there will be some modest changes to KiwiSaver”   – and like most of his promises, they are blown in the wind.

Source: NBR – Key signals ‘modest changes’ to KiwiSaver
All because Key and his cronies are unable to address the housing crisis directly;

  1. Introduce a capital gains tax (my preference is that it matches the company tax, and not GST)
  2. Restrict ownership to New Zealand citizens and permanent residents
  3. Begin a programme of home construction – including 10,000 state houses per year
  4. Pay the Unemployment Benefit as an incentive to employers to employ more apprentices
  5. Reduce/eliminate all fees for trades training course
  6. And long term: promote regional development to take pressure of Auckland and other highly urbanised areas.

But the Nats won’t do any of this. That would involve systematic State planning on a level that Key and his cronies would never countenance. It would fly in the face of their right wing ideology for minimal State involvement in housing and other economic activities.

(Unless you are Warner Bros or Skycity, in which case the Nats have an open chequebook to throw taxpayers’ money at corporate welfare.)

The only thing National is capable of is short term, self-serving policy-changes. Never mind that such changes create long term harm to our economy and social fabric.

Gutting Kiwisaver is economic sabotage – much like Muldoon did in 1975 (see:  Brian Gaynor: How Muldoon threw away NZ’s wealth).

Meanwhile, people desperate to get into their own homes are raiding their Kiwisaver accounts – effectively “stealing” from their own future;

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Hot property Home-buyers rush to cash in KiwiSaver

Source: Dominion Post – Hot property: Home-buyers rush to cash in KiwiSaver

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Never let it be said that the Nats learn from history…

*pfffft!*

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Previous related blogposts

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

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Regret at dumping compulsory super – only 37 years too late

21 January 2013 22 comments

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It started with the 1975 election campaign,

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It’s consequences, 37 years later were,

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private sector debt 1988 - 2009 (% of GDP)

Source: Private-sector debt and factors affecting it

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Private debt shot up like an unguided missile, into stratospheric heights. There were no limitations on our private borrowings.

By comparison, up until 2008 (Global Financial Crisis), Crown debt has been falling,

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Treasury - government debt to gdp ration - june years

Source: NZ Economic Chart Pack – April 2012

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In the 1975 general elections, 763,136 voters decided the course of New Zealand’s social and economic history.

By electing Muldoon, under the manifestly unpredictable and unfair First Past the Post electoral system, Labour’s compulsory superannuation scheme was ditched the following year.

As a young lad in his first job, this blogger vividly recalls receiving a cheque from my then-employer, as a reimbursement of my previous super-contributions. I recall looking at the cheque and the pitifully tiny amount it was made out for.

I recall a feeling of disquiet…

Even as a teenager, barely politically conscious, I was uneasy that the scheme was being canned by Muldoon and wondering how we were going to pay for superannuation in the future. I was also  aware that bank mortgages were extremely hard to come by, as New Zealand had a low savings record. Businesses and industries competed with people seeking home-mortgages from banks.

A year later, I bought my first house and the experience was one I shan’t forget.  By 1978 mortgages were nigh-on impossible to obtain; vendors’ Second Mortgages were a necessity (where the house seller left part of the sale price as a Second Mortgage to the Purchaser); and interest rates were high.

New Zealanders simply weren’t saving enough.

Which is why, when the incoming (secretly right-wing Rogernomics-controlled) Labour government was elected into power, they de-regulated  New Zealand’s exchange rate and allowed overseas investment to flood into the country.

As a temporary, short-term “fix”, home ownership became easier. Second mortgages all but vanished. Interest rates dropped, as availability of finance met local demand.

On a long-term basis, the consequences created a rod for our economic backs.

Private borrowings from overseas skyrocketed, leading to ever spiralling-upward housing prices,

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total household liabilities 1978 - 2007

3.1 Trends in household liabilities
Total household liabilities have increased in both real and nominal terms. However, until 1990 the growth was moderate (Figure 1). Following the deregulation of financial markets, the growth of liabilities accelerated, and in the past five years has been driven by lower real interest rates and rising house prices.

Source: Debt in the aggregate balance sheet of households

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With no limit on the amount we could borrow from offshore lenders, there was no natural ‘cap’ on prices. That meant we could demand more for our properties and the banks would happily comply, and borrow more from China, Japan, America, or where-ever. The banks “clipped the ticket along the way, amassing billions in profits in the process (see:  ANZ profits up 17pc to $1.26b).

As the National Business Review reported in August 2010,

Last Wednesday Mr English bemoaned New Zealand’s debt problem, saying that in 2000 the country’s debt to the rest of the world was about $100 billion but now it was close to $180b, and forecast to hit $250b by 2014.

See: Key cautious over compulsory super

Essentially, we’re now chasing our own tails, borrowing more to buy more expensive houses; then on-selling at a “profit”; and borrowing more to buy higher-priced housing.

Gareth Morgan pointed out in May 2012, when he criticised the futility and destructiveness of property speculation,

“ So lubricated with the credit availability we all pile into the asset in unison and drive up its price. Hardly rocket science.”

See: House prices a cancer for the economy

Which led to the inevitable,

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Home-ownership falls dramatically

Full story

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And,

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Frustrated home buyers want investors to be discouraged

Full story

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It’s interesting to note that the above Herald story had an associated poll that yielded a rather telling result,

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Do you support a Capital Gains Tax on the sale of residential investment properties

See: IBID

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The 39% who responded with ‘No’ corresponds roughly with National’s core support.

The 15% who responded with “Yes, as long as it’s not too high” are those who will vote for whichever political Party best meets the needs of their wallets – and the long-term repercussions for the country be damned. They still want to profit from property speculation, so long as said speculation doesn’t push property prices beyond their own reach.

Those 44% who voted “Yes” indicate a growing maturity and understanding that everything has a consequence – including property speculation. These voters perhaps  understand that,

  1. The money has to come from somewhere – and it is coming from overseas lenders,
  2. High levels of borrowing are ultimately damaging to our sovereign credit rating
  3. Housing speculation is not just a giant legal pyramid scheme – but is harming the future of our own children, who then have to escape to Australia to be able to afford a home of their own

See: IBID

Again, as Gareth Morgan said last year,

This is the legacy of the last 30 years. And it has become so entrenched in our psyche that our ability to build businesses and create wealth and employment has been numbed.

A bit like growing your own veges or preserving the summer harvest, it’s a lost craft. The cost to incomes is high, the consequence being our GDP per capita continues to slip down the OECD charts.

As we contemplate economic recovery some thought at least should be given to the quality of the recovery we’d prefer – do we want it to be a housing-led one again where we all seek riches through a speculative race for property; do we want it to be a business-led type where jobs and incomes take priority; or do we really not care? Is it all too much to think about?

The sense one gets is that politicians at least couldn’t care less, just bring recovery on, any recovery.”

See: House prices a cancer for the economy

A further comparison;  Australia’s  superannuation scheme (also referred to as the Superannuation Guarantee) –  made compulsory in 1992 – has amassed savings of over $1 trillion dollars. In September 2010,

After more than a decade of compulsory contributions, Australian workers have over $1.28 trillion in superannuation assets. Australians now have more money invested in managed funds per capita than any other economy.”-  Source

Two years later, by September 2012,

Total estimated superannuation assets increased to $1.46 trillion in the September 2012 quarter. Over the 12 months to September 2012 there was a 13.0 per cent increase in total estimated superannuation assets.” – Source

No talk of  “nanny statism” here. Our Aussie cuzzies knuckled down; made hard decisions; and did the hard work. In 2006, the Sydney Morning Herald proudly proclaimed,

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Australia 'tops' in managed funds

Full story

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The Aussies have  earned the benefits.

By comparison the NZ superannuation Fund – begun in 2003 – made this announcement in October 2012,

New Zealand Super Fund breaks $20 billion mark; releases 2011/12 Annual Report

Posted On: Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The New Zealand Superannuation Fund reached an end-of-month record high of $20.08 billion in September.
The Fund, which commenced investing in 2003, was set up by the New Zealand Government to help pay for the increasing cost of universal superannuation. It is managed by the Guardians of New Zealand Superannuation.

See: New Zealand Super Fund breaks $20 billion mark; releases 2011/12 Annual Report

As for Kiwisaver, in the five years to June 2012, Kiwisaver has amassed  $12.9 billion in contributions.

See: IRD – KiwiSaver Annual Report 5

That’s around NZ$33 billion saved here in New Zealand – compared to A$1.46 trillion saved by our Aussie cuzzies.

By contrast, investment strategist and analyst, Brian Gaynor estimates that had New Zealand kept the Labour superannuation schemem it would be world approximately $240 billion dollars (See:  Brian Gaynor: How Muldoon threw away NZ’s wealth). As Gaynor explain,

Without this decision we would now be called “The Antipodean Tiger” and be the envy of the rest of the world. We would have a current account surplus, one of the lowest interest-rate structures in the world and would probably rank as one of the top five OECD economies.

We would still own ASB Bank, Bank of New Zealand and most of the other major companies now overseas-owned. Our entrepreneurs would have a plentiful supply of risk capital and would probably own a large number of Australian companies.

Most New Zealanders would face a comfortable retirement and would be the envy of their Australian peers. The Government would have a substantial Budget surplus and we would have one of the best educational and healthcare systems in the world.

See: IBID’

Never underestimate the capacity for some people to vote stupidly.

Meanwhile, here in New Zealand, we are only just waking up to the mistakes we made 37 years ago,

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Strong support for universal KiwiSaver

Full story

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Oh well, 37 years… rather late than never.

Which rather paints this current ‘government’ as a thing of the past; unwilling to learn from our historic mistakes; unwilling to learn from the Australian experience;  but willing to take the easy road; and playing Muldoon-style politics with our country’s future economic stability,

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John Key - We cannot afford KiwiSaver

Full story
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The question now is – have New Zealanders learnt enough history from 1975 to get rid of this inept, inward-looking government? Or will it be John Key – Muldoonism v.2 ?

As always, the choice is ours; a future of debt and under foreign ownership or “Antipodean Tiger” ?

National Party supporters – take note.

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Previous related blogposts

Nanny State, Daddy State, poor state?

References

Horizon Poll: Strong support for universal KiwiSaver

Fairfax: Compulsory Super regret for most Kiwis

NZ Herald: Foreign ownership shortchanging locals

Reserve Bank: Dealing with debt

Treasury: NZ Economic Chart Pack – April 2012

Treasury: Private-sector debt and factors affecting it

Wikipedia: 1975 General Election

NZ Herald: Govt eyes blind to housing crisis

NZ Herald: House prices a cancer for the economy

National Business Review: Key cautious over compulsory super

Bay of Plenty Times: John Key: We cannot afford KiwiSaver

NZ Herald: Brian Gaynor: How Muldoon threw away NZ’s wealth

Update

Radio NZ: NZ housing ‘seriously unaffordable’

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