Social Assistance (Portability to Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau) Bill - Third reading

Thursday, June 18, 2015

STUART SMITH: It is nice to finish on a positive note there. It is a pleasure to speak on the Social Assistance (Portability to Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau) Bill. I think there is general agreement that this is a good bill across the House. With the realm countries electing to have self-governance and also free association, it is a wonderful thing to be able to align them with the same rights to be able to retire and take your superannuation with you to the islands.
Although there has been a lot of talk about those rules—I think I will touch on that a bit further on—I first wanted to talk a little bit about the submissions that were given to the Social Services Committee. Generally they were mostly, all except for one, focused on the 5 years over 50 provision in the bill, and two of them, in fact, suggested that the 5 years over 50 should be 5 years over 40, giving people a bit longer in the islands. The rationale, of course, is that those people would be able to contribute more to the economy of those islands and contribute to the communities as well. A

lthough in spirit I suggest that that is a very good idea, they will get that at age 55 anyway. Although we are aligning this with what every New Zealander has to do to qualify for superannuation, I think I would like to just point out that in those countries we have agreement with, like Australia and the UK, as was pointed out before, what is different about that is that there is a provision known as totalisation. That provision allows for reciprocal payments of superannuation within those nations. That does not apply in the islands, because they are not able to pay their superannuation at the same rate.

So in theory it sounds good to hand out a little bit more money, and I know the rationale in the Committee debate by some members of the Opposition was that it is not that much money, so why do we not just pay it. Well, my running total at the moment, when adding all of these up in these various bills through the House, so far it is running at half a billion dollars. So these little bits of money add up to quite a lot of money and, being legislators, we have to make hard decisions.

We take taxes off New Zealand citizens and distribute them to provide the services that the Government does, and superannuation is one of those. In this bill we must be responsible with that money, as we are with every other bill we debate in this House.

On the whole I think we can very proud of this bill. I think the people of the Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau can all be very, very pleased with this. I would also like to take note that my colleague Alfred Ngaro reminds us that the triple star that is referred to in our national anthem refers to these nations. I think that probably should be spoken about at every opportunity, because most people do not realise that that is what it refers to. I think it is a great thing.

In summary, I think this is a great bill and I have a lot of pleasure in commending it to the House. Thank you.