Act leader David Seymour is angling for the senior vote with a new suite of policies aimed at improving healthcare for the elderly and reforming the Retirement Commission.
But while he was able to sell the idea that Act’s economic policy means higher superannuation for retirees to a Grey Power audience in the Auckland suburb of Pakuranga right after the announcement, he was less forthcoming with them about what Act would do to the age of retirement.
Act’s latest policy would focus the Retirement Commission on retirement villages and aging-in-place, individualise funding of in-home care, in a model similar to the current system for disabled people.
But aside from direct tinkering with the apparatus of retirement policy, Act is hoping to sell a brighter future for the country’s senior citizens by relaxing pharmaceutical restrictions.
In 2011, the National government placed a ban on over-the-counter products containing pseudoephedrine in an attempt to prevent methamphetamine producers from getting their hands on it.
Seymour wants to turn that ban over, saying it hasn’t done much except prevent Kiwis from accessing effective medication.
“For the last decade or so we’ve all been denied some decent cold and flu medication, but the gangs are selling more P than ever,” he said. “It’s time to recognise the gangs have other ways of getting P and fight them where they are, rather than denying New Zealanders pseudoephedrine cough and flu medicine, it is time we got access to some decent drugs when we’re sick again.”
National leader Christopher Luxon told Newsroom on Friday he would review the ban if in government.
Act would also bring in reviews of future decisions to make medication pharmacist-only or prescription-only.
According to research by the National Institute of Drug Abuse in the United States, manufacturers in North America have managed to adapt to restrictions by obtaining pseudoephedrine from other sources or using a different production process using a chemical called phenyl-2-propanone or P2P instead.
But if pseudoephedrine is available over the counter, couldn’t that open up a more convenient supply for drug manufacturers despite these other loopholes?
“If you look at the price of P, it appears to be lower in New Zealand sadly than it was when they were trying to extract it from cold and flu medication,” Seymour said when asked this by Newsroom.
“I’d hate to admit it but I think the gangs have won on this one, they’ve found better ways to go around that law, so taking the law away is probably not going to have much effect.”
Seymour came to Pakuranga Bowling Club to talk about what Act means for seniors, but soon seemed to be explaining the backstory to an episode of Breaking Bad.
It’s a slightly out-of-left-field policy to be packaged in with the senior citizen policy – and perhaps that’s why he didn’t even bring it up until he was in front of a Grey Power audience right after the announcement.
Instead he took them through the broad strokes of Act’s economic and law and order policies, with the main advantage for the older audience being if Seymour’s promised economic victories come to pass, their superannuation rates would increase.
Another thing he didn’t say while at the pulpit was that Act’s policy would see the age of superannuation eligibility increase by three months a year for eight years until it reaches 67.
That means a 61-year-old today would be eligible in September of 2028 instead of September 2027, but would still be able to access their KiwiSaver in ’27.
“I think it’s high time that New Zealand confront reality, people are living longer, having fewer kids, more people are working well past 65, there’s not enough taxpayers below 65 to keep paying the bill as more people live past that age, every other country’s doing it,” he said.
“I just put it to people that if a political party can’t confront a reality that’s staring them in the face, like our changing demographics and our troubled financial account, they’re not going to be able to get New Zealand through the other challenges we face.”
Although much of the Grey Power crowd inside the bowling club were presumably already above the age of superannuation, it remained important to them. The speaker before Seymour – National’s Simeon Brown – was asked if he’d be leaving it where it was.
“We’re not doing that until 2044, we have said though that we will gradually increase it so somebody my age will have to work until the age of 67, but for everybody in this room, there will be absolutely no change.”
Seymour’s changes will be coming in much quicker. Newsroom asked him if he’d lead with this news to the senior crowd.
“Absolutely, we do need politicians who will foster an honest, healthy debate in this country,” he said. “New Zealand faces some real challenges that must be overcome, and the only way you do that is by having honest conversations.”
Seymour explained Act’s changes on Thursday night during Newshub’s Powerbrokers’ Debate.
But once he got in front of this crowd this tough bit of news seemed to flee his mind in favour of the tough-on-crime, low-on-spending talking points that garnered sustained earnest nods around the room.
Afterwards, Seymour said getting into the senior policy had slipped his mind, citing the sheer number of policies the party has been delivering lately.