Changing The Climate – One RNZ Broadcast At A Time.

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THE LISTENER LONG AGO ceased to be a cultural talisman for progressive New Zealanders. Ever since the apparently indestructible Pamela Stirling took charge and transformed the magazine she’d once denounced as “the house journal of the Alliance” into the house journal of the National Party. Recently, however, a couple of sentences from “The sound and the fury”, the Listener editorial team’s assessment of the RNZ Concert debacle (22 February 2020) struck me as unusually perceptive.

“To retain its taxpayer-guaranteed revenue, RNZ must also retain its most precious commodity: public respect and support. That can be imperilled by poorly thought out judgements, including assuming that it should set the political climate.”

That climate-setting quip should have prompted a double-take from RNZ’s bosses. Its clear intention was to alert them (gently) to the fact that some of its key producers’ and editors’ more recent judgements have raised a few important eyebrows – and not in a good way. There is a growing feeling among those whose education was vouchsafed to them in the years before our universities became customer-driven businesses, that RNZ has taken up an ideological position some distance beyond either its listeners’, or the general public’s, comfort zones.

A telling example of RNZ’s determination to set the political climate was broadcast on the network’s Checkpoint programme of Wednesday, 26 February 2020, in which RNZ reporter, Nita Blake-Persen, secured prime placement for her story “NZ Super costs up as NZ retirees on $100k passes 30,000”.

It is difficult to assign any other motive for producing this sort of story than a desire to fan the flames of intergenerational warfare. Singling out high income-earners over 65 (whose annual contribution to the IRD, based on a minimum salary of $100,000 is a bracing $23,920!) was certainly inflammatory. Ms Blake-Persen’s analysis also hints strongly that the abandonment of the universalist principles underpinning NZ Superannuation may have to be accepted as unavoidable collateral damage in the aforesaid war between the generations.

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More disconcerting, is what appears to be a lack of sensible editorial oversight of Ms Blake-Persen’s story. Having read her copy, did Checkpoint’s editors, Pip Keane and Catherine Walbridge, not warn Ms Blake-Persen to calculate the total tax contribution of the 31,048 New Zealand superannuitants earning more than $100,000, and then compare that figure to the $608 million paid out to them by way of NZ Superannuation? A pretty sensible precaution, I would have thought, given that if the 31,048 older Kiwis so provocatively singled-out by Ms Blake-Persen proved to be net contributors to the state’s coffers, then her whole story falls flat on its face.

Which is exactly what we discover when we subtract NZ Super payments totalling $608,000,000 from Income Tax payments of $717,600,000 (31,048 x $23,920). Far from being greedy Boomer leeches bleeding their hapless GenX offspring dry, these workers are contributing a net $134,668,160 annually to the public purse!

All of which raises some disconcerting questions about RNZ’s overall ideological agenda, and on whose behalf it is being run? Did Ms Blake-Persen’s highly tendentious story make it on to the airwaves simply because nobody thought to check it? Or, is it evidence of a broader RNZ agenda to shame and blame the older generation for having the temerity to be born a couple of decades before its younger reporters and presenters? It would be tempting to dismiss this suggestion as Boomer paranoia had the RNZ Board and its CEO not demonstrated so unequivocally their readiness to sacrifice older listeners for a “younger demographic” in relation to RNZ Concert.

One of the economists quoted in Ms Blake-Persen’s story is Shamubeel Eaqub. According to this participant in the management consultancy firm Sense.Partners:

“The reality is that we don’t want to penalise people for working into old age and neither do we want to penalise people for accumulating wealth, but we have to be consistent in our understanding that actually when we look out to the next 20 to 30 years, our system of taxation and our systems of supporting old age and superannuitants probably isn’t sustainable.”

Oh, what a multitude of sins can be concealed beneath a little qualifier like “probably”! Even Ms Blake-Persen felt obliged (maybe there was a smidgen of editorial input after all?) to mention the apple-cart-upsetting finding of the Interim Retirement Commissioner, Peter Cordtz, that “the current cost [of NZ Superannuation] was sustainable for the next 30 years”. You pays your money and you makes your choice, apparently: the management consultant who has a problem with our current tax and pension systems; or, the guy who told us the former is more than equal to supporting the latter.

It will be interesting, BTW, to see whether the newly appointed Retirement Commissioner, Jane Wrightson, upholds Cordtz’s finding on the sustainability of NZ Superannuation. It is to be hoped that his pronouncements weren’t inspired by the, sadly, not unreasonable fear, that the new boss would soon be touting the same “we can’t afford it” nonsense as the old boss.

In the meantime, we can only sit back and admire Ms Blake-Persen’s propaganda skills. Imagine the outrage among that “younger demographic” when they discover that a body of overpaid Boomers, equal in number to the entire city of Blenheim, is living high on the hog while they sweat away in the salt mines of Neoliberalism! Imagine their fear and loathing when presented with such doom-laden factoids as: “Last year, NZ Super cost $14.5 billion and that cost is increasing by more than $1b each year. By 2024 it’s predicted to cost the country nearly $20b a year.” (A figure, BTW, that places New Zealand’s well below the current pension costs of many European states when measured as a percentage of GDP.) Or that – Quelle horreur! – “Inland Revenue figures showed 2,500 people were getting Super payments while on incomes of more than $300,000”.

Just imagine it! $300K a year!

Once again, however, there is no mention of the Income Tax paid annually on that sum to the IRD: a trifling $89,920! Which is more than four times the $21,380 paid annually to an individual New Zealander aged 65+ and living alone.

What a pity Ms Blake-Persen didn’t round out her story by seeking comment from an old-fashioned democratic-socialist who has campaigned for years to see those earning $300K p.a. socked with a much more progressive rate of income tax. He or she could have explained how steepening the progressivity of New Zealand’s Income Tax would once again make possible all the things the members of Ms Blake-Persen’s generation missed out on.

Then we could all have agreed that it’s not the year you were born in that counts, but the responsibility of every generation to so organise society that young and old, alike, are able to receive their fair share of its bounty. That would be a political climate worth setting – and definitely preferable to the ideological climate RNZ’s bosses seem hell-bent on heating-up.

 

14 COMMENTS

  1. I look at people younger than myself and am struck by their cheerful acceptance of a commitment-free world, their seeming comfort with an era in which most things, including employment, are provisional and almost certainly impermanent. They know they have to live off their wits, and rely on their skills, that they are to be granted very little.

    Meanwhile, private retirement providers of the old age industry are receiving substantial support. A full 25 per cent of growth in Super contributions to the nations savings pool from 2020 to 2025 will go to private-sector providers. One thing to remember is that private providers are not asked to provide the same communal facilities as a District Health Board, they face less stringent accountability requirements, and are not asked to provide support for retirees in housing, counselling and life in old age.

    The old age industry is, of course, maintained primarily as a government responsibility. But the government can be accomplished schumcks.

    The elderly (and this is not a matter of sentiment, or of misplaced egalitarianism) the Australian and Singapore economies saved their way to early retirements in the second half of the twentieth century and global prosperity totalling over 4 trillion in retirement savings the highest in the world for just 30 million people. For New Zealand to prosper, we must have a single retirement system, a system which can identify skills and plan for a population that is living longer as living standards climb higher.

  2. On the immigration debate, the massive change is the number of migrant pensioners now on super.

    “The number of Māori aged 65+ will more than double (from 48,500 to 109,400) between 2018 and 2034, as will the senior Pacific population (from 21,300 to 46,700), while the number of senior Asian New Zealanders will almost triple (from 59,500 to 171,900).”

    (The amount of senior Asian NZer’s is expected to be more than the number of aged Maori and Pacific Islander’s combined within a decade, by design not natural population growth!)

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12281479

    What idiot policy increases aged migration to a country that is aging and can’t afford it unless the lower services like health care, pensions etc!

    https://croakingcassandra.com/2019/10/14/reopening-parent-visas/

    Part of the issue is that our news and officials just won’t mention Asian pensioner demand is rising so much. Our laws have allowed the world’s pensioners to come to NZ, only live here for 10 years (used to be 5 years) and not have ever had to pay any tax in NZ at all, to get a STATE pension. (often while telling NZ to work harder, put the pension age up as we can’t afford it, means test it, now not give it to those who work past the pension age (possibly because they need the money!). This is the biggest routs of the pension and the pension debate aka the biggest rise of usage is not mentioned at all.

    Woke and all the officials never mention the rise in migrant pensioners who did not have to live in NZ long or pay into it while targeting everyone else as to blame.

    Bizarrely the new campaign seems to be tax payers who are still working and paying taxes should not get it (because they earn to much) and the inocome less migrant pensioner who often live in million dollar accomodation in Auckland anyway, does!

    Something’s wrong!

    News is now propaganda. I have zero respect for either the Listener (stopped buying it years ago) and certainly not RNZ in the last year they have become woke and stupid. Their opinions are not just disguised as news, but are actually propaganda as you say to frame a generational war on those that paid the taxes in the first place and keep the migrant gravy train rolling in.

    Gen X are also in the hot seat. What do you do? Just give up of work and hope that the pension is still there and you receive it, or work harder save, only to find out that your hard work mens you no longer qualify for state pension because you earn too much. All while our propaganda refuses to mention that many migrants who just got here are contributing ZERO get it and didn’t live in NZ most of their lives to boot! But our news covers it up!

    It’s yet another neoliberal brainwashing exercise, like user pays education, trickle down, etc

    Guess what, that approach will terminate left politics and that is what the woke and right wingers want.

    Goodbye left politics (what is left of it) because if your taxes are not guaranteed to provide taxpayers with social services anymore while our government gives the money away to others who don’t pay them.

    Aka increasingly middle NZ won’t pay taxes and support governments that make people pay them for Rio Tinto and Rich migrant pensioners who are never mentioned in the rants about whose fault poverty is and where the public money is being diverted to and it ain’t the tax payers or people/businesses who have lived most of their lives in the country.

  3. I stopped listening to National Radio about 15 years ago, when NR was giving high profile to climate-change-denying idiots and energy-illiterate fools. It is, after all, a mouthpiece for business-as–usual.

  4. Chris makes essential points and brings sense to the discussion on old age pensions (comfortably called superannuation).   Sam makes good points too.   One point Chris makes is about the Interim Retirement Commissioner laying  the groundwork for some sensible thinking before the new woman sweeps her broom.  Will she be like the past one who sounded like Mrs Grundy* from next door, preaching cutting down and austerity,  without looking hard at the figures as Chris, and the informed man Peter Cordtz, have done. 

    The latest pronouncements were preceded by an opinion article by Peter Cordtz in Spinoff October 2019
    https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/11-10-2019/as-our-population-ages-is-it-time-for-a-new-tax-on-high-earning-superannuitants/

    Some of my thoughts and perceptions about Superannuation.   A lot of people sigh with relief when they get there because it is certain.    The preceding years before 65 have left them scraping and scratching, going from pillar to post getting short-term jobs and dealing with the maze of Mr and Mrs Grundy’s at WINZ at each turn.
    Then I have got to the age of perception to understand what money is, and we can afford to QE to fund super for all.  Which brings to the next point, that super helps to keep money flowing around NZ, and helps NZ business. pays wages and NZ workers.    A sort of fuel that gets pumped into the economy and then produces those wonderful multipliers resulting in it being part of two or three more purchases with resulting employment advantages, before its heft disappears.  

    Then comes the matter of the uncounted economic benefits of unpaid work.    If all super recipients apart from the comatose, put in at least a few hours work for their district, as many do, that would help to firm the fabric of NZ society which at present has gaping holes untended.

    * Mrs Grundy is a figurative name for an extremely conventional or priggish person, a personification of the tyranny of conventional propriety. A tendency to be overly fearful of what others might think is sometimes referred to as grundyism. Wikipedia

  5. Is Super just another benefit? Many would say it is, if it is, then it should be subject to proper means testing like other benefits are. Even if it’s not classified as a benefit it should still be means tested to weed out those who don’t NEED it. I work with 3 gentleman who are very very wealthy by NZ standards, all in their 70’s and are happy to work for shit money cause they certainly don’t need it.
    Wealthy people double dipping is shit. This is the old entitlement thing again. Also all these oldies are taking jobs off young’uns. Boomers once again.

    • GreenBus
      There is an advantage to universality – everyone receives, and everyone is supposed to be paying tax to provide the country with a fair and balanced welfare system. It wasn’t decided as a system by Santa Claus, but by thoughtful planners with degrees in social policy and economics. If it isn’t working now may be because there are too many among the wealthy who are getting skyhigh returns on everything the work at, and then there are large numbers who have been told to live in holes in the ground and are not paid properly for whatever work they can manage to get. So that is what should be changed and then the proportion getting large incomes plus super, end up paying large tax and still having everything their hearts desire. And the strugglers out there if they can get work, and have a reasonable life, and somewhere to live, and some perks from the state that encourage them to keep on the straight and narrow, would have a system that doesn’t produce so much waste – of human life.

      • Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions. I think you come across as a slightly entitled snob. Having a good life are? Good for you. On behalf of us peasants, can I ask for some crumbs to make me happy. I’m not a tax expert although it would seem the propertied boomers I’m talking about taking jobs from our young people, (who bloody well need them) have creamed it by NOT paying tax on their capital gains.

  6. RNZ is a feminist channel now with imported BBC outcasts and Natiional party sypathisers.

    I havbe ceased watching RNZ and the listener so I seek to surf the social media now and foriegn channels to get some balance.

  7. Somehow I missed the RNZ story of wealthy earners getting Super. I switched off some time ago. Bravo Chris.
    Linking this RNZ manufactured ‘non story’ ( fake ) to the ‘unfairness’ of the universality of Super represents a media Neoliberal bias and masks the stealthy theft of future Super from young Kiwis that are currently contributing right now! RNZ has gone rogue – under a NZF Labour lead Government lol

  8. The Radio New Zealand National Party machine is getting less subtle. Saturday’s ‘news’ had a minute on the Blue/green meeting in Nelson. No mention of tiny attendance, protesters or irrelevance, just Soyman and Nick soundbites. But it is still the best of MSM…

    • Stuff has managed a mention of the protesters. https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2020/02/water-protesters-target-national-s-bluegreens-conference.html?fbclid=IwAR3DakeVxVSoEOR-sRK5HnEM9kziG_brJC-r3EkuOhw39bxIbAD2T24_j04

      But my disgust is again, science is now propaganda aka on reporting the water crisis, the media in NZ largely blame it on dairy intensification, but there has also been massive human intensification (construction, sewerage, urban run off from roads, poor infrastructure than has not had environmental protection at the forefront) – that somehow is never mentioned in why NZ has increasingly become so polluted and running out of water in droughts!

      Aka all around Auckland and many towns the beaches are closing due to poor water quality. That is because every time it rains the wastewater polluted with diesel, chemicals and dog poop runs into the sea and often due to leaks, poor planning and so forth our country can also be outputting raw human sewerage into the ocean which is clearly going to be a lot more than the ‘old days’ of a few baches. You can have 4 million tourists and hundreds of thousands of new residents a year and think it’s the same as the 1970’s! Nor is there any interest making those profiting from those industries actually paying for their contribution and to upgrade at the level they need to.

      Auckland has put 500,000+ more people, more houses, more dogs, more cars, into Auckland in a very intensive period but apparently never bothered to even build a new Dam for water! It makes people mad https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2020/02/duncan-garner-out-of-control-immigration-to-blame-for-auckland-s-water-shortage.html when Phil Goff and others then tell everyone in Auckland to save water and to blame the public. It’s the council’s job to do it not Joe Blog! The media don’t bother!

      The government and councils created the situation by their immigration policy for their neoliberal low wage agenda, now they should have the decency to own up to the issue, and actually plan and implement less new roads and more and urgent environmental protection and upgrades going forward!

      We have an entire population in NZ ignoring the truth and not challenging any of the reporting! Totally helped to deny climate change too.

      Dairy intensification is defiantly a major factor for water pollution and degradation in NZ, but so is Human intensification, and the ignoring of that, and thinking the problems will go away and is someone else’s problem is making everything worse!

      It also created the wonderful blame game that takes away the next step which is doing something about water pollution. Aka while the city folks are blaming the cows, the rural folks are blaming the city folks and being angry about the unbalanced reporting on water quality which in NZ is practically always about dairy and not human population intensification of the cities.

      Just like issues, like superannuation. The youth are being primed to blame the current generation of oldies while ignoring that 190,000 of them didn’t even live in NZ for most of their lives and did not have to contribute any taxes! But somehow those who paid the taxes who get super are the ones to cut the state pension from! It’s crazy.

      The government and councils need to urgently account for how they will upgrade and pay for water quality -which they obviously want to leave for someone else to think about and pay for! They take the money and spend it on some lovely new council building or another (less than 1 cost benefit ratio) of a newly built road, yippee!

  9. Travelling around this weekend after 3 months stuck in my place of residence, isn’t this Indian Summer of Godzone (‘Developed World’) brilliant. Took over many cars, unless they blew over the speed limit on the straights.

    Could go on an extra 10 years or cut me off at the shinbones. Our official motto should be “Complacence Imperator’. Lyrical don’t count much in reality so I’m perfectly unready to aim at the temples.

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