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Can the government's super policy survive?

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 9/03/2017 Peter Wilson, Political Writer

Does anyone seriously think the pension age will increase to 67 in 2040?

There will be seven elections between now and 2037, when the changes that raise the age from 65 start to kick in.

The current government, which has made the call, might not last beyond September let alone the next 20 years.

And even if it wins a fourth term it's very doubtful it would have the numbers to force a bill through parliament next year.

Of the parties in parliament now - and there aren't likely to be any newcomers on September 23 - only ACT hasn't rejected it.

But while party leader David Seymour supports raising the age he opposes the 20-year wait and says it would create "a generational fault line".

Given his strident concern about that, it isn't likely he would put his hand up and vote for it the way it is.

Assume for a moment Prime Minister Bill English wins in September and manages to get the bill through - what then?

Unless National wins an unprecedented fifth term in 2020 there will be a Labour-led government in power.

Labour opposes any increase in the age and could easily repeal the legislation.

And that's just up to 2020.

To survive intact, the policy would have to endure elections in 2023, 2026, 2029, 2032 and 2035.

The government has kicked it so far down the road that it's simply unrealistic to believe that raising the age to 67 in 2040 is achievable by legislating for it now.

Something else could eventually be achievable.

Ruling parties over the next 20 years will still be stuck with the problem of dealing with the increasing cost of national super as the number of people over 65 continues to surge.

Doing nothing isn't going to be an option - somewhere along the line, a government is going to get serious and deal with it, and not in 20 years time.

English thinks voters will come round to understanding the good sense of his policy.

That's very optimistic, given the torrent of criticism opposition parties are pouring out as they use the situation to their own advantage.

The only thing that could help him would be a resounding victory in this year's election, a really strong result for National that he could claim as endorsement of the policy.

There's nothing to suggest that's going to happen, it's much more likely National will come back with fewer seats than it has now and Winston Peters will hold the balance of power.

There's never been any doubt about where he stands on national super, and he says he won't vote for "this betrayal of the electorate".

He also thinks the policy is "an effort to look responsible by the prime minister whilst not actually doing anything".

He could be right.

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