Nicola Willis: Faafoi lets politics get in the way of compassion on KiwiSaver

Opinion 02/05/2019

By Nicola Willis, National List MP

There are times as an MP when I want to climb out of the party-political trenches and say let’s just fix this.

Politics is combative and adversarial but there are issues that deservedly touch our hearts and for which the most effective response would come from Parliamentarians working together.

I was moved by the story of Tim Fairhall, a lovely man who has been working hard to save for his retirement through KiwiSaver.

Tim has Down Syndrome but he isn’t looking for sympathy.

He wants access to his money before his condition catches up with him.

Tim is one of a number of New Zealanders with life-shortening conditions who are disadvantaged by current KiwiSaver law because it doesn’t recognise people with a chronic illness or health condition that are unlikely to live until 65. That isn’t fair.

Parliament could have been well on the way to fixing the law by now.

My KiwiSaver (Compassionate Consideration) Amendment Bill was published in December. It could have been adopted as the template, allowing a select committee to get stuck in and give this issue much needed momentum.

Unfortunately, the Government has chosen politics over compassion – a really disappointing decision.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi refused to adopt my Bill, which has a mechanism for a Kiwi with a life-shortening illness or condition to apply for compassionate consideration to make withdrawals prior to age 65.

Instead, he hired advisers to report back on the issue by the end of February. Nothing came of that. Mr Faafoi ignored numerous offers from the Opposition to work collaboratively and now he says any response won’t come until later this year.

There are plenty of reasons to call out this Government

Failing to deliver on good intentions, driving up the cost of living for New Zealand families, imposing more taxes, wasteful spending, hurting economic growth and slowing the creation of new jobs.

“I committed to Tim and his family that I would work across the House to get progress on this issue as soon as possible. By ignoring my Bill and the offer of a bipartisan response, the Government has missed an opportunity to demonstrate its claims to be about fairness and wellbeing.

Nicola Willis is a National List MP