In New Zealand we have all become quite used to Winston Peter’s road show. He is a master at gaining enough votes to get his party over the 5% threshold needed in NZ’s electoral system in order to win seats in our parliament. It is doubtful that he is capable of winning a seat in his own right and his parliamentary cohorts just don’t have pulling power to achieve a win in an electorate.
For years Winston has shown that he has this knack to pull an issue out of the hat and cross the magic threshold. He has been accused of racism many times and once again, he has raised that spectre, this time claiming that many Chinese elderly people have come to NZ and not for ten years and then become eligible for the Superannuation payment.
Winston touches on a raw nerve by making this claim. I don’t know if he is correct, given that he puts up a ‘senior Chinese,’ un-named of course as the source of his figures. He says that as many as 22,000 are in this position. That doesn’t sound like a huge figure, but in the context of NZ’s 4.4 million population, it could be seen as significant.
His claims sound a bit jaded. You get the feeling that he is reaching into the bottom of the barrel. He knows that there will always be a portion of NZ’s population that will be sympathetic to his utterances, thereby almost guaranteeing that his party will survive. That he didn’t win a few elections ago was an exception; probably because there were other issues that dominated at that election; namely the demise of the Helen Clark led Labour Government.
Winston is playing as dangerous card when he states that his party will not support Labour or anyone else if they raise the age of eligibility to Superannuation. He is playing a selfish card and an irresponsible one. Many NZers accept that we must gradually raise the age. There is room for flexibility around groups in our population who could be exempt from this but generally there is a growing understanding that action is needed and that political parties must come to the table for an across party lines discussion. We must not be left behind our Tran Tasman friends. They have bitten the bullet and the issue is now beyond the machinations of selfish, xenophobic politicians.
When are we going to do the same?