22 Apr 2012

ACT calls on Government to raise age of pension eligibility

4:38 am on 22 April 2012

ACT leader John Banks has called on the Government to reconsider raising the age of eligibility of New Zealand superannuation.

He told the party's annual conference in Auckland that raising the age of eligibility to 67 would save about $1.7 billion per year.

Mr Banks says ACT's position on New Zealand super is just one example of where it is pushing National to adopt more realistic policies.

Prime Minister John Key has refused to consider raising the age, saying paying the state pension at 65 is affordable.

But Mr Banks says ACT stands against obstinate refusals to do anything about it and agrees with the Retirement Commissioner that change is needed.

Teacher unions 'failing' children

Mr Banks also criticised teacher unions for opposing charter schools and says they are responsible for failing 20% of the country's children.

Establishing charter schools - which would be taxpayer-funded but run independently - was a key element in ACT's confidence and supply agreement with the Government.

Mr Banks told the conference that with 29,000 children playing truant each day something is going wrong with the education system.

The chairperson of the group setting up a trial for charter schools, Catherine Isaac, says she is organising to meet the education unions to discuss their concerns about charter schools.

Future depends on Banks holding Epsom

Mr Banks says the party's future depends on him holding on to the seat of Epsom at the next election.

Mr Banks told reporters that ACT will never be a mass membership party or one which attracts wide public support.

He said ACT can, though, lift its vote and get more MPs into Parliament if voters are confident he can retain Epsom.

Mr Banks said ACT must also be seen as the party which ensures the Government follows centre-right policies.

Mr Banks spoke to the conference on Saturday afternoon. Other speakers included party president Chris Simmons, former leader Richard Prebble and former president Catherine Isaac.