18 Aug 2016

PM dismisses KiwiSaver weapon investment concerns

6:00 pm on 18 August 2016

The government is dismissing concerns about some KiwiSaver funds being invested in companies making bombs and mines, with Prime Minister John Key saying it is up to individuals to find out where their money is going.

09082016. Photo Rebekah Parsons-King. Caucas run. John Key.

Prime Minister John Key said the onus was on individual investors (file) Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

RNZ revealed today that at least five of the nine default KiwiSaver providers invest in anti-personnel mine and cluster bomb manufacturers, despite it being illegal for government agencies to invest in them themselves.

Hundreds of thousands of KiwiSaver members might be unknowingly investing in those companies, and the Green Party and Amnesty International have called on the government to review default providers that might have investments in these weapons.

But the Prime Minister said it was not a big enough issue to review default providers.

Mr Key said the onus was on each individual investor to find out where their money was going.

"Some KiwiSaver managers will have a different view on those issues, they'll set the demarkation line in the different place, it just depends on who they are."

The Human Rights Commission said the revelations were alarming.

And Equal Employment Opportunities commissioner Jackie Blue said she was totally shocked when she realised her bank was one of the culprits.

"The responsibility must lie with the banks to report back to their customers where that money is going, and to reassure customers that it is being invested ethically and responsibly.

"It's not up to the individuals, it's up to the banks."

Labour finance spokesperson Grant Robertson said the government should take action.

"Most New Zealanders would be appalled to know that their money and money put in by their employer and by the government would be going to invest in cluster munitions and manufacturing nuclear weapons systems.

"New Zealanders long ago made clear that those are not things they want their country to be part of."

During question time in Parliament this afternoon, Greens finance spokesperson Julie-Anne Genter asked Commerce Minister Paul Goldsmith why the government was not taking some responsibility, given the money was government-directed savings.

"Does he accept that it is far simpler and easier for his government to verify if funds are legally and ethically compliant rather than leaving it to half a million New Zealanders who may not have that information available, and it's not that easy to get from the KiwiSaver fund providers."

Mr Goldsmith said the government's expectation was that KiwiSaver providers would obey the law.

"But in so far as there are moral judgements required then we believe individual investors are best placed to make those judgements."

Mr Goldsmith said KiwiSaver providers were required to disclose the investments they made.

He said the system was clearly working effectively, as the investments had been outlined in public and it was up to the companies to decide how to respond.

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