Hive News Monday: English touches NZ Super electric fence; eyes migration settings changes

Elderly man walks past window washers in Wellington. Copyright Lynn Grieveson / Hive News

Bill English has again brushed up against of the third rail or electric fence of New Zealand politics -- New Zealand Superannuation.

For the first time in an election year, English said he was not committed to the current NZ Super settings in the same hard way as John Key. He told Lisa Owen in an interview broadcast on The Nation on Saturday the Government was open in a way Key was not.

"I haven’t made the same undertaking as John, so we have the opportunity for a bit of a reset there," he said.

He said the Government was working through the long term affordability of it, but he did not anticipate any drastic changes.

Challenged on what the 'reset' could involve, English would only say "you'll just have to wait and see," although he said any position would be clear before the election.

Winston Peters leapt on the uncertainty, saying New Zealanders were being 'railroaded' into thinking NZ Super was not affordable. He was reported as saying keeping the existing settings was a 'bottom line' in any coalition negotiations.

"The message to all those retired and soon-to-retire is that there is only one party you can trust on this issue and that party is New Zealand First," he said.

Andrew Little also ensured the fence was turned on, saying the argument for raising the retirement age from 65 did not stack up.

"Too many New Zealanders struggle now to work to 65. Bill English’s vagueness today will create unnecessary worry for many," he said.

Migration settings under review

Elsewhere in the interview, English gave his strongest signals yet that the Government would further tighten migration settings, particularly around work tests for those with work visas for lower-skilled jobs.

"These changes are all about trying to get the right balance, that is the skills we need in a growing economy, and there’s more calls coming from businesses and the labour market about the need for skills, because we are creating so many new jobs, on the one hand," he said.

"On the other hand, making sure we’re getting the people who can match those skills," he said.

Challenged on what the changes could involve, he said: "It’s just refining the tests that are about the flow of people, particularly from the temporary visas into the workforce, but, look, that’s under discussion."

He said the Government's changes would be signalled well before the election, but would be 'fine-tuning' rather than a major shift.

"They shouldn’t expect some major change in policy. What we’re talking about here is a successful country that’s attracting people, that’s keeping its own, where we can fine-tune to get a better match to the skills we need," he said.

He said any changes may or may not slow the flow of migration.

This round of 'fine-tuning' would follow last year's changes by Michael Woodhouse, that included toughening the points requirements for permanent residence and suspending parental applications.

"Some of the advice is that in the absence of decisions we made last year, the numbers would be higher. It’s always a bit hard to tell, but you shouldn’t expect a dramatic impact from changes in the rules," English said.

In other news...

Judith Collins issued three IRD consultation papers on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting on Friday, and gave more detail in this speech. The measures stopped short of a full diverted profit tax.

National selected Nicola Willis to contest Wellington Central and Labour selected Steph Lewis for Whanganui.

Tweets of the weekend:

Novelist Stephen King gets fictional with Donald Trump's sourceless claim:

Obama tapped Trump's phones IN PERSON! Went in wearing a Con Ed coverall. Michelle stood guard while O spliced the lines. SAD!

Republican adviser Reagan and Bush (W) Bruce Bartlett:

Take Nixon in the deepest days of his Watergate paranoia, subtract 50 IQ points, add Twitter, and you have Trump today.

Arnold Schwarzenegger after Trump's tweet about the former California Governor being fired from The Apprentice -- which followed his explosive evidence-free tweets accusing Obama of tapping his phones:

You should think about hiring a new joke writer and a fact checker.

Sam Stein:

We’re a bit numb. But the president read a Brietbart article, didn’t consult advisers, and accused his predecessor of wiretapping him. crazy

Have a great week