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Yesterdaze: Time to tell our 10-year-olds the truth

If they're old enough to be in on the great Santa ruse, then they're old enough to know about climate change, a housing market they'll never know and subsidising the lifestyles of baby boomers. James Elliott on the news of the week. 

The National Party released an economic policy discussion document this week. In it they confirmed that if or when they’re next in government they will be sticking with their policy of raising the retirement age by two years from 65 to 67. That will put us on a par with countries like Iceland and Norway. In fact most developed countries either have or will be raising the retirement age to cope with increased life expectancy and the taxpayer burden of providing superannuation to more and more retirees. It’s a sensible move designed to lower the risk of inter-generational conflict. If you think millennials are unhappy now about being locked out of the housing market just imagine how angry they’ll be when they find out that having to pay superannuation to a generation of locked-in home-owning boomers might just bust the bank. And if you are one of those boomers you can choose whether or not to rub salt into the wound by telling the millennials that getting superannuation is just your generation’s entitlement.

So, raising the retirement age by two years is sound policy, but if we’re going to do that there will need to be some other two-year adjustments made in the system. For example, the age at which children are told the truth about Santa should be increased from eight years old to 10. And I haven’t just chosen that eight year cut-off at random. A 2016 study by Exeter University published in Lancet Psychiatry found that most children learn the great Santa lie by the age of eight. Not only that, the study found that learning that brutal truth can cause some children to have lasting and damaging distrust in their parents:

“If they are capable of lying about something so special and magical, can they be relied upon to continue as the guardians of wisdom and truth?"

It’s a fair question. Imagine how you would feel if I told you that there was no such Exeter University study published in Lancet Psychiatry? It’s okay, there was. And to apply its findings with the plus-two-year adjustment it means that parents have to be telling 10-year-olds the truth: “You probably won’t be able to afford to ever buy a house. Your mother and I plan on living in our own house until we’re 100 years old and you’re going to pay for our super while we do. And by the way, climate change is real but Santa Claus isn’t.”

Children in Inner Mongolia will learn a version of these truths a little bit earlier because the retirement age there is still 60 and is likely to remain so for a while. And we do need to be paying attention to Inner Mongolian policies and politics because they seem to be paying attention to ours.

We learned during the week that in 2017 the National Party received a $150k donation from Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry (NZ) Limited, a New Zealand registered company. And yes, that is the full and correct name of the company as per Companies Office records. That $150k donation was the largest single donation to the National Party during their last term in government. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. That donation was completely lawful under our electoral finance laws because it came from a New Zealand registered company. However the company that owns that New Zealand company is most definitely not a New Zealand registered company, not that there’s anything wrong with that either.

But it is interesting to note who’s riding which horse. Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry (NZ) Limited is 100 percent-owned by Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry Co Limited and that parent company has its registered office in Haridaobu Village, Khorchin County, Hinggan League, Inner Mongolia. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just a very remote village if you want to go and have a look at the company’s records. It’s so remote that Google maps can’t give you directions on how to get there. So if you’re up for an expedition then, by my reckoning you head to China from a New Zealanderly direction, turn left at Beijing, head west for about 1400km, and then ask for directions to Haridaobu from there. If you end up in Bayan-Ovoo you’ve gone too far. And as it happens Simon Bridges has just left an overseas trip that includes that part of the world. I’m not sure if Haridaobu Village is on his itinerary but even if it is there’s not anything wrong with that.

I think the lesson here is that if you’re planning on making a donation to a political party in a climate where we’re concerned about foreign influence in our domestic affairs and you don’t want to draw attention to yourself, best not call your donor company Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry (NZ) Limited. That’s a bit like naming a used-car dealership “Definitely Haven’t Wound The Clock Back Limited” - people are bound to ask a few questions.   

Have a peaceful weekend.

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