Patrick Gower: Reckless Bill English starts generational war

OPINION: Bill English probably wanted to do many things with his decision to raise the Super age, but it is a fair bet that starting an inter-generational war wasn't one of them.

Yet that is exactly what has happened - by giving preferential treatment to his fellow Baby Boomers, the Prime Minister has pitted the boomers against the rest.

This is potentially a hugely divisive wedge issue that could do all sorts of damage and rage on beyond the Super age debate - for English to open it up like this looks politically reckless.

National's plan goes like this: the Baby Boomer generation all get to collect the pension at 65.

But everyone else has to wait until they are 67.

That's despite the fact Baby Boomers are the reason the taxpayer is facing such a huge retirement bill anyway.

That's despite the fact Baby Boomers got free education.

That's despite the fact Baby Boomers could get affordable housing and in lots of cases decided to "invest" in more than they needed and rent them to the generations below.

And to rub salt in the generational wound, Baby Boomers get free ferry trips to Waiheke on the Gold Card even if they are millionaires who are still working.

Instead, the Super age change symbolically kicks in to hit exactly those who first started paying student loans.

The other generations X and Y/Millennials have seen the Super move for what it is: a shameless sop to the Baby Boomers.

The message is that the Baby Boomers are getting off scot-free for what is essentially their problem.

It is a powerful argument.

National's counter-argument that "younger generations live longer so they will actually get the pension for as long" is weak in the context of a boomers-versus-the-rest debate.

There is a bit of a backlash going on. I'm getting plenty of anecdotes of the younger generation saying that this ain't right.

The fact the inter-generational warfare has risen so quickly through this particular move shows it has clearly been simmering for a while. Everybody knew it was there of course, but there is a chance now that it could become a real election issue.

I don't think this backlash is what National expected. It may die down. It may not. Or the Baby Boomer generation may be more powerful when it comes to polls and voting.

National should definitely be worried though.

One thing that is on National's side is that Labour/Green/NZ First policy to keep Super at 65 does not exactly solve the inter-generational issue. It may be fairer on the younger generations but it just means that Superannuation is going to be more expensive for longer.

They are exploiting what they can for now but the truth is they too are pandering to the Baby Boomers.

National's saving grace may be that all parties - except for ACT and The Opportunities Party - are too scared of the Baby Boomers that they aren't geared up to fight for the other generations.