Cook Islands lawyer hopeful of agreement to fix super scheme
A lawyer in the Cook Islands says he hopes politicians will improve the law to guarantee people's access and control over their savings.
A lawyer in the Cook Islands who's successfully challenged the constitutionality of the 14 year old National Superannuation Act says he hopes politicians will improve the law to guarantee people's access and control over their savings.
Tim Arnold says after a hearing at the High Court, the Chief Justice Thomas Weston, has upheld his argument, that the existing law is unconstitutional but stopped short of making a declaration, in the hope politicians might come together and review the Act by September.
Jenny Meyer asked Tim Arnold what's going to happen to the millions of dollars in the fund, now that the ruling has been made.
Tim Arnold: For now the judge has basically confirmed that it's our money and not the government's money. And I think I should make it clear that one of the arguments that the government brought to the court was that the $75million dollars had been taken by the government by way of tax. And the consequences of that from a constitutional point of view would have been; that well it was the government's money, not the people's money. So that was an important point.
But having established it's the people's money, we're hoping now the the Cook Islands National Superannuation Fund, the government and the opposition, will all come together and pass legislation that will cure whatever may have been wrong with it up to this point and improve the scheme so that it can move forward in a way that delivers security and keeps everybody happy.
Jenny Meyer: Is there some sense that this whole superannuation scheme has in fact been some sort of a scam?
TA: No. I really should make it clear that if you read, as we did in court the exert from Hansard; the politicians who conceived of the scheme and put it through parliament, certainly did so with good intentions. And there were a lot of people that gave a great deal of time and trouble and effort in trying to get it right. But as is so often the case in the Cook Islands, there was a gap between those good intentions and their realisation.
Now even today those who are administering the administering the superannuation fund are performing, I think we would all acknowledge, in a responsible and effective way. So to that extent at the moment there is not a problem. And that's one reason we went to court because the government seems to take the attitude 'its not broken, so why do we have to fix it?' . But of course the thing about a superannuation scheme is that we have to future proof it for the economic circumstances that arise in the future. And in a small country like the Cook Islands where we have had financial difficulties in the past; we've had political irresponsibility in the past, it's important that we futureproof it so that tomorrow's generation of politicians and those who may think that there are better things to do with this money, can't get their hands on it.
Tim Arnold says he hopes to find out whether the Crown will appeal the case or not within the next two weeks.
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