Media’s clickbait coverage of KiwiSaver fees shameful

August 31, 2022
3 mins read

When did the media become a vehicle for Luxon’s fatuous and unchallenged pronouncements on the KiwiSaver fees? By PAT PILCHER.

Waking up to hear a Luxon word salad liberally sprayed across Radio New Zealand is not the recipe for a good start to the day.

This morning’s weird ramblings came from National’s leading jack-in-the-box. Aside from most of it being factually barren, it was little more than blatant political opportunism.

On hearing of Labour’s plans to tax Kiwisaver service fees, Luxon wasted no time telling the RNZ interviewer that it was all Labour’s fault. Every sentence began with “the government is not doing” or “the government is failing to.” Whoever media-trained Luxon is to be congratulated as he painfully stayed on message.


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While Luxon is doing his job with an eye on polls and the coming election, my beef is with RNZ.

That the RNZ host let such a blatant political party advert continue without grilling Luxon on his lack of meaningful policies or facts speaks volumes about the sad state of New Zealand’s media.

Considering that RNZ is supposed to be the most balanced and factual media outlet we have – a government-owned one at that – this does not bode well at all.

So, what is at the heart of the issue? In a nutshell, the government announced that they’re taxing Kiwisaver service fees.

The usual media suspects reacted predictably to the news. Most media outlets screamed “KiwiSaver tax!,” erroneously framing the issue as one of KiwiSaver investments taking a king hit from taxation.

The media took an otherwise dull story about taxation and wrapped it up in sensationalist fear-mongering headlines.

Why did they do this? The reality is that factually correct stories that should inform the public and hold those in power accountable are often dull and of little interest to readers.

Put simply, the headline “KiwiSaver fees to attract GST” will get a fraction of the readership compared to a headline that screams, “Your KiwiSaver is to be taxed.” Media outlets make money based on click-through online advertising. Dull stories get fewer clicks, and sensationalism sells. Regardless of what editors and journalists say, don’t be fooled. At the end of the day, it’s all about the money.

So, how severe is the issue? Typical KiwiSaver fees range from $20-$30. 15% of $20 is a paltry $3. And these are the fees, not the cash that sits in your KiwiSaver account. It’s hardly the stuff of such sensational and alarmist headlines. Yet the media shouted from every rooftop that the sky was falling.

This toxic cocktail of click-through-addicted media and rank political opportunism only acts to amplify noise around this issue, confusing rather than informing the New Zealand public.

The media is the 4th estate. Its role is to hold the other estates (the church, the wealthy and the government) to account. It’s also arguably the role of the media to keep the public informed so that they can better participate in a democracy.

As this issue demonstrates, the 4th estate is failing to act on its basic mandate. The public is more confused about this issue than anything else. Smelling blood in the water, the National party is seeking to push political spin and derive advantage from the problem.

While the media make a few extra bucks and National gains polling points, ordinary people like you and I are not getting the facts. Because of this, many are unable to act/vote in an informed manner. This simply isn’t good enough.


The government has just announced that it is to back down from applying GST to Kiwisaver agency fees after the furore fuelled by misreporting the issue created a growing public backlash.

This story is the gift that keeps giving. Parliamentary Hansard has come to light that shows work on applying GST to kiwisaver agency fees was kicked off back in 2017, under the Key Government. In other words, National created this situation, and were aware of it. Labour were then left carrying the can after being elected and Luxon has used it to score political advantage. Isnt politics a truly rotten game…



Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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