Reviewing the Challenges of 2015 – Economy – Environment – Religion

ECONOMY — ENVIRONMENT — RELIGION

2014 was not the greatest year in history.
Be this as it may, the one element of life that will never be lost is Hope. This means that we can plan for 2015 to be a better year, but, as in all things, success happens when we face and plan to overcome obstacles. So, as 2014 draws to an uninspiring close, we look at three significant roadblocks and talk about how to get around them. Continue reading “Reviewing the Challenges of 2015 – Economy – Environment – Religion”

Four Australian Icons under threat – no longer sacred, certain or permanent.

FLAG, ANZAC DAY, REEF, BUSH

No longer is anything sacred or certain or permanent.
Icons now have fleeting value and we are challenged either to defend them or create new ones that may adequately replace them.
With this in mind, I reckon it is worth our while to spend a moment looking at four of them.

Continue reading “Four Australian Icons under threat – no longer sacred, certain or permanent.”

“Politics by the Book” – join me in debate on the value of politicians to the life of the nation.

It is fast becoming an essential building block of an aspirational political life to write a book about your career at a carefully chosen moment.

By spinning your achievements, or arranging with a famous author to include you in a book, you may convince voters that you are the right person to go the top, or return there, if they will back you right now. Tony Abbott did this successfully with his book Battlelines.

Perhaps, you may just want history to treat you favourably.

So, let me comment on a few of the latest political epistles, some written by MPs, and others by eminent commentators, in the hope that a debate can be generated on the value, if any, of politicians to the life of the nation.
It could help us evaluate where politics should be reformed in the years ahead. Continue reading ““Politics by the Book” – join me in debate on the value of politicians to the life of the nation.”

Blueprint for an Ageing Australia launched today – obtain your copy!

My launch speech to the National Press Club in Canberra

(Complete with links to your download copy of the Blueprint)

People are growing older and are doing so at a far greater rate than ever before in the history of the world. All nations now face a considerable social and economic revolution as a result, and Australia cannot hope to be an exception, as most of us can confidently expect a lifespan of at least 90 years, with many thousands about to achieve their century.
In ages past, war and disease prevented most people from reaching old age, but, thankfully, this is not likely to happen on a massive scale ever again.
If we act now, we can ensure that we will turn ageing into a significant social and economic asset, not a liability, and the Blueprint for an Ageing Australia that we present to the nation today strives to do exactly this.
Let me briefly outline the key recommendations.

PRIME MINISTERIAL LEADERSHIP
The challenge of ageing is so great that the enormous task of turning it into a powerhouse for the nation must be the responsibility of no less a leader than the Prime Minister.
There must be a Minister for Ageing within his office who has cabinet status and implements the PM’s ageing policies, co-ordinating action across all departments, as well as with State and Local Governments, community institutions, First Australians and culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES
Older Australians are a rapidly growing economic force in the marketplace, but they are largely ignored by providers of goods and services who fail to observe that they have special needs that can be a huge source of sales income for them. One day soon, the ageing market will be THE market. By meeting their needs in innovative ways, the economy will be transformed.
Of special note is the opportunity to export ageing services to the world. Every nation has a huge ageing problem and few are currently equipped to face it. Australia has the expertise to provide the services and products that will take them through this demographic crisis. We also have the capital to invest in all the social infrastructure they will need.
Austrade must lead the campaign, as the very considerable export income we can earn from this will more than cover the losses we are sustaining as the result of the end of the mining boom and the collapse of the car industry.
Another huge opportunity is to create a business environment in which Seniors can become entrepreneurs if they plan to do so well before they reach the traditional retirement age. They have a unique scope to take-up totally new business and professional endeavours, for which they can acquire new skills to create a second career.
To make sure that this happens, we will initiate steps to establish a Senior Entrepreneurs Institute to foster this initiative and provide practical assistance to those who take it up, including help in finding investors. The work of this Institute has the potential to greatly enhance the economy, and significantly expand the small business sector, as well as providing a challenging lifestyle for thousands of senior entrepreneurs who will bring enormous wisdom and vision to their new projects.

MATURE AGE EMPLOYMENT
Discrimination against Older Workers who want to remain in, or re-enter, the workforce is rampant, and is a blot on the traditional Australian ethic of giving everyone a fair go. As the result of this archaic attitude, Australia loses billions of dollars in productivity every year, while it adds unnecessary billions to welfare rolls. It seems incredible to say it, but it is a fact that thousands of employers in Australia actually think that when someone reaches 65, and at precisely midnight on this very day, something clicks over in an employee’s brain and that person instantly becomes geriatric.
Sadly, all three levels of government are even worse offenders in this area of discrimination than corporate Australia. A social revolution to remove this primitive outlook is long overdue.
Worst of all are State Governments who discriminate enormously by denying Work Cover to senior employees, as they are unfairly deemed to be great risks. They must take immediate action to change this, as it is the greatest deterrent to the successful expansion of Mature Age Employment, especially as private insurers of senior workers charge premiums which are unjustifiably exorbitant.
Despite these roadblocks, the Blueprint particularly recommends expanding investment in programs of skills training to enable older workers to keep up to date in a rapidly and constantly changing world.

PHILANTHROPY
Despite the economic gloom fostered by too many politicians, Australians have never been wealthier and there is a particularly stable middleclass, as well as an ever-expanding group of the wealthy.
We now have the potential to involve thousands of Senior Australians in establishing Charitable Trusts and Foundations, which will work for Australia long after they have departed and be a powerhouse for the long-term funding of education, science, health, homelessness, etc. Those who have financial means that are not as great as others can participate in a similar manner by opening personal accounts within community foundations who will competently manage their philanthropy in the years ahead.
We have made specific recommendations about this, and will establish a Golden Givers Foundation to promote and manage this positive enhancement of community life with the active co-operation of Australia’s banks.
Above all, we advocate a strong dose of encouragement for the many thousands of volunteers who work for our nation’s charities — most of whom are Seniors. They cannot afford the heavy premiums that insurance companies charge them for protection against legal actions that stem from accidents. Governments must protect and foster them through adequate legislation.
They must also be protected from the excessive and unreasonable health and safety regulations that stop them from actively helping the needy in basic ways.
Similarly, there are some trade unions that complain that volunteers are doing honorary jobs that a paid employee should undertake. They need an injection of humanity into their way of thinking.
The entire spirit of volunteerism is at stake unless governments act with urgency.

ENABLING ENVIRONMENTS
Brian Howe will outline to you in detail our recommendations on age-friendly housing, of which there is an enormous shortage, particularly in the rental market.
He will comment on the environment in which Seniors aspire to live, and the huge investment that will be needed to encourage us to leave our cars at home and use public transport for our own comfort and safety, as well as for the benefit of the community as a whole.
These are issues that must be faced with vigour, knowing that positive action on them will create many new jobs.

RETIREMENT INCOMES
This is the most contentious issue of them all. It is the one that creates the most public debate and about which there is the greatest uncertainty in the minds of millions of retirees.
Many reports on retirement incomes and outcomes have been undertaken and more are currently underway.
In particular, let me recommend that you read the excellent report on this subject published two weeks ago by Per Capita researcher, Emily Millane, who is here today.
It faces many of the crucial issues that governments, now and in the future, must determine with political bravery. These challenges are unavoidable and will not go away. They relate to many crucial matters, some of which are retirement and access ages for pensions and superannuation, a fair calculation of pensions and planning to ensure Superannuation will last until people reach 90 years of age, together with how they may have to be taxed to avoid excessive tax impositions on our grandchildren.
A totally new retirement incomes policy is needed right now and, once legislated, must be left alone, as constant tinkering with it creates enormous and unnecessary tension in the lives of Seniors. We will not reach a satisfactory situation with either pensions or superannuation until all current cut-and-paste legislation is put through the shredder — an event that should have happened a decade ago.

TECHNOLOGY
The ageing of the population will reach its peak around 2050. But, none of us can accurately envisage where technology will take us to by then. Nevertheless, we can be certain that it will be a vastly different world to that of today, and we must prepare for it as from today.
Most Seniors are not computer literate or skilled, so we have recommended a considerable investment in a national campaign to enable most of us to stay in touch with the world and prosper as the result, but education in technology must go on for decades or we will be left behind.
My fellow panel member, Neville Roach, who has spent a lifetime in technology, has done excellent work in writing this section of the Blueprint. I am particularly impressed with the powerful comments he has made on Telehealth, as this will be an indispensable factor in improving health services and reducing their costs, provided that ample funds are allocated now for its research, development and application.

WELLBEING
Gill Lewin will cover the vital subject of Wellbeing.
A healthy nation will enjoy a happier old age. It will also ensure that the huge health costs of ageing will reduce dramatically. But, it is pointless to invest only in the wellbeing of the Seniors of today. It must commence 50 years earlier than that, and will require all medical professionals having a greater knowledge of gerontology for any programme of wellbeing to be effective.
Especially important will be a national campaign to reduce the prevalence of ageism, which detracts from a mature society.

THE NEXT STEPS
The hard work now begins.
My Panel asks all political parties operating at Federal, State and Local Government levels to give a considered response to this Blueprint, and to invite us to work with them to ensure that it all happens as soon as possible.
But, they will need the support of the business and financial communities, as well as the not-for-profit institutions and the media, if dynamic progress is to be made throughout society in making ageing a positive, not a negative.
We intend to stay with this task for the long haul. We hope that you will too.

THE BEST YEARS
In October, I will reach the numerical age of 83, and I invite you all to give serious consideration to shouting me a wee dram of rare single malt whisky from deep in the highlands of Scotland, one that is at least 25 years old.
On that day, I will once more acknowledge that I have not yet reached my prime.
I joke not.
I firmly believe that I still have the best years of my life ahead of me, as is the case with many thousands of Aussies in their Eighties.
All we ask is that we are given the opportunity to compete with younger Aussies on a level playing field and be given a fair go at proving that we have the wisdom, vision, loyalty and reliability to make a valuable contribution to the life and future of the nation through vibrant inter-generational partnerships.
I invite you to meet me here at the Press Club ten years from now to review what progress we have made in implementing our Blueprint for an Ageing Australia. I have no doubt that I will be here. You all look young and healthy enough to have a reasonable chance of making it here that day also.
As the legendary American singer, Al Jolson, once responded when someone suggested he was getting old and should retire: “You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.”

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
May I sign-off by expressing my thanks to Per Capita, especially its team of David Hetherington, Joshua Funder, Emily Millane and Dennis Glover, for their initiative in suggesting to me that we finish this Blueprint as a private sector project, for their sterling work in making it all happen and for their very professional drafting of this report.
My special thanks also to National Seniors Australia for joining the partnership and making available the services of their Productive Ageing Centre for detailed research. The contribution of Michael O’Neill, Sarah Saunders, David Carvosso and Tim Adair has been splendid.
Similarly, the prestigious involvement of National Australia Bank has been wholehearted. They are our major financial contributors, as well as providers of valued economic and commercial data. I particularly acknowledge the talented contribution to the Blueprint by Paula Benson and Helen Brady.
Generous words of thanks are due also to Ashursts as the generous providers of services and facilities across Australia, particularly the contribution of Tony Denholder.
May I make particular mention of the valued assistance of my friend, Professor Graeme Hugo, of the University of Adelaide. I regard him as Australia’s finest demographer.
Thanks also to the many contributors of donations from every part of the nation, as well as the professional input given to us by all those who attended the consultations that we held in every State.
Finally, it has been a great privilege for me to work with my original Panel from our days in Treasury — Brian Howe, Gill Lewin and Neville Roach — as well as a former Panel member, Susan Ryan, of the Human Rights Commission. I especially want to thank Gill for arranging a generous financial contribution from Silver Chain in Western Australia.
Especially, may I thank Wayne Swan and Mark Butler for their decision to commence work on this Blueprint three years ago, and for their continued commitment to the project both in and out of government. They are great Australians.

Yours at large
Everald Compton

You can view a full pdf version of the Blueprint for an Ageing Australia document here.

You can download the document here

Come to the Launch – Blueprint for an Ageing Australia, National Press Club, Canberra, September 3

I am delighted to invite you to join me in Canberra on this important occasion, in which a Panel that I chair will present to the nation a Blueprint on how Australia must plan to meet all the social and economic issues that we face with the rapid and sustained ageing of our population and turn those issues into assets.

You can reserve your place at the luncheon by going to The National Press Club www.npc.org.au and booking online.

The cost of the luncheon is $79.00

I will be the lead speaker, and will be supported by my fellow panellists, Prof. Gill Lewin (Gerontologist) and Brian Howe (former Deputy Prime Minister).

The speeches and question time will be covered by ABC News 24 and Sky Television.

I’m looking forward to saying hello to you in Canberra.

National Press Club, Canberra – Wednesday 3rd September 2014, at 11.30am for 12 Noon.

 

Voters are in revolt – fragile power will see a long succession of one term governments.

AS MY long-term readers will have noted, I spend much of my leisure time doing as much reading as I can, and I find it to be a most pleasant and rewarding life experience.
I tend to concentrate on books relating to history, politics, economics, religion and ethics, together with good novel to end the day.
A fascinating discovery of my greying years has been a realisation that no matter what subject a book is about, it has as an inevitable background the exercise of power irrespective of whether it is political, military, financial, spiritual, family or the influence that lovers exert on one another.
So, the use and abuse of power is a huge facet of humanity that intrigues me constantly and often sends a shudder down my spine when I contemplate its excesses.
Clearly, there is no way that I can cover all aspects of power in one newsletter, so I will concentrate on political power for the moment.
The holding of power in politics is a very temporary thing. It constantly moves from one person to another and the loyalty on which it is based is always fragile.
Added to the fleeting reality of power is the fact that a politician needs access to a considerable amount of money in order to win power, but often finds that money flows only to where power is or is likely to be. So he or she has to create an illusion of power as they realise that money a politician receives from loyal friends is just breadcrumbs under the table. Many an MP has found that his friends have given money to an opponent because they think that person will win and they want to have a link to the power that a winner will exercise.
Right now in Canberra, power does not seem lie with the Prime Minister. It appears to rest with a rabble of fickle Senators who switch their loyalties freely and vote on whims. Quite extraordinarily, a significant block of those Senators are controlled by a leader who is not in the Senate and who won his seat in the House of Representatives by less than 100 votes. Yet, the media flock to him because they believe that he has the power, at least temporarily to run the country and therefore their readers will want to stay in close touch with him.
There have been many times previously that Prime Ministers have had to handle a hostile Senate, but have nevertheless been able to manage the problem. But, we now have a situation where our current Prime Minister could be witnessing a dilution of his political power. He will be very aware of the fact that he won the leadership of his Party by just one vote, and he will be keeping a close eye on those of his MPs who hold marginal seats, as they will switch loyalties very quickly if they feel in danger of losing their seats.
So, power in Canberra is always very fluid, as Kevin Rudd discovered in 2010 when he totally lost his power in a matter of hours. It had dissolved without him being aware of it.
This brings us to a consideration of the power that voters have.
Right now, it is an undeniable fact that voters are utterly disillusioned by politics and politicians more so than any time in my life. They are disgusted with the antics that they see in Parliament whenever it sits, and most have little sympathy for the Prime Minister as they remember his three years of extreme negativity in the Gillard years when he constantly promised reforms that he would introduce when he won power. For a wide range of reasons, this reformation has not happened.
Adding to voter disenchantment is an incredible trail of corruption in the NSW Parliament and in Trade Unions associated with the ALP, plus the sad sight of the Victorian Premier holding desperately to power.
So, it is inevitable that a huge anti-establishment mind-set has taken control of the political climate. This is shown by the huge swing against the Queensland Government in two recent by-elections. The voters are simply in revolt. Whoever is in power at any level of government anywhere in the nation will be removed at the next election, whether they be left or right.
What this means is that Australia is about to see a long succession of one-term governments at Federal and State level, and this will go on for at least a decade until outstanding leaders emerge who can command political respect and bring with them a new batch of quality MPs who are not party hacks but have managerial competence, public respect and an understanding of the integrity required to exercise power wisely.
Those new leaders will survive only if they understand that power is much more than the ability to raise enough money to win and to carefully control the aspirations of ambitious MPs. It is indeed the power to competently govern, implement reforms gradually in a way that voters can understand and accept, then create an era of stability and trust, both of which are hugely absent right now.

We desperately need our own Lincoln right now. In fact, we needed him yesterday.

 

Why our railways must triumph over roads.

The foundation of Australia’s growth as a nation was based on railways. They spread out like tentacles over the habitable areas of the continent from every capital city, and they were the basis on which commerce and industry were built.

Unfortunately, they had defects that downgraded their ability to serve the needs of a growing nation as they were focused on directing passengers and freight to capital cities, thereby causing unbalanced development — too much population concentrated in too few places. Continue reading “Why our railways must triumph over roads.”

We must face the inevitability of retirement age rising to 70.

Change is forever with us, a clinging certainty from which we cannot hide.

So, the time has come for Australians to accept that, after 106 years of enjoying a Retirement Age of 65, we must face the inevitability of it rising to 70.
Having said this with a strong conviction that it is a right and good thing to do, I totally disagree with the negative manner in which the Australian Government has presented it to us in the 2014 Budget by declaring that there will be economic doom unless we make the change by 2035.
Fear is the weakest form of motivation available to humanity, yet this year’s Budget was riddled with it.

Continue reading “We must face the inevitability of retirement age rising to 70.”

Are we financially literate? – Should governments protect the vulnerable, the greedy, the reckless?

About 15 years ago, a major mortgage company that was based in Victoria went broke. It had offered its investors ridiculously high interest rates for short term deposits, then loaned long at rates that their mortgagees would never be able to repay. Many Seniors put most of their savings with them, and they lost it all. Continue reading “Are we financially literate? – Should governments protect the vulnerable, the greedy, the reckless?”

Infrastructure Australia must be an independent legal entity- currently no teeth, no money, no hope!

Of all the nations in G20, Australia’s record in creating modern infrastructure is the least progressive and most inefficient.

There are two main reasons for this. One is that our outdated Federal Constitution leaves responsibility for infrastructure in the hands of State Governments, with the Commonwealth being able to influence matters only by offering finance to the States. The only exception to this is infrastructure for Defence, which is totally a Federal matter.

Equally negative is that the Commonwealth does not offer sufficient funds to meet the huge challenge that modern infrastructure demands. Continue reading “Infrastructure Australia must be an independent legal entity- currently no teeth, no money, no hope!”

It’s time to change the face of Australia and marry social and physical infrastructure

As many of my readers already know, I am a passionate advocate of more and better infrastructure for Australia, striving persistently to promote an increase of meaningful investment in it, rather than the wasteful pork-barreling of poorly-researched projects that politicians love, but which have no relevance to any master plan for the development of the nation.

Years of frustrating negotiations with politicians and bureaucrats in three levels of government have revealed how they spend most of their time fighting one another at political and bureaucratic levels over what should or should not be implemented. When they do come to a decision, they then spend even more time searching for plausible reasons to slow it up so as to delay the spending of committed capital and ensure they have funds available to buy votes through election handouts.

These experiences have given me time to understand a very strategic fact that politicians deliberately ignore that physical infrastructure has value only if it is implemented in close association with appropriate social infrastructure that will enable the nation to gain maximum benefit from it. Continue reading “It’s time to change the face of Australia and marry social and physical infrastructure”

How we have failed to build a balanced nation – disasters & solutions

Just imagine for a moment that you are standing on Possession Island in Torres Strait with Captain James Cook on August 22, 1770, while the good captain makes his declaration that the Australian Continent is a territory of the King of England.

He calls you aside and asks you to prepare him a report on what quality of nation Australia should be 250 years hence, as he expects His Majesty to ask him about it when he gets back home.

Let us also assume for the purpose of this exercise that you are a person of extraordinary intellect who has the capacity at that time to perceive what the world will be like in the 21st century.

It will be safe for us to presume that you would not imagine an Australia that would the planning disaster it now is.

Would you have suggested that these unimaginable disasters may eventuate? Continue reading “How we have failed to build a balanced nation – disasters & solutions”