CLIMBING THE COVID MOUNTAIN

TEN ECONOMIC STEPS THAT FORM A PATHWAY TO THE TOP

THEKOUK and EVERALDATLARGE OUTLINE A WAY FOR THE PEOPLE OF AUSTRALIA TO CREATE AND MAINTAIN SUSTAINED PROSPERITY

Covid19 has opened a door for Australians to positively accept significant changes that will lead to a shared good. This rare opportunity enables us to achieve sustainable economic and social goals that create a new ‘normal’ as our way of life.

These Ten Steps are presented as non-partisan recommendations to the Australian Parliament in the firm belief that, if they embrace them, the Australian economy and society will be greatly enhanced after the Covid19 pandemic has passed. Continue reading “CLIMBING THE COVID MOUNTAIN”

BIRTH OF A RAILWAY

Shortly after John Howard was elected Prime Minister of Australia in 1996, I visited him at Parliament to outline a plan that I had to build an Inland Railway from Melbourne to Darwin via Parkes, Toowoomba, Brisbane, Gladstone, Mount Isa and Tennant Creek.

He has readily agreed to see me as I had been his honorary fund raiser for the marginal seats he had to win in order to be PM. I was not a member of the Liberal Party and had done this with no strings attached as he was an old friend, and still his.

Howard apologised and said he did not see it as a priority. He wanted to carry out all of his election promises and this was not one of them. That decision blows the theory that politicians are duty bound to repay political debts, not that I ever expected him to do so.

I decided to undertake the project privately and formed a company that I called Australian Transport and Energy Corridor Ltd which is still operating 21 years later. It is largely responsible for the decision in last Tuesday’s Budget to fund the Melbourne Brisbane section of the Inland Railway.

Let me tell you the story of two decades of persistence. Continue reading “BIRTH OF A RAILWAY”

THE YEAR THE MUSIC STOPPED

My end of year travels enabled me to take in some Christmas functions in Adelaide Melbourne Sydney and Brisbane. Inevitably, the conversations got to focus on the sad state of politics and a few facts became indelibly clear.

Malcolm Turnbull has reached rock bottom and few now listen to anything that he says. No matter whether people are left, right, centre or swingers, they are utterly unanimous in this view and highly unlikely ever to change their minds.

They are also unanimous on another matter. They do not want Bishop, Morrison or Shorten to replace him. They just want politicians to get lost.

In fact, they all see Christmas 2016 as the end of the line. It concludes a shocker of a year when the music stopped. Continue reading “THE YEAR THE MUSIC STOPPED”

Federal Government must do more for growing population of ageing Australians

GREY POWER article in Courier Mail QWeekend, October 1-2,2016 By GRANTLEE KIEZA

It’s high noon in Canberra as Everald Compton gets ready to march toward the microphone and into ­battle at the National Press Club. A few weeks short of his 85th birthday, he’s still hitting his stride. As Compton adjusts his blue and white diamond-­patterned tie, straightens the jacket of his dark blue power suit and runs a hand over his shining white hair, there’s a touch of the statesman about him.

He is a veteran campaigner who has been shaking the hands of prime ministers since 1956 and twisting their arms for the past 40 years, fighting for increases in the pension and spreading his message that grey is gold – that elderly Australians are a priceless asset.

Of all the prime ministers he has met, Bob Menzies and Gough Whitlam were the most commanding, while at the other end of the spectrum he thought Billy McMahon was a “silly little bloke” – the worst prime minister he had ­encountered until he met Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott.

He hopes to channel some of Menzies and Gough today. Watching on, the moderator at the Press Club address, David Speers, Sky Channel’s political editor, remarks: “When Everald Compton is on the warpath, both sides of politics need to watch out.”
Compton casts an eye over the lunchtime audience in the large dining room and as he takes centre stage behind the lectern and adjusts the discreet hearing aid in his left ear, he outlines the reasons why Malcolm Turnbull not only has to appoint a special minister for ageing Australians but why the whole age pension system needs overhauling. There are 1.5 million aged pensioners in Australia, he says, and a third of them are living on or below the ­poverty line, mashing their food because they can’t afford dental care or missing meals so they can pay their rent.
“The age pension in Australia is clearly inadequate,” he says, “and the Government of Australia has to face up to it.”

He holds up a report labelled “The Adequacy of the Age Pension in Australia” that he and a team of researchers have been working on for 12 months. He says it should have been titled “The Inadequacy of the Age Pension”.
Back in 1908, Compton says, Alfred Deakin and Andrew Fisher, who both served as prime ministers that year, “got together and set the age for the pension at 65 because that’s the age when they reckoned most people would be dead, and they were going to give the age pension to anyone who survived”. He says the pension rate was then £26 a year ­because that’s all the government could afford.
“There was no other scientific calculation involved. Down the years governments have made adjustments on whether they need to win an election, but they have never done an economic study to see what it really costs a ­pensioner to live.” Compton says many pensioners are ­giving up their phones and their computers because they can’t afford the $40 monthly bill – “so we are entering an age of technology where pensioners are going to be cut off from essential medical services”.
For the past year, Compton’s not-for-profit group the Longevity Innovation Hub, along with Australia’s oldest charity, the Benevolent Society, and the research think tank Per Capita, have been researching the needs of ­pensioners, holding focus groups and public meetings around the country. His research shows the need for “an independent tribunal set up by an act of Parliament that takes the whole pension out of the budget and out of polit­ical and election places”. Parliamentarians, he says, have a similar tribunal to ­decide their own salaries and never question the findings. Making the pension adequate and fair, he says, would cost the Federal Government $2 billion, but it could save $8 billion a year by cutting out middle-class welfare and negative gearing. Even if that meant a ­decline in the value of the home at Aspley, about 13km north of Brisbane’s CBD, where he and his wife Helen, 78, live, Compton says it’s a bullet he’ll take for the team.
We’re sitting in the study of that neat, lowset Aspley home two days after Compton’s speech. He’s behind the desk where, with a tumbler of good Scotch beside him and one finger working tirelessly, he tapped out a ­biography of his hero, the Reverend John Flynn. He wrote The Man on the Twenty Dollar Notes while winding down from a schedule that includes fighting for the pensioners, consulting on an inland railway from Melbourne to Darwin, writing regularly on his blog, tweeting voraciously under the handle @EVERALDATLARGE, advising on the cattle business, and raising funds for the Uniting Church in Aspley, where he and Helen are both elders.

Already on the day Everald talks to The Courier-Mail, he has had breakfast in Brisbane with Cloncurry cattleman Don McDonald, whose properties cover a land mass bigger than Belgium, and who is backing the inland railway. He ­followed that with a public meeting with pensioners at Mt Gravatt, in Brisbane’s south, hosted by the State Member for Mansfield, Ian Walker. Then it was lunch with a ­researcher to discuss affordable housing.
Helen is constantly amazed at her husband’s workload but Compton swears Flynn’s spirit is beside him, urging him to fight for disadvantaged Australians.
“Flynn was always a hero from my earliest childhood memories,” he says. “My mother took me to Sunday school at age three and I’ve been going to church ever since.”
Compton was born in Toowoomba and grew up in the logging villages of Linville and Monsildale in the Brisbane Valley. When the local mill closed, his father, Herbert, moved the family to Toowoomba for work at the KR smallgoods factory.
Herbert was descended from a British convict and Compton’s mother, Thelma, was the granddaughter of a ­Lutheran missionary sent from Germany with the charter to “remove sin from the continent of Australia”. John Flynn became Compton’s idol and exemplar.
“The sheer scope of what he achieved is staggering,” he says. “Back in 1912 the Presbyterian Church said to him, ‘we are going to make you the head of the Australian Inland Mission to look after the bush’ – which was 80 per cent of the continent. They thought he was going to build churches but he went out to spread the word by building a mantle of safety. He built hospitals, started the Flying Doctors and School of the Air. He was a true nation-builder and we don’t have nation-builders like him any more.”
Compton says writing the book kept his brain ­constantly firing. “I believe someone who remains active like me will live five years longer,” he says. “The more ­people who keep working into their later years means less money the government has to find for pensions. And the longer a person works, the more money is going into their super fund so they have a better life.
“I’m on a board of directors of a cattle company that I have a minor interest in. All the others on the board are 40, and I’m almost 85. They keep referring to my experience, and that situation should be replicated all over Australia. Every company with young turks should have an old guy on the board, provided they are willing to learn new ways.”

At the National Press Club, Jo Toohey, chief executive of the Benevolent Society, follows Compton to the stage and tells the audience that for many pensioners, the daily challenges of medical bills, paying rent or hiring tradespeople are “hugely amplified”.
“This has an enormous effect on their health and wellbeing.” Out of their pension, she says – a maximum basic rate of $797.90 a fortnight for a single person and $1203 for couples – they have to pay the basics first, so even a dental visit becomes “an extraordinary event”. Australia’s minimum wage is nearly double the age ­pension. The lowest-paid Member of Parliament receives almost 10 times the amount. “The poverty line in Australia is $851 a fortnight,” Toohey says. “If you’re a single person receiving the age pension without any rent assistance ­because you own your own home – which is quite possibly falling down around you – then your living income is $56 below the poverty line. That’s one-third of age pensioners.”
Many pensioners, she says, switch off their hot water for months because they can’t afford the electricity. “We are a rich country, the fifth-richest in the world (according to OECD wealth-distribution figures) yet we allow a third of our pensioners to live at or below the ­poverty line.”
Compton watches his confederate speak. He has the look of a general commanding troops in attack.
John Flynn knew how to build partnerships with people who could help him, Compton says. He had Hudson Fysh, the founder of Qantas, and fundraisers such as cattleman Sidney Kidman, farm machinery manufacturer H. V. McKay, and author Jeannie Gunn.
Compton started his partnership with Helen when he was 25 and president of the Presbyterian Fellowship for Brisbane. He was at a church camp at Alexandra Headland on the Sunshine Coast. He made a speech to farewell a missionary heading to Vanuatu, cracked a joke and saw a girl in the crowd smile at the remark.
That was 60 years ago. They have four children – Wendy, 57, a high-school teacher in Brisbane; Robyn, 55, a dietitian in Melbourne; Paul, 52, a banker in London, and Lyndel, 49, a cancer nurse at Swindon, also in England. Each of his four children has two of his or her own.
Compton worked at the smallgoods factory, then the Commonwealth Bank in Toowoomba, and studied at night to become an accountant. When he was 24 he heard that the Presbyterian Church was looking for a fundraiser to help build St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital on Wickham Terrace in inner Brisbane’s Spring Hill.

He was so successful at tapping wealthy old Scotsmen on the shoulder that he soon set up his own fundraising company, which became Everald Compton International. He ran it for 40 years, establishing offices in Brisbane, Wellington in New Zealand, Johannesburg, Vancouver and London. He raised money for politicians across the spectrum – Gough Whitlam, John Howard, Bob Hawke and Joh Bjelke-Petersen. He met Joh’s future wife, Flo, when she was Florence Gilmour and teaching bible classes at St Andrew’s on Creek St, in Brisbane’s CBD. He ran campaigns for the restoration of English cathedrals – at Ely, Worcester, ­Gloucester, Winchester and Portsmouth – and raised money for South Africa’s Progressive Federal Party, which eventually helped to free Nelson Mandela.
All along Compton wanted to help a group in Australia he saw as being especially needy and in 1976 was one of the founders of National Seniors Australia, which boasts 250,000 members.
Since then, he has lobbied prime ministers for a better deal for older Australians and built three retirement ­villages – Compton Gardens at Aspley, Comptons at Caboolture, and Brookland Village at southside Sunnybank.
In 2009 he negotiated with then-federal treasurer Wayne Swan, his local member, an increase to the single pension of about $33, but he says much more is needed now to provide the elderly with a decent standard of living.
Compton gives a series of media interviews after his address to the National Press Club and talks over his ideas with Labor powerbroker Anthony Albanese. He ends the night tweeting: “Quiet scotch after 11 hours with #Pension Study Team … A small step towards justice for pensioners”.
Back at home with Helen in Aspley, he’s preparing for an open day at the nearby Bald Hills mosque to strengthen ties with his neighbourhood’s Muslim community. It is a rapidly changing world. He recently tweeted: “As committed Elder of my #Church can I say we have no right to say a word re #samesexmarriage in light of our infamous record on #childabuse”.
He has little faith in the present government, saying that he is “terribly disappointed” with Malcolm Turnbull. “I worked with Malcolm during the Republican movement in 1999. He was arrogant then, but decisive. He’d make snap decisions and you couldn’t contest them. He alienated so many people. But as Prime Minister, he is now so indecisive.”

Compton says the first Federal Budget he heard was delivered by Harold Holt more than half a century ago and the government’s funding for pensioners has not improved since then.
He has dealt with every prime minister since Menzies. “I had a fair bit to do with Whitlam,” he says. “He was an enormously impressive personality – the problem was he would imagine these great things but couldn’t get them done. He had some dreadful hillbillies with him like Jim Cairns and Rex Connor, who dragged him down. Malcolm Fraser was a very ordinary prime minister, and Bob Hawke was the best negotiator I’d met until Julia Gillard.
“Bob had a marvellous ability to be everybody’s friend. Paul Keating had the best economic brain but also an ability to make people dislike him. His ideas – such as compulsory superannuation – were brilliant.
“John Howard was probably the best grassroots pol­itician I dealt with. Old John could smell trouble coming a mile away and the Howard era was the most prosperous in my lifetime. We had 11 good years with him at the helm.”
Compton says he has “a very low opinion of Kevin Rudd” and cheered his downfall. “You never knew what he was going to do next. He was one of the most intelligent blokes I’ve dealt with but he couldn’t deal with people.”
Julia Gillard, he says, had a poor public image, like an old schoolmarm, “but one on one she was superb – a great negotiator. She had an attractive personality, which didn’t come through to the public”.
Tony Abbott, he says, was “totally out of his depth … a very rigid thinker driven by religion and hard-right ­ideology” – and he says Turnbull is only surviving because there is no natural successor.
Compton says the present Federal Government must do more for the growing population of ageing Australians. “By 2050 there will be 50,000 Australians over 100,” he says, “and the largest population group in Australia will be aged 85-100. The Government seems totally oblivious. Turnbull only has a Minister for Aged Care – that represents only about one per cent of the ageing question.”
The clock on Compton’s wall chimes and reminds him of more meetings he has scheduled.
When he gets a chance to relax with a smoky, peaty ­single-malt Scotch, he’s working on a new book about Australia’s Federation. He says it is “staggeringly stupid” that such a wealthy country as Australia still treats its oldest ­citizens so poorly.
Last week he told his audience in Canberra: “The Government hopes that by three o’clock this afternoon everyone will have forgotten about this, and I just want to let them know that in whatever short years I may have left on this planet, I’m going to relentlessly pursue them. We’ve come to the point in the history of Australia where the ­pension has to come out of politics and enter the area of human justice.
“As Gough Whitlam would have said if he were up here: ‘It’s time’.”

TAX CUTS & POLITICAL SUICIDE

I respect Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison. They are intelligent, astute Parliamentarians. This makes it difficult for me to understand why they have made tax cuts the cornerstone of their election campaign.

They appear to believe that such cuts will stimulate economic growth and create jobs, but history proves this theory to be a fallacy.

In order to justify this statement, can I suggest to all my readers that you study research reports into tax cuts in USA and Australia over the past fifty years? You will find no economic or social justification for them.

The facts are that every tax cut has created some more billionaires, but few jobs down on Struggle Street. The trickle down effect has never ever trickled down and never will. Of even more concern is that on each occasion there has been a tax cut the national debt has risen. Continue reading “TAX CUTS & POLITICAL SUICIDE”

TAMING THE NORTH

I have been a voter since 1952 and, at every election since then, there has been someone, either a Prime Minister or an Opposition Leader or an aspiring MP, who has seriously threatened to develop Northern Australia.

Sadly, I still wait with fervent hope for a leader to appear who will actually do it. For the past sixty years it has simply been an exercise in vote gathering. Continue reading “TAMING THE NORTH”

Tax Reform and the Politics of Fear

There are thousands of laws that provide the basis of governing our nation. Every one of them can be improved in order to meet the needs of a changing world, particularly taxation laws, as they are an out of date mix of temporary political fixes that were deemed necessary to win elections. Continue reading “Tax Reform and the Politics of Fear”

The Superannuation Revolution

(An expanded version of my earlier article entitled The Use and Abuse of Superannuation)

Even those who do not like him will acknowledge that Australia owes a huge debt of gratitude to Paul Keating.

During his term as Prime Minister two decades ago, he established compulsory superannuation despite a hostile Opposition that declared it to be a step towards socialism.

A few weeks ago, I chaired a Per Capita function in Sydney at which Keating reminded the capacity crowd that the original intention of his superannuation legislation was for everyone to accumulate as much Super as possible thereby ensuring that, in all of our retirement years, we could enjoy a lifestyle better than that which is the lot of someone who struggled to survive on the age pension.

The Keating plan was for every one of us to draw down all of our superannuation capital and income within our anticipated lifetime. It was never ever intended that anyone would leave their Super as a legacy to their family. Such a legacy is, in reality, a taxpayer funded gift. Continue reading “The Superannuation Revolution”

THE USE AND ABUSE OF SUPERANNUATION

(For an expanded version of this article see also “The Superannuation Revolution”)

Australia owes a huge debt of gratitude to Paul Keating.

He established compulsory superannuation two decades ago despite a hostile Opposition that declared it to be a step towards socialism.

A few weeks ago, I chaired a Per Capita meeting in Sydney at which Keating reminded the capacity crowd that the original intention of his superannuation legislation was for everyone to accumulate as much Super as possible thereby ensuring that, in all of our retirement years, we could enjoy a lifestyle better than that which is the lot of someone on the age pension. Continue reading “THE USE AND ABUSE OF SUPERANNUATION”

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!”

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”

The Blueprint on Ageing is tackling tough economic & social issues.

Copy of my national media release dated 23 December 2013.

Everald Compton and his research partners at Per Capita will commence community consultations in early 2014 to seek public opinion on the key issues Australia must face in handling the economic and social impact of the ageing tsunami which will hit the world over the next quarter of a century.

Compton said today that some of the most controversial questions and issues are –

1. Should self-funded retirees pay income tax on the drawings from their superannuation fund? Unless this happens, Australia’s young taxpayers will bear an increasingly large taxation burden.

2. Will Australians accept laws which prescribe that neither the aged pension nor superannuation can be accessed before 70? This will become necessary as most people can be expected to live to 90.

3. Will the option of drawing superannuation as a lump sum need to be banned so that monthly drawings will last for at least 25 years?

4. Should the superannuation guarantee be increased to 15% immediately if retirement incomes are to last until age 85?

5. Should employees over 70 have access to workplace cover, if currently they don’t?

6. Age discrimination is rampant in the workplace with seniors being denied jobs for which they are well qualified. Governments are among the greatest discriminators. A huge change of attitude is needed.

7. Is it possible for seniors to be encouraged to train for a new occupation which brings them the vigour of a second life, thus ensuring that they will want to stay in the workforce until they are at least 80?

8. Will governments who want to sell real estate assets at maximum prices be willing to make land available at low cost for age friendly rental housing which is now in very short supply?

9. Can we encourage seniors not to go to doctors and hospitals unless it is absolutely necessary, while ensuring their health does not suffer, so that Medicare will not be bankrupted? This will require a major national campaign of preventative health.

10. Will venture capitalists invest in new recreation industries for seniors? Many may have up to 40 years of retirement in which they need to keep physically and mentally fit. Most will be willing to pay for interesting and challenging recreation.

11. Is the nation willing to invest many millions in research and treatment of all forms of dementia? It will become the world’s most prevalent ailment and the one most feared by the elderly.

12. Seniors provide most of Australia’s volunteers, but they want to undertake more interesting tasks than making the tea and providing transport. They want to use their life experience to give personal and practical help to people with social problems so long as professional groups and trade unions will allow it.

Everald Compton said “there are many more issues of ageing to be assessed and these cover important matters including but not limited to lifelong learning, carers, technology, nursing homes and travel insurance, but there are too many to cover in one statement, which is an indication of the gravity of the situation”.

Executive Director of Per Capita, David Hetherington, will call for expressions of interest in early 2014 from those wishing to take part in community consultations and have a direct input into these and other ageing issues. Consultations will be held in all capital cities and in a number of regional towns. There will also be provision for comments on the Per Capita website – http://www.percapita.org.au

The Report will be issued before 30 June, 2014, and will make specific policy recommendations to all three levels of government on all action needed now to enable Australia to turn the ageing tsunami into a community asset. Per Capita will then embark on a plan to follow up the report relentlessly until governments take action.

Everald Compton was one of the founding directors of National Seniors Australia in 1976 and was its Chairman for 25 years. He was appointed by Wayne Swan to be Chairman of the Federal Governments Panel on Positive Ageing but was sacked by Joe Hockey in November, 2011, as was the entire Panel. Per Capita, an eminent not for profit think tank, invited the Panel to join them to complete the Blueprint on Ageing using private funding. Panel members Brian Howe, Gill Lewin and Neville Roach joined Compton in this important task.

David Hetherington is a highly qualified and experienced researcher who is Executive Director of Per Capita.

….ends

Everald Compton is available for comment on 0407 721710

David Hetherington is available for comment on 0413 863068

Seniors become five days a week slaves – Elder abuse on a grand scale!

My article published in Crikey 19/12/13

Most people who reach the traditional retirement age, look forward to spending more time together, particularly doing a lot of travel, even though many choose to work part time as a necessary step to increase their inadequate superannuation. But, they are now denied this well-earned right because their children pressure them to look after the grandchildren so both parents can be in full time employment and maintain a lifestyle that their parents never experienced.

Seniors become five days a week slaves because their children prey unashamedly on granny’s undeniable love of grandchildren. Their motivation is that, by avoiding child care fees, they save at least 10% of their pay packet. This act of selfishness, represents elder abuse on a grand scale and it is a disgrace. Indeed, it can be a breach of age discrimination laws. Continue reading “Seniors become five days a week slaves – Elder abuse on a grand scale!”

There’s promising possibilities for old investment in a new bush – Go West Old Guys!

My article published in Crikey 13/12/13

Too many farmers are burdened with unmanageable debt, some of them heavily so. Many bought farms with minimum equity at maximum prices during the height of the boom before the GFC of 2008, then went further into debt during subsequent droughts and floods in the hope of surviving until a new wave of prosperity occurred. In a rapidly changing world, those good days are now a mirage on a disappearing horizon.

Their only viable path to survival is to welcome an injection of friendly equity that will enable them to take their bank manager to lunch and tell him to get lost. But, the challenge is to find equity which is friendly, non-threatening, helpful and wise.

One promising possibility is to involve Australia’s rapidly growing population of Seniors, especially those with spare capital and business wisdom. The best deal would be for those elderly investors to decide to live in the same rural community as the farm.

Actually, there is potential for this to occur as the majority of older Australians have lived their years in capital cities and, when they retire, too many head for the beaches as they follow a dream of happy days watching the waves roll in to pleasant sandy shores. Problem is that, after a few months, they have watched the waves for too long and are bored out of their brains.

Now, some are heading to the bush, looking for a small and pleasant community which gives them a new and interesting lifestyle in total contrast to their city days. They enjoy involvement in the life of the community while coming to understand the economy of surrounding rural industries. Some buy a local shop, while others look for a farmer who needs a financial partner and is willing to introduce them to farming skills.

Without doubt, there is capacity to turn this trickle of new rural dwellers into a national movement of significance, following the American vision of two centuries ago when Uncle Sam said ‘Go West Young Man’. We can say ‘Old Guys’.

There are problems to overcome such as identifying rural communities who are not wary of ‘city slickers’ and where farmers are ready to welcome business partners.  We also need enlightened governments to provide tax incentives and do something significant about reducing transport costs and other financial burdens caused by the tyranny of distance. Politicians have been promising this for a century, but have delivered little because there are not enough votes out in the bush to cause them real concern. The disgraceful result is that the huge potential of rural Australia to become the greatest food producer in the world has never been realised.

Also, we need to protect farmers from the owners of Supermarkets who screw them into the ground mercilessly – indeed they are greater predators than floods and droughts.

Strange as it may seem, an even greater challenge is to convince oldies that a relaxed retirement is a fast way to the grave, while long life comes when you start a second career which is a stimulating challenge.

But, they will resist the lure of country life until there is a revolution in the quality of bush housing as most of it belongs to the lifestyle of yesteryear. And cultural life of rural communities has to come alive as well.  Society based only on the local pub is primitive.

Nevertheless, the opportunity for regeneration of the bush is there for the taking because the world has  7 billion people, growing to 9.5 billion by 2050. Most are underfed. There is a fast growing middle class on every continent who seek quality food that only a huge and empty island like Australia can produce if it builds a prosperous farming industry backed by innovative marketing and distribution.

So, it’s worth a go. I am involved in starting a movement to find thousands of ‘grey apprentices’ to partner young farmers whose skills need an injection of cash, wisdom and mutual respect. I am working with a fine team of researchers at Per Capita to determine the most effective way to bring this into being. Watch this space.

Follow me on Twitter @EVERALDATLARGE

Axed Advisory Panel partners with Per Capita on Ageing Blueprint

Per Capita, an independent, progressive think tank, is astounded at the decision of the new Federal Government to axe its Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing so close to the completion of the Panel’s Blueprint for Ageing. Per Capita considers it an enormous waste to suddenly disband such a high quality, research‐intensive policy initiative on an issue of such vital importance to Australia.

In light of this, Per Capita is pleased to announce that it has entered into a partnership with four members of the recently sacked Panel to complete a Blueprint for an Ageing Australia.

Per Capita and the former Panel members will complete the Blueprint by its scheduled publication date in June 2014. The project will be funded by crowd funding, institutional donors, philanthropists, private companies, NGOs and individuals. Public consultation will be vital to ensure the relevance of the Blueprint.

The Panel was originally constituted in 2011 with a three-year mandate to produce a comprehensive policy review on the opportunities and challenges associated with an ageing Australia, the Blueprint.

However, earlier this month, Treasurer Joe Hockey axed the Panel, less than eight months from the completion of its work. The former Panel members who have partnered with Per Capita are Everald Compton AM, Prof Brian Howe AO, Prof Gill Lewin and Neville Roach AO.

Per Capita considers that the completion of the Panel’s Blueprint is critical to the social and economic wellbeing of Australia, given the scale of the ageing issue facing Australia.

“Per Capita believes the decision to sack the Panel is outrageous. This vital work must continue in light of the huge impact that ageing will have on Australia in coming decades”, commented Per Capita’s executive director, David Hetherington. “The Panel has invested two-and-a-half years of tireless effort towards the Blueprint, and it would be a shameful waste not to see it to completion.”

Former Panel Chairman Everald Compton stated, “I am impressed that an independent policy organisation of the stature of Per Capita has taken up this challenge, which is vital to the future of Australia. I look forward to working with them to produce a blueprint which will provide the basis for turning the ageing tsunami into a national asset.”

 

 

Rail and Water Agenda for an Infrastructure Prime Minister

Article written for On Line Opinion “Under New Management” feature.

I greeted with enthusiasm Tony Abbott’s election comment that he wanted to be remembered in history as Australia’s Infrastructure Prime Minister. I formed the view that his words were welcomed by many who have genuine concern that our nation has an appalling record of neglected infrastructure stretching back for far more the half a century that has elapsed since the Snowy Mountains Project became a reality.

During this time, there has been a steady, but not spectacular, investment in roads and some expansion of ports, but very little spent on railways or water. If the PM can make a difference in these two areas, it will make an enormous contribution to the progress of the nation. Continue reading “Rail and Water Agenda for an Infrastructure Prime Minister”

I will complete the Blueprint on Ageing

I have made real progress with my plan to complete the Blueprint on Ageing and am pleased that we will do so with the aid of an eminent Australian Think Tank, using crowd funding plus some corporate and trust gifts.

We will publish it on schedule in June, 2014, so that Hockey’s sacking of me and my Panel will have been of no avail and we can then plan to implement many of the recommendations without help from government.

Before we finalise the Blueprint, we will hold public consultations around Australia and I hope that those who have contributed to the debate will be able to attend and express their thoughts.

The more I work on the plan, the more I realise that the scope of it is enormous, as ageing is a significant element in every facet of national life. So, the turning of ageing into an asset will create great change, but I believe that it can be centred on an economy that is not dollar driven and will create a level playing field for young and old.

A problem we face in Australian politics is that anyone who has a conscience about anything is labelled a socialist and, every time there is a change of government, it is regarded as essential to destroy everything the previous government has done. But, Australians are wise enough to overcome this and export our good policies on Ageing to a world that is being hit by the same ageing tsunami as we are.

Government sources have hinted to me that I will breach copyright if I try to complete the plan. Can I say that I will enjoy my day in court and I will appear without a barrister as my defence will be that I am completing a document of national importance that was otherwise destined for the shredder simply because it was initiated by Wayne Swan.

The court case will cause millions of Australians to read the Blueprint.

Why Joe Hockey should not have sacked me.

As we face an ageing tsunami, Treasurer Joe Hockey has sacked the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing (and me as its chairman), declaring it to be irrelevant without stating why this is so. Shortly before that, Prime Minister Tony Abbott decided not to have a minister for ageing, downgrading the importance of millions of seniors in the life of the nation.

The sole reason for the dismissal of the panel, as conveyed to me privately by Coalition MPs, is that it was established by former treasurer Wayne Swan and it has been decided that every vestige of Swan’s term as treasurer must be obliterated. Such is the waste that politics represents in our national life. Continue reading “Why Joe Hockey should not have sacked me.”