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”

Voluntary Assisted Dying. Crunch time at Queensland Parliament.

Last year, the Queensland Parliament voted to authorise its Health Committee to hold public hearings throughout Queensland to assess public attitudes to Voluntary Assisted Dying and Palliative Care. They did an extraordinary job of holding hearings far and wide across the State and encouraging all opinions to be expressed.

I spoke at one of the hearings and it was evident that there was huge support for Queenslanders to have the right to choose to end their lives peacefully and in comfort when faced with an incurable illness. It was also clear that people felt that palliative care services were not adequate and were not an alternate to Voluntary Assisted Dying as many people will choose both. People who attended other hearings gained the same impression as I did. Continue reading “Voluntary Assisted Dying. Crunch time at Queensland Parliament.”

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one of them can be improved in order to meet the needs of a changing world, particularly taxation laws, as they are an out of date mix of temporary political fixes that were deemed necessary to win elections.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”

“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

70 is a very young age to retire

When Andrew Fisher and Alfred Deakin combined together to have a bi-partisan Pension Bill passed through Parliament in 1908, they asked an Actuary for advice on what age most workers could be expected to die.

The actuary did not hesitate to say,

‘The vast majority of them will not make it to 65’.

Fisher and Deakin both knew that the government could not afford a huge pension payout so they set the pension age at 65. Up until that time, all Australians had no option but to work until they died.

Those 65 year olds of 1908 are now the 90 year olds of today as longevity for Australians has increased by 25 years over the century that has passed.

Now, we are faced with the fact that millions of Australians will live to a very old age, kept alive by costly pharmaceutical, medical and hospital expenditure that will cripple the nation along with burgeoning pensions. And, at least a million of us will suffer from Dementia, especially Alzheimers.

A crucial issue is that most Australians will have inadequate superannuation and its poor returns will peter out soon after they reach 80 unless we have a huge increase in contributions – at least 15% from employers, plus far more in personal contributions.

Above all, it will be essential that no one is allowed to access superannuation until they are 70 and taking it as a lump sum must be banned as too many blow it quickly and go on the pension.

However, all of this will be of no avail unless employers start hiring Seniors into the work force.

Too many of them have a policy of not hiring anyone over 50 and the worst offenders of all are governments whose public service regulations force employees to retire early and make it almost impossible for anyone of mature years to apply for a position.

We need laws that require every employer to have at least 10% of their staff who are Seniors or it will be pointless to raise the Pension and Superannuation Age to 70 as most will have to apply for the dole.

All of this means that this nation needs a positive plan to turn ageing into an asset.

We won’t get far with it if we follow the coverage in the Main Stream Media. Headlines like ‘Work till you drop’ trivialise the matter. A more accurate headline would have been ‘Australia is the most overpaid, underworked and uncompetitive nation in the world’.

The most positive and pragmatic thing we can do is to commence action now, particularly in squarely facing up to the important decision to raise the retirement age to 70 as this must happen far sooner than the Productivity Commission has recommended. Every three years, commencing in 2015, we can raise the retirement age by one year.

Side by side, there must be a huge program of preventative health and tele-health to get the nation’s medical bills down, in tandem with an expansion of recreation and tourism industries where Seniors can contribute significantly to economic growth.

In addition, we will need a huge attitude change to growing old as it is a time of life where we can contribute wisdom and experience more than ever before.

Essential to it all will be to diminish our sense of entitlement and acknowledge that  Australia owes us nothing. We owe a lot to Australia for the greatest lifestyle in the world.

If we can become a nation of givers rather than getters, the Ageing Tsunami will lose its sting and we will lead the world in ensuring that we are a land of opportunity for the vision that comes with greying hair.

 

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.”

For whom the bell tolls – The last days of Rudd or Abbott or both.

Saturday will be a time of great personal relief for the vast majority of Australian voters. After the most painful and boring election of a lifetime, we will have made the decision that most of us would prefer not to make.

Is Abbott about to achieve his dream of becoming Australia’s Prime Minister, or will Rudd pull-off what will be recorded as a political miracle? The making of this sad choice will enable us to experience the profound relief we cherish when we get-up after sitting for a long time on a really nasty bit of prickly pear. You feel a hell of a lot better, but you know also that you will have a sore backside for a long time thereafter.

It is not an exaggeration to say that I have never before seen Australians so disgusted with politics, or so disillusioned with the choice that political parties have forced upon us by presenting us with leaders who inspire such little confidence. But, there is not much we can do about it right now, and it is our democratic responsibility to ensure that whoever wins is given a fair go at trying to give positive and sustainable leadership to Australia.

So, let us look for a few moments at the key figures in this eminently forgettable election:

Continue reading “For whom the bell tolls – The last days of Rudd or Abbott or both.”

The Political Turbulence of Climate Change

The abnormal weather patterns that have caused havoc on every continent over the past year have revived concerns about global warming and climate change. Having listened for years to passionate speeches about these subjects from scientists and politicians on both sides of the bitter debate, I don’t believe any of them.

However, I am aware that in the millions of years that this planet has existed, there has never before been 7.5 billion people living on it, and we know that every person pollutes the world in some small way every day. We should be concerned about this, particularly as in the decade in which I was born, there were only two billion inhabitants who could impact on the environment.

Therefore, it is prudent that we should take some positive action to progressively clean up the planet.

What the best plan could be is beyond my skills, but as Don Bradman said: “When in doubt, always play forward”. Scrapping the carbon tax would cause us to play backwards.

If Tony Abbott runs on that platform, he will lose the election. Most voters will regard it as an act of irresponsibility. But, as he has already changed his mind twice on this subject, who knows what might happen.

Is the mining boom over?

Is the mining boom over? No!  BHP’s panic decision not to proceed with the expansion of their mine at Olympic Dam reflects bad management of what was once Australia’s greatest company.  Is there a softening of world demand for resources? Yes!  Mainly caused by the recession in Europe, but the resources market was overheated and needed to calm down.  Will the softening continue? Yes!

What harm will this do to the Australian economy? Continue reading “Is the mining boom over?”

The war over power prices.

The “war” over power prices reached a crescendo last month with the Prime Minister and Premiers blaming one another for the excessively high power prices from which we currently suffer.

However, we should all stop playing the blame game for a moment and agree that it is long overdue for us to acknowledge that price rises have little to do with the carbon tax, because our power stations are antiquated, inefficient, environmentally unfriendly and poorly managed. We need to spend billions replacing them with the world’s finest technology, including our first nuclear power plant.

Australia has a significant gambling problem.

Australia has a significant gambling problem, yet Channel 9 played hundreds of advertisements for online gambling during the prime time hours of its Olympic coverage. It was a disgraceful example of the media selling their soul (and that of the nation) to make a quick dollar. And their coverage of the Games was very ordinary. They spent too much time at all the boring events and were always late covering the best events. One can only hope that they do not get the contract to cover the Rio Games in 2016.

Wayne Swan’s admiration of Bruce Springsteen

Wayne Swan’s admiration of Bruce Springsteen got him plenty of headlines last month and caused Joe Hockey to make some self-righteous responses. It was a delightful way for Swan to turn the debate away from the monotony of the carbon tax saga and on to the many more important issues that we should discuss and implement. Continue reading “Wayne Swan’s admiration of Bruce Springsteen”

Join the debate on a Northern Food Bowl, a Referendum, Voter Intentions and Boat People

 I note with considerable interest that the creation of a food bowl in Northern Australia is now very much on the political and business agenda, particularly as there are persistent reports of interest from Chinese corporations in exploring the prospects of investment in our agricultural industries. Continue reading “Join the debate on a Northern Food Bowl, a Referendum, Voter Intentions and Boat People”