AUSTRALIA URGENTLY NEEDS A MINISTER FOR AGEING

When Tony Abbott became Prime Minister he made an extraordinary decision not to appoint a Minister for Ageing even though the entire planet faces a huge crisis in which the population is ageing faster than at any time in the history of humanity. Continue reading “AUSTRALIA URGENTLY NEEDS A MINISTER FOR AGEING”

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?”

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

Positive winds in the Ageing Tsunami

That the world will be hit by an Ageing Tsunami of huge proportions is beyond doubt.

That governments are asleep at the wheel in planning to meet the greatest generational revolution of all time is also an indisputable fact.

To emphasise the gravity of the issue, it is mind boggling that the Australian Government does not have a Minister for Ageing and has sacked its Advisory Panel on Ageing in an act of sheer vandalism.

Added to all of the above is the tragedy that Ageing has several positive elements in it that provide opportunities and advantages for asset creation.

Let’s take a look at just five of them.

At least a million of Australia’s retirees would like to stay in the work force, or return to it, for a variety of positive reasons. A few examples of this are important matters such as their need to earn more money, contribute extra to their Super Fund, pay school fees for grandchildren, keep the brain active etc, etc.

But, absolute and unjustifiable discrimination by employers stops them in their tracks.

We can fix this by legislating that 10% of employees of any company employing more than 10 people must be older workers. This sounds like a regimentation of the workplace, but it is the only way that employers will face the fact that older workers are not over the hill and are needed if our economy is the remain prosperous. Indeed, they are reliable, loyal, trustworthy and experienced. They are profit generators and cost reducers for those who give them a fair go as they are highly unlikely to look for another job. This tough initiative will produce the benefit of adding billions to the economy every year.

Far too many seniors spend too much time visiting doctors and staying in hospitals. Most times they have no need to go, but they were bored, needed an outing and just want company. Many routine medical issues can be handled by qualified nurses, often online, at a huge saving in cost to Medicare. Most times, it will be found that better diet and more exercise would have fixed any health issues, so there are profits to be made in those two opportunities alone.

Lifelong learning can be a huge income generator for Universities and TAFE Colleges as many Seniors, in younger days, were denied the chance to get a degree or a diploma in any area of study, particularly women who, because of social pressure, were forced to be housewives only. Many now want to reverse that lost opportunity and they are willing to pay the costs of study to get a degree, even in their nineties. Some want to qualify for a profession. Others just want to prove they can do it and look for study courses that broaden their minds in a subject of special interest.

Recreation is an open door to the creation of a new service industry for older people. Every day, thousands of Seniors go on bus trips, often travelling to the same places. They get little exercise, sitting on buses for hours, and there is little educational content in the excursion.  Professionals who can design and create new forms of innovative and interesting recreation can make a fortune, particularly young people who can bridge the intergenerational gap.

Age Friendly Housing is almost non-existent in Australia. We build small houses for older people, but they lack features to help those with arthritis and heart conditions etc, while almost totally ignoring technology. The property industry is losing vast quantities of profit because they do not recognise that the world is ageing and needs new specialist housing in its millions.

There are many more opportunities than the five I have mentioned above that await the valiant out there in the greying world, eg, volunteering, particularly where seniors can use their skills rather than making the coffee and driving cars; a revolution in the way we grow and manage retirement incomes; starting a movement to retire and investing in rural communities etc.

All of these will be outlined in policy form in the Blueprint on Ageing on which I am working with the progressive Australian Think Tank, Per Capita. It will be ready in June ,2014, and you can register your support and interest on the Per Capita website.

After doing that, go to see your local Federal MP and ask him or her to recognise that ageing is expanding challenge of living and is not going away. It will be either an economic and social disaster or a time of great prosperity and high quality of life. It’s time for politicians to decide whether they are part of the problem or the solution.

The vital issue is that we must move on it now and make some sound decisions that will initially be unpopular but will prove to be long term triumphs.

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.

 

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.”

Is Super very Super?

A comment on the explosive election issue of Superannuation

There are few, if any, certainties in life. Nevertheless, I am willing to put significant money on the real possibility that the September Federal Election will be decided by the votes of the rapidly growing ranks of Seniors, many of whom are not happy chappies.

Right now, there are a number of issues that will determine where the Oldies vote will go. One is the desperate shortage of Age Friendly Housing, while another is the blatant discrimination against Seniors who want to stay in the workforce or return to it. However, the most powerful one is the uncertainty and complexity of Superannuation, combined with the poor financial returns that come from it.

Let me lead you through a chat about my view of the basic principles of how a good National Superannuation Program could best be run, without commenting on any details of the complex legislation that has grown-up around it so ridiculously in Australia over two decades. Continue reading “Is Super very Super?”

The Election of a Lifetime

Who will win power in September?

A year ago Tony Abbott was an unbackable favourite to become Prime Minister of Australia at the 2013 Federal Election. Only Black Caviar had shorter odds. Most punters reckoned that Julia Gillard would lead her party to absolute oblivion, irreparably damaging the ALP brand in the process.

Now, although the Coalition is still clearly in front, it is a genuinely contestable election that may yet provide the biggest political upset in our nation’s history. Continue reading “The Election of a Lifetime”

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”