Blaming the elderly is a tired old argument, Kevin
There is nothing new in the mid summer sermons of Prime Minister Rudd as he meanders across the Australian continent.
The fact that health expenses are rising faster than inflation is not a revelation it is simply a well known fact. Neither is it new that the population is ageing. This simply means that people are living longer and healthier lives and is a cause for celebration, not morbid prognostications.
What is new is that Mr Rudd is blaming older Australians for the cost blowout.
The blame game used to refer to the Commonwealth blaming the States for health problems and the States returning the favour. The new blame game, apparently is to blame those who have worked hard, brought up families, added to the wealth of the nation and provided for themselves as best they can – that is Senior Australians.
Nice one Mr Rudd.
The reality is that ageing accounts for only one fifth of the rising health costs. The majority of health costs rise because of the introduction of new and expensive drugs and technologies together with higher consumer expectations of the level and type of services available. These are the major cost drivers and will remain so.
As we reflect on Australian Day it gives me much pleasure to see the recognition of Senior Australians, with the announcement of Maggie Beer as Senior Australian of the year.
In 1999 the first Senior Australian of the year was announced. It was Slim Dusty and the criteria I considered essential as the then minister was the continuing contribution that person would make. Maggie is a terrific appointment.
I hope as Mr Rudd made the announcement he reflected upon that continuing contribution. Instead of shifting the blame game onto Senior Australians he needs to see Senior Australians as a positive asset, including mature age workers benefiting the nation rather than blaming them for being in his terms ‘a challenge’ and a reason to increase taxation.
Ageing is only a direct cause of dependency to the extent that those not working are reliant upon income from those working.
In fact there are many seniors who continue to earn income from their labour, shares, savings, superannuation, real estate or other assets.
Instead of just shifting the blame game, government needs to develop policies that ensure that all Australians can expect to be respected throughout life.
Mr Rudd also seems to forget that both ends of the spectrum are dependant on those participating in the workforce and is expressed as the dependency ratio. Simply it comprises children who do not work expressed as 0 to 15 year olds and those past pension entitlement age.
The fact that we have added (fortunately) an additional 50,000 babies, annually since 2000 to our population increases significantly the cost of education, health and welfare payments.
There are some weird folk who lament our mini baby boom which I consider a great joy and a cost well worth providing for the education and training to prepare them for their working lives. But until they enter the workforce they are dependant and that can be well past 15 years of age.
We need policies that enable people to participate longer in the workforce if they wish, enabling continuous up-skilling and break down barriers to access re-training.
Research shows that if just 10% of people between the age of 55 and 70 years remain in the workforce instead of leaving there is a significant rise in the gross domestic product (GDP) and income for all Australians.
As we celebrate Australia Day it is time to reflect on the contribution of all who have built this magnificent country and honour our Constitution and the institutions and symbols, such as our National Flag, that underpin our way of life.
We can then have the confidence that Australians will, through their own endeavours have a secure future.
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