Labor’s plans for older Aussies

Labor’s shock loss at the 2019 federal election, when its franking credits policy cost it the votes of many older Australians, is being assuaged by a raft of announcements aimed at wooing back those voters.

Federal leader Anthony Albanese announced on Wednesday that a Labor government would focus on key areas relating to older Australians: the superannuation balance between men and women, aged care, intergenerational care, retraining to help over-55s stay in the workforce and a pensioner dental plan.

Addressing the issue of older workers having trouble getting jobs, which YourLifeChoices members repeatedly note in our annual surveys, Mr Albanese says the solution for many is “to upgrade their skills, which underscores the urgency of rebuilding our TAFEs in particular and our VET (vocational education training) system in general”.

But on the vexed topic of ageism, he said cultural change was needed and that employers must play their part.

“According to Deloitte Access Economics, a three per cent increase in workforce participation by Australians aged over 55 would generate a $33 billion boost to the economy each year,” he said.

“Volunteering is great. But to build a stronger economy, we must harness the talents of everybody – and that includes older Australians who are sources of wisdom and experience for their employers and co-workers.”

In YourLifeChoices’ 2019 Retirement Income Review Survey, 69 per cent of the almost 4000 respondents, said there should be more incentives for people to work for longer.

When asked what the main barriers were to continue working, 26.5 per cent said ageism and 21.4 per cent said a lack of paid employment options. Another 23 per cent said the effect on the Age Pension payment.

In YourLifeChoices’ 2020 Insights Survey, 61 per cent of 5723 respondents said the government should ensure older Australians were able to earn more without reducing Age Pension entitlements.

Mr Albanese also outlined Labor’s positive ageing strategy. He labelled the current system “broken” and said Labor would facilitate more intergenerational care where older and younger Australians could be cared for together.

“The benefits of intergenerational care are immense,” he said. “It can help our elderly re-engage with the world, minimise their isolation and the effects of their health issues.

“The ABC program, Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds, made me laugh and made me cry, but it also made me imagine a future where intergenerational care is the answer to our aged care crisis.

“Imagine a future where we co-locate aged care facilities, including day respites, with kinders and preschools.”

He said day respite for the elderly was the “missing piece of the puzzle”.

“Imagine being able to drop your child and grandmother off to the same location,” he said.

“Imagine knowing their day would be enjoyable and safe, with activities led by well-paid staff.

“The benefits are immense. It can help our elderly re-engage with the world, minimise their isolation and the effects of their health issues.”

Mr Albanese attacked the government’s plan to privatise aged care assessments.

“The first interaction the elderly and their families have with the aged care system is through an aged care assessment or ACAT. It is the first step to getting a home care package or entering a residential aged care facility.

“Our aged care system is broken – and this government wants to make it worse by subjecting ACAT to the indifference of the market. There is a role for the market. But markets have no conscience.”

He confirmed Labor’s ongoing support for a pensioner dental plan, which it took to the last federal election.

Mr Albanese said Labor would improve Australia’s superannuation system and took aim at the parties arguing against the guaranteed increase to payments.

The guarantee is due to increase to 10 per cent in 2021/22 and then rise by 0.5 per cent in each of the following four years, hitting 12 per cent in 2025/26.

A Labor government would also try to improve the superannuation imbalance between men and women, with women retiring with about half the average super of men.

Do you believe Labor is on the right track with its policies for older Australians?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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