The most important election issue

The jury is in. Older Australians have rated an increase to the Age Pension base rate as the most important election issue – the one that will get their vote.

In YourLifeChoices’ Friday Flash Poll: Which election issue matters most to you?, 21 per cent of the 1153 respondents said increasing the Age Pension, addressing pension poverty and increasing the base rate was the election issue that mattered most.

“While it may appear that our pensions are better than other developed countries, in reality it is not so. Our living expenses are significantly higher than the other developed countries making our pension look paltry,” wrote YourLifeChoices member Alfred.

Rather than increasing the Age Pension base rate, a number of members said a Universal Age Pension might be fairer.

“There should be a Universal Age Pension Scheme introduced in Australia. Australians who have paid taxes in Australia all throughout their working life should be automatically entitled to an Age Pension on reaching retirement age,” wrote YourLifeChoices member Chuck.

“Push for a Universal Age Pension, with no tests other than age (65 years) and residency (say 15 years). Well-off politicians and bureaucrats get their pensions without any of the tests which others have to face through Centrelink. This is the only clean solution to the broken Age Pension system which punishes savers and earners – to their detriment, and also to the detriment of the economy. In my opinion, this should be the No.1 issue for all retirees, at least for all who want this country to give a fair go to all retirees,” wrote GeorgeM.

However, many over-55s are looking beyond their own purse strings and seeing the election as a chance for better things for everyone, with 17 per cent saying that climate change – including intelligent energy policy – is the most important issue.

“I chose climate change because it affects everyone and the young ones who have no vote or voice and to whom we owe so much by way of leaving a better world. I think people need to look beyond their own wants and select policies that help the whole population, especially the children and the unborn future generations. Education is probably also high on my list as it helps more people and makes for a better world,” wrote YourLifeChoices member Paddington.

“We shouldn’t ask ‘Which party will look after you?’ We should ask ‘Which party will be best for our country?’ Good climate change policy will not only look after this generation, but the generations that follow,” wrote Jess M.

Many are saying this will be the climate change election. Labor’s climate change policy includes a reimplementation of the national energy guarantee dumped by the Coalition, emissions targets for heavy industry, vehicle emissions standards, carbon credits and bold electric vehicle goals. Labor also continues to support a 45 per cent emissions target by 2030, and a 50 per cent renewable energy target.

The Coalition will implement a 10-year Climate Solutions Fund to help improve the efficiency of commercial and public lighting, boost tree planting and collect gas from landfills. The party has committed $1.4 billion to Snowy Hydro 2.0 and is pushing ‘big stick’ measures to stop energy companies fleecing consumers. It may also look at ‘clean coal’ projects and, potentially, more coal-fired power stations. The Coalition is sticking to its 26 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030.

Healthcare and Medicare, including cover for cancer treatments and age-related conditions; spending on disease prevention measures and research, better access to medicines and diagnostics, universal dental care and more information about rights and entitlements were the third most important issues for older Australians, with 14 per cent of the vote.

While increasing the Age Pension has been rated a top priority in this election, healthcare is a key concern among older Australians, with 44 per cent of respondents to YourLifeChoices’ 2019 Insights Survey saying their retirement was most influenced by health concerns. In the 2018 Retirement Matters Survey, healthcare was rated as the second biggest drain on savings (after energy costs).

Labor’s franking credits policy could swing a few votes, too, with 14 per cent of respondents claiming it is an important issue. It also seems that many are still confused about who the policy will affect.

“Shorten’s retiree tax grab is unacceptable and he is a liar when he says it will only affect the wealthy. The wealthy won’t be affected, but it will destroy the low-income retiree,” wrote Mike.

Rounding out the top five most important issues was border security and migration policy, with eight per cent of the vote. And just outside the top five was another Age Pension issue – changes to the assets and income test (seven per cent).

When asked who our respondents typically prefer, 37 per cent said the Liberal Party, 29 per cent said Labor, six per cent said Independent and four per cent (each) the Greens and One Nation. Thirteen per cent were swinging voters.

When asked who they would vote for (so far), 31 per cent said the Liberal Party, 28 per cent said Labor, seven per cent said Independent, five per cent the Greens and four per cent One Nation. Sixteen per cent were unsure.

While older Australians may have rated Age Pension increases as the most important issue, many noted the need for a federal Independent Commission Again Corruption (ICAC) into political corruption. Hip pocket issues are always going to be a big election issue, and this year’s federal election looks no different. However, it seems that recent behaviour displayed by our politicians has rubbed retirees the wrong way.

“A federal ICAC should come first. We need to clean up the favours and special deals for mates before our pollies will start acting for the majority and putting this country first,” wrote YourLifeChoices member Dave R.

“My response to the question is honesty and decent behaviour. The Government fails abysmally on both as it has no morals and shows all the signs of (protected) criminal behaviour,” wrote Mick.

“There must be more transparency with politicians. They represent us,” wrote KB.

Older Australians seem tired of the current two-party system, with many retirees calling on others to fill out below-the-line preferences on the ballot.

Baby boomers and retirees may be fed up with the democratic process, but one thing is for sure – they are still passionate.

Do you agree that increasing the Age Pension is the most important issue? Should the next Government implement an ICAC to help restore faith in our politicians?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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