Valuing Older Australians

1 July, 2024

I have the greatest respect for the member for Bean—and he knows that—as I have respect for every member of parliament in this place. However, the member for Bean has completely missed the point. This motion is not about the government's response to aged care. This motion is about older people, their place in Australia, respect for older people, living life to its full as an older person and older people being given the opportunity to participate actively within the confines of the nation. As the motion points out, the number of Australians over 50 is going to increase exponentially over the next 10 to 15 years. I happen to be one of that group.

I was asked on radio this morning, Deputy Speaker McKenzie—and you're not going to like what I'm about to say—'Do you think the Liberal Party are ageist?' and I had to answer, 'Yes, they are.' But I should have said—and I didn't get a chance—that it is because they reflect the rest of the Australian community. The Australian community say to people like me: 'We're old and we're retired, so why aren't you old and retired?' Because I don't feel old and I don't feel like retiring. Why? It was never about my performance. As one elder and former leader of the party said, 'He's too old and he's been there too long.' There was no question about performance. Then I was asked about President Biden's age, and I said: 'It's nothing to do with President Biden's age. It's about his competence.' It's nothing to do with his age. There are plenty of people of that age who are still working on their farms, still working as doctors and specialists in their field. It's only Catholic priests now who are told that they've got to retire at 75. It used to be 70, but they ran out of priests.

I say to you, Deputy Speaker, that this motion by the member for Mayo gives an opportunity for Australia to grow up and recognise that older Australians have a place in the future—not looking to the past the whole time but a place in the future. The member for Mayo calls for a minister for older Australians. Wouldn't that be a turn-up—that we actually recognise that this major bulk group in the community deserves some attention, rather than saying, as the member for Bean said, that it's all about aged care and how we're going to look after them? No. They are looking after themselves quite well, thank you very much—overall. I know there are people doing it hard. There always will be, and we do our best to accommodate them. But, overall, older Australians have done well. They've worked hard. They've put a nest egg together. They have good superannuation. They have opportunities for pensions if they need them. And if they've paid off their house and they're not paying rent—I had one pensioner saying: 'What are you on about? Myself and my husband are doing quite well on the pension.' But they own their house, and they probably have a conservative lifestyle. I remember the mum of one of my friends saying, 'What are these people on about?'—she had been on her own for years—'I save money on the pension.'

I suppose it just depends on your lifestyle, how you operate and how you go. But this should be an exciting time for people, when they turn 50. One of our great popstars said this morning, 'I'm turning 40, and I'm excited to launch myself into the next stage of my life.' I'm saying that people turning 70 should be launching themselves into the next stage of their life, in an exciting way, in a futuristic way, in a way that says, 'I want to be part of this great nation, this great south land, this amazing place, and I want to take leadership roles and I want to be recognised for the experience and the ability that I have and the wisdom that I have learnt over many, many years, which will keep younger people out of the trouble that they would have headed for if they had kept going down the track they were on.'

This motion is a good motion, which recognises people in Australia over 50, over 60, over 70, sometimes over 80 and over 90. In fact, my aunty, who lives in your electorate Deputy Speaker McKenzie, died within two weeks of her 102nd birthday, and at age 95 she went on a six-week fishing and camping trip with her son. Not bad. Good on you, Aunty Glad.

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Russell Broadbent MP
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