House debates

Tuesday, 24 June 2014


Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 1) Bill 2014, Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 2) Bill 2014; Second Reading

6:32 pm

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

Just bear with me. I want to lead into this. In my electorate, life expectancy is 4.7 years less than in many city electorates. We need to have a little look at how we can address that. In addressing that by raising the pension age misses the point. Life expectancy has gone up in the country, but it has largely gone up amongst white-collar workers, not blue-collar workers. Health expectancy in the country has gone up, but it has not gone up for blue-collar workers. This is an issue that has been looked at right across the world. The French have looked at it extensively as they looked at how to address the issues of an ageing population. The Germans have looked at it. If you look across the world, the retirement age in New Zealand is 65, in the United Kingdom it is 65, in the United States it is going to 67, in Australia it is going to 67, and in Germany it is 65. We will be endeavouring to go to 70, which will be the oldest retirement age in the world, and I do not think that is a good move.

The German study has told us that the mortality of manual workers is substantially higher than the mortality of salaried workers. One in three people do not make it to 65. It would be remiss of me not to defend the people I have worked with in shearing sheds and in manual works right across the country. I know the physical toll that work takes on people. I think we need to be smarter in how we look at issues to do with retirement benefits into the future.

Those who have got superannuation will retire at a time of their choosing, but the life expectancy of the poor has not increased and the poor cannot retire at a time of their choosing. The challenge we have got is how do we fund an ageing population. Some of the measures we are addressing will have been addressed by the time we get to 2035 and 2037. The population bubble will have moved through by 2037, which is two years after the retirement age of 70 will been reached in this legislation. We are building nursing homes for that ageing population bubble that is moving through, but by the time we get to 2037 we will have excess beds and have already laid out the taxpayer revenue. So I think there is merit in rethinking how we address people in their senior years and looking after those who cannot work and who do not have large savings in superannuation. Moving the retirement age to 70 is not a structural reform that I believe we should make as a country.

There are some who say to me that the retirement pension was first introduced at 65 in 1920 when life expectancy was 63 and, therefore, many people would die before they got to the retirement age. I do not hold the view that that is something the Australian people aspire to have reintroduced as a policy. I hold the firm view that people believe that Australians work hard and that those whose bodies have given up and who do not have retirement savings should be able to access the pension at 67 and not 70.

There is a discussion that life expectancy is so much longer, but life expectancy is not as long as we think it is. We all think we are going to go on forever. I was at an investment seminar one time and it was a reality check when the guy at the front said: 'One in three people in this room will not make it to 65 anyway, so if you know you are that one in the three then do not worry about saving, just have a good time.' The truth is we all think we are going to go forever.

Life expectancy has increased only because child mortality has increased. We have not seen huge significant gains in the number of years that we live to. We have not seen huge significant gains in our health expectancy as well. This is something that needs to be redressed as we think through a good policy. We do need to look at health and life expectancy in our regions. It needs to be said that some of our regions are not well serviced by ambulances. Anyone who has had a sick relative would know that retrieving people who are having a heart attack or a stroke in under an hour is a very significant contributing factor to the survival rate when people have those sicknesses.

I will not talk for the full 15 minutes because I think I have made my point clear. We have to make very tough structural reform. I do not back away from that, but I do think it is a mistake for us as a government to go to 70 years of age. I think 67 years is adequate. I do stand by and defend all of the manual workers in my electorate—and I have been one. I am very aware that Australians work harder than most across the world. I do not see why we have to have the oldest retirement age in the world. For those who think that we have significantly increased the retirement age, I am going to read a little line written 3,286 years ago by a guy called Moses. He said:

The days of our lives are seventy years;

And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,

Yet their boast is only labour and sorrow;

For it is soon cut off, and we fly away

So 3,000 years ago life expectancy was 70 or at best 80. Have we really improved things that much? Do we really as a country want to make the retirement age 70? I do not think that is something we should be doing in this budget.


No comments