No society should function with this level of inequality (with the possible exception of one of those prison planets in a “Star Wars” movie). Sixty-three percent of Americans can’t afford a $500 emergency. Yet Amazon head Jeff Bezos is now worth a record $141 billion. He could literally end world hunger for multiple years and still have more money left over than he could ever spend on himself.
Worldwide, one in 10 people only make $2 a day. Do you know how long it would take one of those people to make the same amount as Jeff Bezos has? 193 million years. (If they only buy single-ply toilet paper.) Put simply, you cannot comprehend the level of inequality in our current world or even just our nation.
So…shouldn’t there be riots in the streets every day? Shouldn’t it all be collapsing? Look outside. The streets aren’t on fire. No one is running naked and screaming (usually). Does it look like everyone’s going to work at gunpoint? No. We’re all choosing to continue on like this.
Well, it comes down to the myths we’ve been sold. Myths that are ingrained in our social programming from birth, deeply entrenched, like an impacted wisdom tooth. These myths are accepted and basically never questioned.
The stereotype of a dependent generation who won’t leave home ignores the many reasons adult family members choose to live together in the one house.
Take a walk down Memory Lane as we revisit the Greatest Ideas of American Conservativism, The Great Ideas of American Conservatives, the Greatest Hits of Conservativism. These are the precepts of conserving traditional values, institutions and hierarchies, the very same dynamic that strongly runs through conservatives of today.
My mum Betty is frail. She needs to use a walking frame to get from her bed to her bathroom, a few short metres away. She is 87 and now resides in an aged care facility in Croydon where she depends on the physical and practical support of myriad health care and nursing personnel. But she is not a net drain on the federal budget or the economy. At 87 she remains a strong contributor, one among many such older Australians.
It’s high time we reframed our perceptions and prejudices about our older citizens and recognised how very much they have given – and continue to give – to our society. Here are just three myth busters worth considering when you next hear a federal government minister tell you the “age of entitlement” is over and older Australians need to pay up.
Spending per capita on the aged
Australia is one of the meanest nations when it comes to older people. The HelpAge International Global AgeWatch Index ranks OECD statistics on spending on pensions as a percentage of GDP. Our report card in the 2014 index was mixed, except on income security where we performed particularly poorly.
The index reported that “Australia has the lowest ranking (61) in its region for the income security domain, and the highest old age poverty rate in the region (35.5 per cent). It also has below average pension income coverage (83per cent) and relative welfare rates (65per cent) compared to other countries in this region.” In fact, Australia spends an average of 3.5 per cent of its GDP on age-related spending against an OECD average of 7.8 per cent, as reported by think tank Per Capita.
Challenging the dependency ratio
Dr Katharine Betts, from the Swinburne University of Technology, has analysed the population spike related to baby boomers and the related fluctuating dependency ratio in her paper “The ageing of the Australian population: triumph or disaster”. She concludes that fears that a reduction in the proportion of tax-paying workers will be unable to support a growing proportion of age pensioners are unfounded: even with no further growth in labour force participation rates, the dependency ratio is expected to decline from a current 53.6 per cent to about 44-46 per cent by 2061 – still higher than the mid-1960s of 42 per cent. “By today’s standards, the economy [then] was prosperous. Few jobs in developed countries now require muscle power and more people are completing the higher levels of education needed for white-collar and knowledge-based work,” she says.
“Moreover, the health and cognitive abilities of older people are better today than they were among older people in the past. All of these changes mean that a shortage of tax-paying workers does not have to cloud our future.”
The ruler we use
The way we measure GDP and the value added by older Australians is flawed. We see the “take” in the form of welfare, but rarely the give in the form of unpaid work, volunteering, child-minding and intergenerational transfers of wealth.
Dr Kathleen Brasher, from Council on the Ageing Victoria, tried to put some numbers on these flows of capital at a national COTA forum on ageing last July. She values the volunteering efforts of older Australians at $74 billion per annum, and the intergenerational transfer of wealth at $53 billion.
Furthermore, in 2011 49 per cent of children aged 12 or below who were receiving childcare (including after school care) were looked after by grandparents (Australian Bureau of Statistics).
This leads us to a basic flaw in the May budget. It refuses to acknowledge the inputs of senior Australians, while berating them for becoming “leaners” rather than “lifters”. The government has continued to reel from the shock that its socially inequitable budget was roundly rejected by ordinary Australians. So the heaviest of guns – Scott Morrison – is being positioned to tame this recalcitrant populace and force through changes to welfare that will see young people on Newstart go without basic support for up to six months, a re-indexation of the age pension, which will result in $80 less per week within 10 years, according to the Australian Council of Social Services, and an increase in the official retirement age from 67 to 70, whether there is work available or not.
The only hitch to Morrison’s agenda, of course, is an increasingly unpredictable Senate crossbench.
So, back to Betty, and why I refuse to call her a drain on the public purse. Just like your mum, dad or elderly aunt, Betty first went to work in 1941. She was 14 and her dad William, a chronic asthmatic whose heart gave out, had just dropped dead in front of her. He had served as an airman in World War I, but there was no disability pension for William, and he was left to eke out a subsistence on a tiny plot in north Croydon, trying to support his wife and young daughter as his health failed.
The death of her dad meant that Mum was forced to find work as a typist in the city, involving a lengthy daily commute by horse then train. She worked at various jobs, barring a short break to have two children, until she was 60. By then, due to consistent saving and a very frugal lifestyle, she and Dad were largely self-funded in retirement.
Along the way they contributed to the university education of four grandchildren, untold hours of child-minding and similarly extensive community volunteering until their late 70s. Today it is her own savings upon which she has drawn to fund the bond and daily care fees in her new home.
So don’t let the government’s rhetoric cloud your judgment or stoke an intergenerational war that is both false and unnecessary.
Betty is just one of hundreds of thousands of older Australians who continue to pay their own way and contribute far more than they have ever received in social service payments. For 40 or 50 years they paid taxes, which built the kindergartens, schools, universities, roads and airports that subsequent generations have enjoyed. Upon retirement they gave back with countless hours of volunteer work, within the family and community, and intergenerational transfers of wealth which our GDP simply doesn’t measure.
It is high time we took stock and recognised their contribution. And spoke up to protect the meagre pension entitlements they so richly deserve.
Kaye Fallick is the publisher of http://www.yourlifechoices.com.au.
Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company loses $50,000 Emirates deal after bowing to pressure to drop Halal certification
An aggressive social media campaign pushing for a boycott on Halal products has forced a South Australian company to drop the accreditation and ditch a deal that was worth $50,000 a year.
The Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company came under fire last week on its social media page with people suggesting the fee it paid to become Halal-certified was being used to fund terrorism.
Sales and marketing manager Nick Hutchinson said because of the campaign and a wish to avoid negative publicity the company decided to end its yoghurt supply deal with Emirates on Friday.
“The publicity we were getting was quite negative and something we probably didn’t need and we decided we would pull the pin and stop supplying Emirates Airlines,” Mr Hutchison said.
“Ninety per cent of it has been social media, but I have received calls from people that are quite unhappy, I guess, about our decisions and so forth, and [we have also received] a lot of emails.”
While many of these complaints came from interstate, and overseas, Mr Hutchinson said the company was worried the negativity would affect local customers.
“When our small customer base in South Australia are reading this and starting to question us we thought, yeah maybe the negatives outweigh the positive,” he said.
Our farmers, they are just trying to be viable. They don’t deserve this hate mail, and neither do a lot of the other businesses that are getting it.Nick Hutchinson, Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company
The company began about eight years ago, and about two years ago was presented with the opportunity to begin supplying Emirates with yoghurt.
But in order to secure the contract the company had to pay a $1,000 fee to become Halal certified.
“We thought this was a great coup for the company, it would bring great publicity, great advertising and we decided to go ahead with it,” Mr Hutchinson said.
“It’s been quite successful for the company, but unfortunately over the last few days, a lot of negative publicity has come in about this Halal certification and where this money, where we are paying fees is being spent.”
Mr Hutchinson found the criticism quite harsh and said local businesses did not deserve to be bullied by these social media compaigns.
“The social media laws are quite hard to police,” he said.
“You can get on there and say whatever you like in fake accounts, but what we are trying to put across is these business that you are approaching, in our case, our farmers, they are just trying to be viable.
“They don’t deserve this hate mail, and neither do a lot of the other businesses that are getting it.”
Losing Emirates deal will have financial impacts
Losing the Emirates deal will impact on the business financially and Mr Hutchinson said some employees may lose some hours.
However he hoped the company could save its deal with Emirates, as its products do not contain gelatine.
I’ve received a lot of feedback to say they’re disappointed we’ve caved in to this kind of thing. We understand that, people are going to have their own opinion I guess, unless you’re in the shoes we were in.Nick Hutchinson, Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company
“Milk as a dairy product does not have to be Halal certified by law, and neither does yoghurt, which we were supplying, unless it contains gelatine,” he said.
“Now our yoghurt doesn’t contain gelatine so we can definitely argue the fact that it doesn’t need to be certified for Emirates [but] they play it safe. Anything that goes on their planes needs to be certified, so if they’re asked, they can automatically answer ‘yes’.
“What we are going to try and do is get our products tested, get some certificates that prove that our products don’t contain gelatine and try to continue to supply Emirates, if they’ll give us permission without the certification, but I mean that is unlikely.”
Now that the company has announced it will drop its Halal accreditation, Mr Hutchinson said he had received feedback from people who were disappointed the company had “caved in” to social media bullying.
“I’ve received a lot of feedback to say they’re disappointed we’ve caved in to this kind of thing,” he said.
“We understand that, people are going to have their own opinion I guess, unless you’re in the shoes we were in.”
Attacks fall under ‘Islamophobia’
The Islamic Society of South Australia, which provides companies with Halal certification, say the attacks against Halal products fall under the banner of “Islamophobia”.
The society’s Dr Waleed Alkhazrajy believed more explanation of Halal would ease the negativity.
“We are happy as well to help these companies engage in discussion or explanation for these members of the community that send these negative remarks and we say ‘look this is what it is, this what the process is’ and I’m sure that will alleviate their concerns or misunderstanding,” Dr Alkhazrajy said.
Dr Alkhazrajy said he did not think the attacks would take hold, and had not seen many companies drop their accreditation because of the anti-Halal campaigns.
“In fact, to a certain extent there is a boom because of the export of Australian products to south-east Asia, especially to Indonesia and Malaysia,” Dr Alkhazrajy said.
“Malaysia is taking a lot of food products from Australia and the companies that are exporting to these regions, they have increased their request for certifying their products.
“I don’t think there has been an increase in negative sentiments to these companies.”
Halal, in reference to food, is the dietary standard set out for Muslims in the Koran.
It governs food preparation techniques, as well the foods and ingredients that can be consumed under Islamic rules.
The ALP, the Liberals, and the Greens – all trying to rewrite history in their own ink, for their own gain. Nick’s three-part series will set the record straight.
Myth # 1 – “The Whitlam Government was a shining example of progressive politics. Just like The Greens”.
This is a disgusting cheap shot and the biggest insult of all. Gough Whitlam’s entire political life was dedicated to the ALP. Never once did the man work for another party, never once did he renounce his faith, and never once did he align himself with the ridiculous noise that passes for “policy” on the far-left.
Within days of Gough’s passing, The Greens had the shameless audacity to post an image of the man with the caption “Vale Gough Whitlam” adjacent to their logo. They have since justified this mockery by blurring the memory of Gough’s ideas, picking and choosing a handful of their own, then dressing up them both up to make them seem like two peas in a pod. Nothing could be further from the truth.
For a start, Gough had no time for the pitiful ordeal of “protest politics”. Yelling slogans on a sunny afternoon, throwing a spanner into the works of anything and everything for the sake of it, then patting yourself on the back was never his style. Gough understood power was only useful by those who held it – which is how and why brought Labor back into power. The Greens have always been no more than a noisy fringe group, and so shall they remain forevermore.
Secondly, the Whitlam government had detailed, costed policies. Some worked, some didn’t. Regardless, these policies were based on extensive, evidence-based research, consultation with business, unions, academics, policy experts, community leaders, and the heads of government departments. While you can’t please everyone, Gough wanted to involve as much of the country as possible. Labor and Liberal have both used this approach – so much of their success or failure hinges on how well they pull this off. The Greens have never done this, nor will they ever. While the country gathers inside the political tent to sort out its problems, they stand outside pissing in.
Greenies have since offered the timid excuse that “the modern ALP bears no resemblance to the ALP Gough ran”, as though this somehow makes Gough a Greenie by default. This is a desperate attempt to climb back out of the gutter. The entire nation bears little resemblance the Australia of the 1970s. The entire world, in fact. The political landscape has been completely transformed, as both major parties have lurched to the right and the old socialist-capitalist warfare has faded. A new era of free market economics reigns supreme.
To claim Whitlam as a Green simply because the times suit them would be as pathetic and low as the ALP claiming Menzies as one of their own. Our longest serving PM and a blue-blooded Liberal, he ran targeted deficits when needed, expanded access to tertiary education, boosted immigration, funded the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme to deliver clean energy to the country, launched ABC television, pushed for aboriginal voting rights, boosted foreign aid, and built close ties with Singapore and Malaysia. The ALP could argue that this makes the bloke Labor through and through.
But they’ve got their own heroes – Keating, Curtin, Chifley, Hawke, and of course, Whitlam. The Liberals have the likes of Menzies and Howard. Even the bogans in Queensland who vote One Nation or The Nationals had Pauline Hanson and Joh Bjelke-Petersen. The Greens? Not one noteworthy, charismatic, or influential character. The closest they’ve come is Bob Brown – who was accurately described by one of Keating’s speechwriters as a bloke who looks, acts, and preaches like a Mormon on a bicycle missing his other half. Neither he nor his party have ever come close to legend status.
The Greens are spineless and desperate – Gough lived and died as a man of the Australian Labor Party.