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Monday, 21 March 2011
Page: 2382


Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (11:27 PM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member may proceed and I will call for a seconder after her speech.


Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP —Thank you very much. In seeking a second reading for this bill and a vote upon it, I do so based on the reasons that I set out in my speech on the first reading when I made the case very strongly for why 70 years should be abolished as the age limit after which the compulsory superannuation guarantee charge is not payable.

This is a very discriminatory piece of legislation. It sends out messages to people remaining in the paid workforce over the age of 70 that somehow their work is not valued as much as that of those who are under the age of 70. When the superannuation guarantee charge was first introduced, that was on the basis that it represented part of an individual’s salary and that that money was to be regarded as part of their salary. Therefore the discrimination that is put in place by this bill means that that part of their salary is not being paid.

We made this commitment before the last election and, in bringing this bill in we were honouring that commitment. But I am very concerned once again at the attitude that the Labor Party has towards older Australians, whether they are working, pensioners, those seeking to participate in the workforce or simply strong volunteers.

We had an insight into the attitude of the Prime Minister as to what she thinks of older Australians when, courtesy of a cabinet leak, we heard that the Prime Minister had said, ‘Why would we bother with a pension rise because they don’t vote for us anyway.’ The Prime Minister’s hatred for older people is already well established and in not supporting this bill we will see arguments coming forth that will try and knock it out on a technicality—anything to prevent older Australians receiving a message and a signal that their participation is both valued and valuable.

It is interesting when looking at the statistics to see that mature age Australians are remaining in the workforce for longer and longer periods. The Labor Party has decreed that the pensionable age will be raised to 67, but the OECD has commented that reforms to pension and early retirement systems alone are insufficient to encourage increased participation by individuals in older age groups. It says that tackling age discrimination and negative attitudes towards older workers and job seekers, improving working conditions and flexibility and improving the skills of mature age workers have been suggested as complements to reforms to pensions and early retirement systems. In other words, it is the attitude of the government of the day in seeking a change in attitudes in employers that becomes the defining feature of good policy.

We said prior to the election that we would introduce a system where employers would be paid $3,250 in order to encourage them to employ and keep mature age Australians on for six months—or a proportion of that payment for a lesser time—sending a signal that the mature age worker is a valued part of our working population. All we hear from the government are groans about the ageing of the population—they are responsible for a burden on younger people, they are responsible for increasing the cost of health costs and they are responsible for a deterioration in opportunities in so many areas. Every time the question of mature age workers or pensioners is mentioned there is a groan that comes from the Prime Minister in particular and the Treasurer as well.

What we want to see is recognition in policy that we want a high participation rate of mature age workers and of younger workers in the 16- to 19-year age group. We saw technical arguments put up against the splendid Social Security Amendment (Income Support for Regional Students) Bill 2010 [2011] brought in by the coalition earlier to assist young people to get justice. No doubt we are going to hear similar sorts of arguments trotted out with regard to this bill. I might flag that I will consider amendments to counter these at the consideration-in-detail stage. I would put to the House that this is a very important signal to be sending out to mature age workers, beginning at age 45, that we want to see them remain in the workforce and that we want to see an upgrading of their basic skills so that they can continue to make that contribution.

In my first reading speech I outlined the experiment that had been conducted by BMW in Germany in listening to their workforce in an attempt to retain their mature age workers. By listening to what they had to say and putting policies in place, they saw maintenance of that older workforce and a growth in productivity. There are lessons that can be learned. If the government is willing to get rid of its prejudice and its discrimination against older people in our community, we would start to see a truly inclusive society. We see here lots of phrases bandied around using the word ‘inclusive’ but there is no intention behind the words to actually see it occur.

When we look at the numbers of people who are staying in the workforce—and I will look at the figures for those people who are over 70—we have seen a dramatic increase and yet these people are being denied their compulsory superannuation guarantee charge being paid to them. If the government is fair dinkum about being interested in seeing an ending of discrimination and a truly inclusive workforce and society, it will start to agree with the coalition when we say that it has to be as offensive to act in an ageist manner as it does in a sexist manner or in a racist manner. Only by doing those things will we see real inclusiveness in our society and every individual truly being able to make a contribution in the way they wish to.

The government has said that it will increase the pensionable age to 67 over time but it will not go to the extent of saying that it values older people and their contribution within our society. This bill is a start. This bill removes that discrimination that is enshrined in legislation and sends a signal to senior Australians that we value the contribution they make at all levels. The OECD says that simply raising the pensionable age does not bring about a greater participation in the workforce—there has to be a change in culture. It is by signals such as this bill sends that we begin that cultural attitudinal change.

There are many other ways it can be done as well and the coalition, which has created the portfolio of shadow minister for seniors, shows that it is fair dinkum about addressing these problems. The government has no minister for seniors. The government tends always to talk about senior Australians in terms of the pejorative. It talks about them as being a burden, a problem, whereas in fact the fact that we are living longer and healthier lives not only is a cause of great celebration and joy but also flows into the economic world. If we are using all of the talents of all of our people, of those people who wish to retrain and remain in the workforce and continue to contribute in that way, we will see a benefit in the growth of individual incomes in this country of ours.

I cited a report done by Access Economics back in 2001 that predicted that incomes would grow if we started to utilise mature age workers and maintain their activity in the paid workforce. I would simply say to the Independents, to the government, to all those people in this chamber that if they are fair dinkum about seeing discrimination removed from legislation, if they are fair dinkum about sending messages to senior Australians about how we value them, if they are fair dinkum about having a truly inclusive society, then there will be nothing but support for this bill and not a citation of the attempted technical hitches or other extraneous arguments that they may try to dredge up to prevent this legislation from having a successful second reading.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Murphy)—Is the motion seconded?