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Federal Young Liberal Convention, Gold Coast International Hotel, Friday 7 January 2000: speech.

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Media Release

Bronwyn Bishop, MP

Minister for Aged Care

Member for Mackellar



Speech by the Hon Bronwyn Bishop MP

Minister for Aged Care


Federal Young Liberal Convention

Gold Coast International Hotel

Gold Coast


Friday 7 January 2000



It is good to be back for your conference and to have the opportunity to speak to you at lunch today.


I understand that you have had, as usual, a good and vigorous agenda with, shall we say fiery debates and that you are prepared to look at all different issues that come before you and that’s the way it always should be. I began in Killara Young Liberals when I first went I went to Sydney University Law School and I had already decided by that stage that I wanted to be a Member of Parliament. I thought that law was a good training ground, simply because if I was going to be involved in making the laws of the land I thought it was a good idea to understand them.


I still think that law is good training, however that does not mean to say that we want Parliament peopled with lawyers, it simply teaches you to think well. Contrary to public perception we don’t in fact have a Parliament peopled with lawyers, I think we possibly have more farmers than we have lawyers. We have a good member in Alby Schultz who is an ex-trade unionist and a former abattoir worker; we are a varied lot with a lot of experience. Alby brings that tremendously different way of looking at things, and I think it is important to see a Parliamentary Party that actually is in touch.


Having said that I began as a Young Liberal I wanted to do something else at that time. I always thought it was important to be involved in the mainstream party, so once I was about eighteen I became the assistant secretary of the Federal Conference and no less illustrious person than Sir Emmet McDermott as he went on to become the Senior Secretary of that Conference. I believed it was important that I should be there able to have a voice along with the mainstream part of the party and to voice the things that we were talking about in the Young Liberal forum. I remember one occasion when I rose and I said that Young Liberals must be regarded as more than letterbox stuffers.

At that stage there was a belief that when there was a letterbox drop to be done, that we could do the letterbox drop, but maybe we did not want to hear about something else. It is always important to ensure that you have an avenue where that voice can be heard.


I thought today I would address the fundamental difference between what we are about and what the Lab or party is about. What we want to achieve for our country and what the Labor party fails to see into this new millennium and I don’t care if you think it is this year or next year, you can have two parties as far as I am concerned. There certainly is a prospective in the electorate that there is something special about entering this period of time.


Federally under John Howard what we are doing is going forward with a plan, hope and positiveness and I think what we see from the Labor Party has been best expressed in the past forty-eight hours by Bob Carr, miserable, and depressed. Giving a prediction for the future, which is not only miserable, but is also inaccurate. I guess that’s not a bad way of describing the Labor Party as a whole at the present time, miserable and inaccurate.


If you look at what is going to become one of the most important aspects of planning in this country for the next fifty years, it is something that happens to fall under my responsibilities. That is the fact that we have become an ageing nation along with the rest of the OECD. What Bob Carr seems to have confused is the concept of an ageing nation and the concept of over population, in fact an ageing nation and an ageing world population really means that you have declining numbers.


The United Nations figures show that the prediction for world population has had to be revised downwards by around 2%. The fact of the matter is there is a real likely hood by the time we reach the year 2050 we will have 2% less people on the planet than we did in 1998. Those things are fascinating when you look at what that means to a country like ours and what that means to other countries in the OECD, which have aged more quickly than we have.


In our case we have at the present time 12% of our population who are over the age of 65, they also control 12.3% of the disposable income, and they own 22% of the nations assets. This figure is going to increase as we move towards the year 2020. We are g oing to see a growing percentage of the population over that age who have more control of disposable income and own a significantly greater share of the nation’s worth and we have to interpret what that means. At the moment in many ways we are still suffering from old perceived truths, there was a perceived truth that there was a need for older people in firms to retire to make room for younger people who needed an opportunity. The fact of the matter is that the younger people are not going to be there and there is not a thing that can be done about it, it is too late, we are the product of what has already occurred. When Jeff Kennett talks about the need to go out and procreate quickly and have a few more, you completely miss the point. The fact is that even if that did happen it would make a difference of about 1%.


There are business people who are very successful and important business people who write that we need greater population, we need greater population they say from Immigration. If we increased our immigration dramatically it would make a difference according to the OECD of less than 1%. This is for a few reasons; firstly our immigration now reflects the shape of the rest of society when we bring someone in. We have family reunion; we have a whole program that goes with it and really does not escalate the number of people in the way that perhaps earlier immigration programs immediately after World War II did. Also the countries from which we have traditionally taken migrants are now themselves declining in population, if you look at Italy it now has a birth rate of 1.1 per female, so they’re not replacing themselves, much greater extent than us we are at 1.7 per female. Japan which is the fastest ageing country in the world in fact will lose approximately 10 million people from their population, so at every turn it means that there is going to be change in the way the economy behaves.


We have got to have a plan for how we are going to maintain our workforce to ensure that we continue to have growth to underpin the sorts of programs, which we believe are necessary in the social area. So that we can afford to provide all of those people, who are going to retire with pensions and good health service. It basically comes down to the need to keep people in the workforce longer and these numbers that I am about to give you now demonstrate that more than anything else.


At the moment we have in excess of around 170,000 new entrants into the workforce each year, that has been for the four years we have been in office we have created in excess of 500,000 jobs. When we reach the year 2020 there will only be 125,000 new entrants for the entire decade of 2020. We are clearly going to have to ensure that we maintain a workforce that grows and can service the demands, which the ageing population is going to want. Bear in mind that the people who are presently regarded as older in our society have basically been through two world wars and the depression.


The baby boomers which began in 1941, peaked in 1947 and finished in 1965, from which I have to say that I am a part and have all the characteristics that I am going to describe - we have had a very good run, everything was done for us. We had a generation of parents who wanted everything to be the best for us, we have come to expect it as being our right and the sorts of things that were accepted by the last generation are not going to be accepted by this new generation. The peaks of the baby boomers turn 55 next year and the fastest disappearing demographic out of our workforce are men 55 to 59. When you start to look at the graphs that demonstrate male participation and male achievement going back now to the younger end of the scale they are continuing to slip behind. Women in the 55 to 59 periods are still increasing into the workforce and indeed in the 60 to 64 they are still increasing into the workforce, where as men post 55 are declining. In some very interesting research that has been done, but not yet released I have seen Research that shows there is less willingness on behalf of men to engage in re-training than there is in women, we need to turn this around.


In the small business sector and professions you will find a tendency to work longer, but among the larger employers of public companies there is an attitude you have reached your deadline you must go. When we look at the age of those who sit on the board s of those companies you will see that they have a good regard for age, wisdom and experience, which they have got to be persuaded is necessary for their workforce.


As the United States and the United Kingdom have aged more quickly than we have there is some very interesting work there. In the UK for instance they have realised that the demands of the consumer are changing. A very large hardware chain in the UK decided to conduct a survey, it found that the age of it’s customers were increasing and they then staffed an entire store with people over the age of fifty, not only did their productivity go up, but their bottom line grew dramatically. The reason for that was they suddenly had a match between the people who were selling the product and the people who wanted to buy. In the United States we are seeing whole McDonalds outlets which are staffed by mature aged workers, because they are reaching a different target audience.


Peter Drucker, who is still the world’s most eminent writer on management, in his book on management in the twenty-first century makes the point that it is people who are thinking of these things and plan for them now who will have the competitive edge. He also writes of the baby boomers, that they are in fact the first cohort of human beings ever who after thirty or forty years of work, are not physically worn out and that the jobs of the twenty first century are going to be knowledge based jobs. They are going to be jobs that will need continual re-training and the concept of learning for life that David Kemp talks about often is a concept that will be essential for maintaining growth and the sort of standard of living that we understand.


Our response and the responsibility given to me by John Howard is to prepare a national strategy for an ageing Australia, which is a whole of government response. I have a ministerial group, which I chair of other ministers and we already have released in the market place a number of papers for comment generally.


We will now move into this post International Year of the Older Person into this phase of really working this strategy through. I have already had my preliminary research done by Access Economics, because I knew if I was going to convince the CEO’s of large public companies that I had to have good research for their bottom line and I have. I have not yet released that material but I will be doing so early in this New Year. It is an important debate that is going to shape the way we are competitive in our world trading system, again if you look at what has happened to us and we know the reality and the prices of commodities are at the bottom of the trading spectrum. You can see that to get the best value for our work effort we need to be trading in knowledge based products.


The Labor Party is epitomised by Bob Carr’s speech or writing this article in the last forty-eight hours, that we will all be doomed. He says that we are going to be over populated, can I say we are not. Even in the under developed countries of Africa there is a decrease in the population which appallingly is largely due to AIDS, but in the developed world it is simply because the birth rate has dropped so dramatically and is continuing to drop. That is the realty of it and it is no good saying I wish, perhaps or can we for the next fifty years it is a matter of fact that this is going to occur. This is very relevant in the discussions and things that you are going to be looking at, because of the planning that you make for your own jobs. Looking at the sort of work you might be involved in, the number of times you’re thinking of changing jobs and your ability to continue to re-train.


One of the myths that must be dispelled is that it is not worth re-training people post 45. Let me tell you in this ministry of mine of Aged Care if I am planning for residential aged care facilities, I look at the figure of 70 years and over to plan. If I am looking at the great impact of dementia I am looking people over 80, if I am looking at retirement age presently, which we are moving from I am looking at 65 for men and 61 for women. If I look at mature age workers I look at 45 years and over, but I like to say now that Sir Sean Connery is my idea of middle age.


It is something that is always changing, it is a dynamic, to think that we can plan to have careers that might be something that when you were perhaps entering primary school and starting to form aspirations. The world is moving at such a pace that re-tra ining is going to be a way of the future. The fact that we will be keeping people in the workforce for a longer time utilising experience and wisdom that comes with age is going to be important. Our positive approach to what is happening to our nation is one of celebration; the fact of the matter is that we are all going live longer, healthier lives. We will be fit, able and of working ability for a lot longer, the older definition of what is the working age being defined from 16-64 is going to have to go, at least 70 we are going to have to look at staying in the workforce. You can now look at the people who are now called generation X if you like living way past 100 and having quality of life over 100. If you talk with interesting people who are working in the field in gerontology and not enough research, in my view has been put into areas such as dementia at this stage. It is one of those areas which is starting to hit people at a younger age, but is certainly a major problem for dealing with people who are otherwise fit and able and who can live long lives in a demented state.


In coming to talk to you today as your Federal Patron, can I say I value the position. I do value the opportunity to talk with you and I do value the contact you keep up with me, because it is for a whole nation where there is no discrimination between generations which is the main thrust of the International Year of Older Persons message. I am delighted to tell you that the research I received back the other day shows me that the generations advertisement, with the people in the forest, with the message “not old, just older” had a 64% penetration rate. It also showed 64% of all people surveyed could recall seeing it, more than that they could tell you what the message of the ad was. The community services ad, which was the truck stuck under the bridge with the older people letting down the tyre’s to let the truck out, had a 51% recognition rate and again they could tell you what the message was about. I think we got good value for our dollar with those commercials, which will continue to screen into this year.


If we are to see a nation that is really going to prosper it is because it is prepared to be investing in knowledge, investing in re-training, investing and maximising the opportunities for all our people. This is something that only a party from a philosophical background can do.

That is that every single solitary individual matters, the philosophy of individualism and free enterprise. The principles of free enterprise let the talent of the individual be maximised for their own benefit and also for the benefit of the nation. It is not selfish, it’s not I must get ahead — ‘and to hell’. Its knowing you are getting ahead yourself, have a responsibility, that every individual gets that same opportunity.


As you go into debate and as you go into thinking about the future and where we are going, remember that it is our philosophy and our determination that will give us the plan on how to deal with our changing society for good outcomes for all. Rather than the collectivists philosophy of the Labor Party where they want to control every activity of the individual, rather than let the free spirit of the individual succeed and that will always be prominent. You could almost say in this new millennium, that the difference between us and them is that we are positive with hope and a plan, they are negative, depressed with nowhere to go and lets make sure it stays that way.



al  2000-01-12  13:47