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No crisis despite fundamental change in Australian population.

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Media Release




Under embargo until 10.30am on Thursday, 18 March 1999


No Crisis Despite Fundamental Change in Australian Population


Crisis! What crisis? Australia is well positioned to handle the pressures of an ageing population despite commonly held perceptions that ageing will result in a crisis according to Professor Paul Johnson of the London School of Economics.


Professor Johnson is in Melbourne to deliver a keynote speech to a Melbourne conference organised by the Productivity Commission and Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research tomorrow (18 March 1999).


Professor Johnson says that public policy responses - such as the combination of a means tested safety net and its compulsory superannuation arrangements - mean that it is better positioned to cope with this significant change in demography than most European countries. But its policies are not perfect. Professor Johnson describes the tax structure within the Superannuation Guarantee as ‘bizarrely complex’. This complexity also creates a significant hurdle for consumers when choosing between different types of superannuation arrangements


Professor Johnson will also present data which shows that while relative income of pensioner households in Australia is low by international standards, these households appear to be asset rich when compared with households in other countries.


Professor Peter McDonald and Rebecca Kippen both of the Australian National University support Professor Johnson’s view that Australia faces a fundamental change in its demography. Their paper, which examines the social and demographic dimensions of ageing, concludes that older people will claim a greater part in the nation’s affairs and will reject the premature application to them of the ‘dependent’ label.


Professor McDonald and Ms Kippen argue that society’s concept of ageing will change and that active ageing and ‘aged liberation’ movements will be part of the demographic transition.


Professor Steve Dowrick of the Australian National University will also be delivering a keynote paper entitled Demographic change and Australian economic growth to 2020.


The conference will look in some detail at the possible public policy responses to the changes in Australia’s demography, including the balancing of public revenue and expenditure in the longrun, superannuation, provision of long term care and housing arrangements and other key factors.




Members of the media are invited to attend the first session of the conference (9am to 12 noon, 18 March 1999) which includes papers from keynote speakers.


Keynote speakers will be available for interview between 10am and 10.30 am or at other times by arrangement.


The conference is taking place at:

Carlton Rydges Hotel

Carlton Room

4th Floor

701 Swanston Street




Background Information: Will Hetherton 0392899555

Bev Knowles 0407 335 278


Proceedings of the conference will be published in due course.