20 February 2015
Speech - #2015002, 2015

Opening remarks at the launch of the National Seniors Age Management Toolkit

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[Inaudible] And to you Susan Ryan, it’s great to be in your presence again after many years as good friends. To all of you, well welcome to the best toyshop in town and that’s what it is. I’ve never worn a suit at a Bunnings, I must say. So, this is a remarkable Bunnings. It’s two storeys and if I can put in a free plug, on Saturdays you can get – the kids get to have some face painting whilst dads go around and go hell for leather with their credit cards. So, it is a great venue and I very much appreciate it being in my electorate. To all of you, this is a very special day. Firstly, to National Seniors, can I thank you for the outstanding toolkit that you have prepared for employers and it is a very comprehensive document; it is only part of the story.

Of course, in last year’s Budget, I announced that the Federal Government was going to give employers $10,000 if they employ someone over the age of 50 who’s been on a DSP and we will provide that incentive to try and re-energize employers to look again at this crucial market of over 50s. It only just dawned on me as I was sitting there that I’m going to become eligible to join National Seniors on the 3rd of August this year when I turn 50 – the 2nd I turn 50, so I suppose I could do it on that day.

It is a great story about Australia – it’s a great story about many parts of the world that we are living longer. You shouldn’t fear longevity, you should embrace it and what we’ve got to do, and the Government in partnership with the community, what we need to do is to change the dialogue around longevity – to change the dialogue. When we release the Intergenerational Report in the next few weeks, it will represent a compact between the generations. For the first time, multiple generations will be able to look deep into the future, identify some of the demographic challenges and also some of the demographic changes, and importantly, identify policies that we can all embrace to maintain the quality of life that we expect as Australians.

We are truly blessed – truly blessed, to have one of the best lifestyles in the world and that has not come about through good fortune, it has come about because of the hard work of the many people who have come before us over a long period of time. So, we owe it to future generations to ensure that they have the same quality of life, if not a better quality of life than that which we have today.

It’s not inconceivable – it’s not inconceivable that a child somewhere in the world today is being born that may live to 150. Whatever the case might be, we owe it to future generations as much as we owe it to current generations to ensure that we have a lifestyle that is maintainable and importantly, a lifestyle that we can sustain and afford.

I pay great compliment to Bunnings for the fact that a quarter of their workforce is over the age of 50 because in many ways their very public embrace of a diverse workforce sends a message to every other employer and it is this, if you think about removing age discrimination, you can be extremely profitable and you can be more embraced by the community than many other businesses and through the culture of Bunnings, we’re seeing an embrace of the wider community, whether it’s through the fantastic sausage sizzles [inaudible] downstairs, or more importantly, the enormous amount of community engagement you get on a day-to-day basis when you walk in as a customer or a community group and seek their assistance.

Wisdom does come with age, there is no doubt about that and wisdom doesn’t come through the air conditioning at a university tutorial hall, it doesn’t come through the words that are passed onto you by a parent or a mentor. Wisdom comes from life experience. So, it should never be discounted; it is not something you can readily buy. In the Government’s perspective, we need to start changing the culture of the nation to accept that longevity is opportunity – that living longer is an opportunity for a more fulfilling life.

There is a cultural stereotype that you study when you’re young, you work hard in your middle years and then you retire when you turn 65. Those days are over. They’re over. People may well study in the middle of their lives; they may well study when they’re seniors. People may work younger and seek to retire at various stages – they might have multiple retirements during the course of their lives. And certainly, if we are going to be living – or more and more Australians are going to be living to the age of 100, they’re going to have many careers, they may have many retirements and they may have many different forms of education.

So, my very clear message going forward is this: there needs to be a conversation with the Australian people, amongst the Australian people about how we can get the most out of life no matter how old we may be. How can we contribute more and get more from a nation that has given us much over such a long period of time?

Now, from a Government perspective, that’s as much about making sure that as a nation we live within our means as it is about ensuring that we try and get as many people into work as possible. Michael mentioned that if we can increase by three per cent workforce participation from older Australians, that would lift the size of our economy by over $40 billion a year. It’s the same with women. If we could lift workforce participation by women to the same levels as that of Canada, its arguable that we could increase the size of our economy by $25 billion a year.

Whatever the case, we are going to need more people to enter into the workforce just to maintain our quality of life. But most importantly, most importantly, we all have to work to change the culture of the workforce; to understand that not only is technology going to remove a lot of the barriers – the age barriers for entry, but technology is going to empower us to spread the wisdom of the years and importantly, it is going to nurture opportunity for younger workers to learn more from older workers and most significantly, for older workers to serve on an even better scale the options that customers increasingly want.

So, thank you so much for your contribution. The employer’s toolkit is a living and breathing document prepared by National Seniors. It is very much about changing the mindset of employers, and our job, in partnership with the community over the weeks and months ahead, is to join into a conversation about how we can have more flexible workplaces, how we can change attitudes in workplaces so that all Australians can embrace the opportunities that come with a longer life and at the end of the day, we all end up with an even better quality of life than that which we have inherited. Thank you very much.