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Intergenerational claptrap

By Yvonne Zardani - posted Saturday, 15 June 2002

One could be forgiven perhaps, for thinking that the Federal Government's Intergenerational Report (2002-03 Budget Paper No. 5) was specifically written as an apologia for the Government's draconian cuts to disability pensions, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and the proposal to change people from the Disability Pension benefit to the Newstart allowance.

This Report claims to "provide a basis for … identifying issues associated with an ageing population." and that "… a steadily ageing population is likely to continue to place significant pressure on Commonwealth government finances." Yet it asserts somewhat paradoxically that "… the ageing of the Australian population is not expected to have a major impact on the Commonwealth's budget for at least another 15 years …"

The entire Report is based on false assumptions.


Pamela Kinnear, a researcher at The Australia Institute, has identified these contradictions in her discussion paper "Population Ageing Crisis or Transition?"

Writing about the "ageing crisis" Ms Kinnear states that it "… is founded on three main assumptions: that older people are a social and economic burden; that population ageing will result in a serious dependency ratio imbalance; and, that there is a close correspondence between the size of the aged population and increased public expenditure. These assumptions are largely invalid."

She points out that only "3.5 per cent of Australians over 65 require public assistance for daily living", that older people "make significant contributions of time and money to their families …", that dependency ratios "… erroneously equate dependency with age." and that "Because youth dependency is declining, total dependency ratios by 2051 will be approximately the same as they were in the 1970s."

The Report baldly asserts that government policies are generating jobs and higher incomes for Australia, but it is apparent that the figures are being fudged both for unemployment (people working for as little as one hour per week are not included in the unemployment figures) and for income levels (obscenely huge CEO salary packages are used in determining the mean level of "wages" in Australia).

On superannuation, the Report states that Australia's superannuation system generates private savings for retirement. This assertion begs the question as superannuation can only be effective where there is stable, full-time employment … a condition rapidly being dismantled by Federal policies with their emphasis on part-time, casual and short-term contract employment and the continuing acceleration in the reduction in full-time jobs.

Then too, there is anecdotal evidence that governmental and corporate organisations have retrenched employees before they neared their maximum superannuation entitlement levels, in order to avoid payouts for which they had not made adequate financial provision.


There can be little doubt that the Report's emphasis and the government's actions to reduce growth in government spending are clearly and unequivocally aimed at the welfare sector.

One can recognize that the government's ideology and the policies driven by that ideology will inevitably lead to the privatisation of social security. The current level of restructuring in Centrelink towards its corporatisation must be seen as a clear indicator of the government's intent.

The government report stresses that it is maintaining "… an efficient and effective medical health system, complemented by widespread participation in private health insurance."

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About the Author

Yvonne Zardani OAM is Queensland State Secretary of the Australian Pensioners and Superannuants' League.

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