Grattan Institute Policy Pitch with Mark Butler

The Grattan Institute held a Policy Pitch event on November 17th at the State Library entitled ‘Striking a new generational bargain’.
John Daley, CEO of the Grattan Institute and Federal Labour party member for Port Adelaide Mark Butler, were in conversation mediated by Helen Westerman, journalist and Business and Economy Editor for The Conversation.

Following an outline of the contextual background of the longevity revolution, Mark Butler discussed public policy issues of ageing affecting the national budget. He also outlined a trend of hostility towards older Australians culminating in discrimination in the workplace and health services systems.
John Daley rebutted from a largely economic view commenting that super funds are incredibly complex and are frequently drawn down before people reach 65 years. He also noted that people who are more likely to draw on their superannuation early are higher income earners and that super should be accessed by everyone at the same age.

Mark Butler, who recently released his book Advanced Australia: The Politics of Ageing, believes that a solely economic analysis of ageing is too narrow and simplistic and often fails to take into account crucial contributions of older Australians such as volunteerism, care giving, intra-family transfers, and funding children and grandchildren. He talked of workforce participation policy as being largely linked to education, profession and class, for example ageing manual workers cannot be expected to work until they’re 70 years old.

Mark Butler also emphasised that the super system was set up 20 years ago as a supplement to the Age Pension to increase choice and standard of living. However, he now believes it has turned into more of a tax haven for the rich as concessions are skewed to favour high income earners. Mark believes that the ‘three pillars’ of Australian society – the Age Pension, Superannuation and Home Ownership have been destabilised. He states that the 33% of 55-64 year olds who are still paying off mortgages and those who are renting, are burdened with increasing housing insecurity and financial stress.
Despite superannuation flaws, Mark stressed that reform is complex and difficult for any government but that balances of superannuation accounts are distorted by disparity. He also cautioned that the gender difference in superannuation balances should not be underestimated - stating that 15% of women in their early 60s have less than $16,000 in superannuation and those in their late 60s have almost nothing.

Approximately 150 people attended the policy pitch and it’s lively question time. Mark Butler’s book was available for purchase and signing afterwards.