Election countdown – what’s in it for seniors?

By Chief Advocate Ian Henschke.

Most observers say it’s been a pretty lacklustre affair so far. Perhaps the most excitement has been the large number of candidates who’ve had to withdraw. Most of them are being been caught out on social media but one on camera in a strip club. 

Labor launch

The Labor Party held its formal launch in Brisbane last Sunday. We watched with interest, hoping seniors’ issues would be at the forefront of campaign policies. After all, one and three voters is now over 60.

But the urgent issues of pension poverty, home-care wait lists and some of the other key matters that have come out of the Royal Commission weren’t mentioned. 

Labor’s dental plan was announced and we’re calling on the Coalition to match this when it has its campaign launch this weekend. And there was no pulling back by Labor from its proposed dumping of franking credit cash refunds.

Coalition aged care

The Coalition has announced funding for better aged care training and funding to fight loneliness which we’ve welcomed.

Read more here.

Newstart maybe

Both the major parties need to address the big issues of almost 130,000 people waiting for home care, pension poverty and the appalling inadequacy of the Newstart allowance.

Did you know that 180,000 Australians aged 55-64 are on Newstart?

Labor has hinted it may raise the rate but there’s been no promise. Meanwhile those on Newstart get around $10,000 a year less than the age pension and many use up what savings they have as they head to pension age. This makes pension poverty an even greater issue.

Age discrimination and the high rate of unemployment for older Australians is a major issue.

Labor said in its election launch it would give tax cuts to companies who employ the unemployed, targeting the young and the old.

Mr Shorten promised a "new jobs tax cut" for businesses with annual turnover of less than $10 million that take on new employees under 25, over 55 or carers returning to the workforce.

The firms could claim tax deductions for up to five new workers' salaries for their first year of employment, capped at $50,000 per company. 

The new employees would need to have been unemployed for three months or longer. We welcome this move and hope the Coalition will also address this urgent need. 

Dental health

Now to another matter on which we are calling for bipartisanship. We have campaigned for better dental health funding for seniors for years and most recently through the Fix Pension Poverty campaign

So, Labor’s promise to provide $1,000 in care every two years to pensioners and Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders was very welcome.

Also we’ve welcomed the Coalition’s announcement of investment in research into better care for seniors and training for age care providers, coupled with $10 million to combat loneliness.

But we believe all parties are ignoring the dire need to boost home care packages and the dementia and other care issues in residential care.

All parties must address the key aged care issue facing older Australians and their families today – demand for level 3 and 4 home care packages has way outstripped supply. There is more about this, and our demands for dementia care, in the Latest news section of our website.

The election has a bit over a week to run let’s hope some of these big issues for seniors are not forgotten.

In the media: National Seniors speak out on the issues that matter

While you’re here you may be interested in some recent media exposure we’ve received around retirement incomes. 

The Reserve Bank has kept interest rates on hold. That came after we pointed out how hard it is for retirees relying on income from bank interest. 

Listen to our interview with the ABC's Peter Ryan here.

Another story to get national coverage was the imminent expansion of the Pension Loans Scheme.

Watch our take on the announcement here.

If you have subscribed to our weekly Connect newsletter, you'll notice we shared a link to the Australian Government's Pension Loan Scheme website.

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