By Chief Advocate Ian Henschke
Last Friday I bumped into Susan Mitchell, author of the blistering biography of Tony Abbott A man’s man. She was certain Bob Hawke’s death the night before would result in an even bigger swing to Labor. The bookmakers were certain too - paying out millions of dollars to the punters who had backed Labor before the polling booths even opened.
But polling day proved the punters and political pundits’ predictions were badly awry. It was a night of surprise after surprise.
The early results looked like the Morrison Government was losing. Former PM Tony Abbott was being trounced so severely his seat was the first fall.
But as the night wore on it became clear the swing in Warringah was not normal. The opposite was happening across Australia to varying degrees. The swings were all over the place.
Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt in the west was predicted to lose his seat. But he gained more votes than last election and is now likely to continue as a minister. The same for Christian Porter, the Attorney General, also from WA, who was targeted by Get Up!
So, while Get Up! says its campaign helped unseat Tony Abbott it missed other targets, like Peter Dutton.
What went wrong for Labor? What does it say about why and how people voted?
National Seniors has said ever since the election campaign unofficially began at the beginning of last year: “If you ignore older Australians you do so at your peril.”
Early on Sunday morning political journalist Samantha Maiden observed: “Over 65s were responsible for the biggest swings against the ALP, according to Labor officials. It was the dividend imputation tax that did it. They were out-campaigned and outplayed.”
As you would remember we rolled out a range of seniors policies calling on all parties and candidates to:
- Fix pension poverty
- Address Aged care deficiencies
- Maintain fairness in retirement incomes
- Arrest rising health costs
- Protect pensioners from future rises in energy costs
- Improve Centrelink wait times and protect older Australians from elder abuse.
They were picked up by the media, which largely focussed on franking credits and it is disappointing that the major parties appeared to have put aside or forgotten aged care and seniors in general.
Opposition to Labor’s proposed dumping of franking credit cash refunds hit hard. It started quietly but became a long burning election issue from March 2018 when we fought for and helped win the $3.3 billion “pensioner guarantee”.
We heard your strident opposition to the policy and with your support we have helped save 1.5 million older Australians $6 billion dollars a year, on average $4,000 a year better off than if that policy had come into effect.
Veteran journalist Robert Gottliebsen wrote in the Australian on Tuesday: “In many articles I kept showing Chris Bowen how, if he was unhappy about franking credits, he could levy the tax on a fair basis. Retirees would have accepted that. Instead, he told the million-plus people in the firing line to vote for the Coalition if they did not like it. En masse that’s exactly what they and their families did. It will be a long time before politicians again take on the retirement community.”
Our advocacy catch cry of “Every second voter is over 50, ignore them at your peril” was repeated over and over and that is what came to pass. Only towards the end of the campaign did we see some offerings to seniors with Labor’s dental policy and unfunded commitment to review Newstart.
The Coalition fought hard on promising the status quo and retaining franking credits and also offered some new money for Aged Care, Aged Care training and to fight loneliness.
I must reinforce our position as a non partisan organisation. We advocate for our members. We fight for fairness.
Robert Gottliebsen said in his commentary this issue affecting more than a million retirees was around fairness. We are not ‘contra’ or ‘anti Labor’ or pro Coalition.
Now that the Morrison Government has been returned they don’t ‘owe us’ anything, nor we them.
We want to see seniors issues move away from party politics. Issues like mental health and disability have moved beyond politics. We need the same for seniors.
We welcome the new government, and we will welcome the new opposition leader and his new team, and all the new parliamentarians. We will work with all elected members and other key players to raise awareness of our campaigns and have them implemented. We will continue to push for you on everything from aged care wait lists to electricity prices and out of pocket health costs.