|Issue No 105||03 August 2001|
When I'm 64
The Uncle Arthur of Australian politics, John Howard, reclaims the Tool Shed this week with a blatant attempt to increase his own political longevity by arguing that the retirement age should be raised to 70.
The line was thrown out during the PM's National Press Club address where he purported to lay out his vision for a third term in government. Admitting there was an aging population that threatened to swamp the nation's social services, Howard's answer was to keep people in the workforce longer.
This is an intriguing argument from the champion of laissez-faire government, who has sat back nonchalantly while a generation were thrown out of work in their forties and fifties by big corporations in the name of 'restructuring'. Intriguing that is, until you consider Howard's own plight.
Here is a man who has spent most of his working life in the same job - one of the few jobs that has been buffered by the winds of change. As colleagues prepare to tap him on the shoulder - regardless of the result of the upcoming election - it's all too convenient to start playing the 'wisdom with age' card now. Howard is on the record saying he'll reconsider his future when he turns 64. His latest play suggests he could do a Hawkie and demand to hang on long after everyone else has grown tired of him.
Beyond the self-interest , the big flaw in Howard's argument is that even with retirement at 55 and 60 years there aren't enough jobs to go around. Far more visionary would be a federal government that really worked to utilize the skills and talents of mature people through the community sector and gave them something meaningful to do beyond calculating their superannuation rollover and whinge-ing about how the world's changed
The Howard agenda is also the ultimate nightmare for anyone born after 1960 and is still waiting for the Baby Boomers to vacate center field and give us a little bit of space to shape the world. After dominating our society from the cradle (where they were weaned on Dr Spock and taught they were the center of the universe), through their self-centred adolescence (where they convinced themselves they could change the world) through their years of stability (where greed suddenly became a positive character trait) to their maturing age (where the only political issue is how much tax do I have to pay?) they've been a generation of takers whose self-obsession has been all-consuming. Still they dominate all sections of society - from the media where Kerry, Ray and George have been sitting in the same chairs for nearly 30 years to music where MOR rock dominates and even JJJ is programmed by a 50-year-old to the arts and politics. The only place you'll find young people in the public eye are on sporting fields and in the Big Brother house.
Personally, rather than extending their working loves, I'm all for occupational euthanasia - the equivalent of Logan's Run - that sci-fi classic from the seventies where everyone over the age of 30 was put out of their misery. As a teenager, this seemed a reasonable enough proposition, although having past the age of expiration, I can see how the plan could have been a bit restrictive.
But in political terms, it is sound - two terms only - for all elected officials. If you can't achieve what you want in two terms then you never will. If you still want to be there after that period, you're just their to warm the bench and collect the super. If it's good enough for the American president, it's good enough for a hack like Howard: eight years and you're out!
Interview: Whose Advocate?
Employment Advocate Jonathon Hamberger argues the case for his organisation's survival and reveals his secret union past.
Politics: CHOGM: What Should Unions Do?
Activists Peter Murphy and Vince Caughley kick off the debate about what is the appropriate action ot take when CHOGM leaders meet in Brisbane
E-Change: 2.1 - The Changing Corporate Landscape
In the second part of their series on the impact of new technology, Peter Lewis and Michael Gadiel try to understand the new corporate playing field.
Jim Marr reports that the Employment Advocate has been handed a chance to salvage some credibility by cleaning up anti-union practices in the call centre industry.
Economics: Privatisation: The Dangerous Road
Frank Stilwell argues that the corporate collapses of HIH and One Tel are potent reminders of the downside of ‘people’s capitalism’.
History: Hard-Earned Lessons
Art Shostack looks at the legacy of the landmark strike by PATCO air traffic controllers 20 years ago.
International: Political Prisoner
Greenpeace campaigner Nic Clyde, facing up to six years gaol in the United States for taking part in a non-violent protest, speaks exclusively with workers Online.
Review: Seven Pubs and Seven Nights
Labor Council's newest recruit, Susan Sheather, shows she respects tradition by going in search of the perfect bar
Satire: Obituary: Mr Rob Cartwright - Captain of Industry
In all fields of endeavour, there are those who command our respect through their sheer commitment to excellence. One such titan was Rob Cartwright, whose chosen field, the obscure HR discipline of "moving people onto individual contracts" lost its greatest practitioner and champion late last night, following a tragic self-inflicted accident.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005