After the sometimes turmoil of the first 100 days, Friday's meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) probably came as a relief to Prime Minister Abbott. He was determined to be conciliatory and consultative; sweetness and light shines through in the joint press conference held at the end of the meeting.
Seriously, that's no bad thing. Under the sometimes command and control style adopted by the previous Government, COAG became bogged down. Australia is a federation of generally sovereign governments (the territories are not sovereign governments) and the my way or the highway approach actually doesn't work very well.
The decision on a streamlined environmental approval process was not welcomed by the Greens, but will be welcomed by business who had become increasingly frustrated at the way that dual approval systems were being played as a political tool by individual interest groups.
Turning to other matters, last week the Australian Bureau of Statistics released an interesting set of statistics entitled Retirement and Retirement Intentions. This presents information about the retirement status and retirement intentions of people aged 45 years and over who have, at some time, worked for two
weeks or more. Sounds dry, doesn't it? However, the reality is a little different.
One of the big underlying issues in public policy in Australia and many other countries, think China as an example, is the impact of an aging population. Full credit to former Australian Treasurer Costello who tried to create a focus on this through the release of the Intergenerational Reports. I am interested in the issue in part because I am older, more because policy in this area is written by those presently in secure jobs to whom the issue is still academic in a personal sense. As a consequence, they tend to apply currently popular nostrums focused on things like rising health care costs and the need to cut spending
The reality is a little different.
Let's start with a simple statistic. Sixteen per cent of Australians aged seventy or over are still in the workforce. That's a very big structural shift. Almost one Australian in five in an age group well past normal retirement still wishes to work whether through choice or need. The work problem actually lies much earlier.
If we focus on men now retired, 25% had retired aged less than 55 years, a further 50% had retired aged 55–64 years. Think about it, Seventy five of currently retired men retired before the nominal retirement age of 65. We focus on how to keep people working after 65, but that's not where the problem is. It lies much earlier, and that's not discussed.