Jul 19, 2004

Howard talks, Labor delivers


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 19 July 2004

Today’s reports that the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, is considering reforms to the Pension Bonus Scheme confirms that the Government does not understand the social and economic challenges of an ageing population.

While Labor supports the Pension Bonus Scheme and increasing public awareness of its benefits, the proposed reforms will only assist those fortunate enough to be employed when they reach the pension age.

Recent Australian Bureau of Statistics figures reveal that 1.6 million Australians aged 45 to 64 years, are either unemployed or not in the labour force and therefore miss out on the pension bonus.

While Minister Patterson continues to talk and talk about the need for reform, the underlying challenges of an ageing population go unaddressed and continue to grow.

Recent research undertaken for the Business Council of Australia and ACTU reveals that many older Australians are forced out of the workforce prematurely – a third of retirees cite job losses as the main reason for ceasing their last full time job.

Today’s comments are further evidence that the Howard Government has run out of ideas to tackling the complex issues surrounding an ageing population.

Labor understands the challenge that is before our country. Labor will assist workers who want to keep their skills relevant to the needs of employers, as well as help older jobseekers make a successful and speedy transition back into work.

Labor’s $212 million Greater Security, More Opportunities for Mature Age Australians policy includes:

• Mature Age Career Centres to assist up to 63,000 older jobseekers find work;

• A Rapid Assistance Service to prevent workers falling into long term unemployment when they are displaced through large-scale or regional retrenchments;

• A Training Partnership Fund to help employers re-train their older workers and a $2,000 Learning Bonus for mature age job seekers taking up an apprenticeship.

• 125 Mature Age Workplace Trainers in key industries to develop and implement workplace training plans;

• 500 additional places each year in the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme for mature age people wanting to start their own business;

• Specialist Job Network providers for mature age jobseekers.

John Howard promised that mature age employment would be a priority of his third term. Having done nothing, the Government now says it’s a priority for their fourth term. By the time this Government gets around to taking action, today’s young unemployed will be entitled to mature age employment assistance.