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John Passant

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May 2014



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



The pension at 70?

It’s all but official. The age at which someone will be able to access the pension in Australia will rise to 70 by 2035. It means anyone born after 1965 will be the first in the new crop of retirees who will have to wait till they are 70 to get access to the pension.

For workers in the construction industry and other heavy labouring jobs what this means is that they will be on unemployment benefits for years before they can go on the better paying but still miserly pension.

OECD figures indicate that 35 percent of pensioners in Australia live in poverty, well above the average but still shocking figure of 12.8 percent of the population or 17 percent of kids who live in poverty. The pension payment should be increased to wipe out poverty for pensioners. $100 a week would be a good start.

If workers are forced on to unemployment benefits rather than the pension, the level of older people living in poverty will be much greater than the current 35 percent on the pension.

Aboriginal men currently have a life expectancy of 69. Many will never live long enough to draw the pension.

And how easy is it for older workers to get new jobs?  Not easy at all. A study of what older job seekers thought said:

This study explores the experiences and perceptions of age discrimination in the Australian labour market using findings from a nationally representative survey of people aged 45-74 years undertaken in 2011-12.

The results reveal that 16% of people in the labour market have been directly told they are too old for a job; most commonly by a family member or friend. However, it is the more subtle forms of age discrimination that are particularly prevalent. Discrimination in the form of exclusion during the job search process, which is attributed to age, has been experienced by 36% of job seekers. Further, age-attributed exclusion in the workplace has been experienced by 13% of people. These forms of age discrimination have adversely affected the desire of a significant number of people to work or work more hours.

Perceptions of age discrimination as a labour market issue were very common amongst mature age people. Five-in-six job seekers agreed that age discrimination was a problem during the job search process in Australia, while 67% of workers agreed it was a problem in the workplace. These negative perceptions also affected workforce participation; 31% of retired people cited that being considered too old by employers is an important reason for them being retired, and about half of discouraged workers said it is an important reason for them not looking for work. Certain population groups were more likely than others to experience or perceive age discrimination; namely those not employed but not retired, low income earners, people with an illness or injury and, for age-attributed job search exclusion, people aged 55-64 years. Age discrimination also interacts with other barriers such as health problems and very long-term unemployment.

My own experience as a 60 year old bears this out.  In the last 3 years I have applied for 25 academic tax teaching and research jobs.  I had my first interview a month ago but was unsuccessful.

Now I don’t have a Ph D and the new credentialism demands this of most academics. I just ran the Australian Tax Office input into international tax reform very successfully as an Assistant Commissioner, roughly the equivalent of a Dean. We helped the Australian economy grow, according to the estimates by the Productivity Commission, by 0.024%, something most tax academics could never claim.  I am doing a doctorate and hope to submit it in a year or so.

I am also a Marxist, and the tax teaching and tax research environment is very very conservative.  My political economy and tax journal articles are often rejected for publication by editors because they don’t fit in with worldviews of either the right or the reformist left.

And finally, I am 60 years old.  Which University is going to employ a non-doctoral Marxist 60 year old who knows a bit about tax and international tax? (I think there might be a Monty Python skit in there somewhere.)

To be fair I have had some casual tutoring in politics and international relations.  But that is very precarious work.

I am relatively privileged in terms of education, race, gender, experience, income and wealth to name a few. Imagine how much harder it will be for a 60 year old who finished school at 16, whose whole life has been in a tough physical job and whose body has been worn out by the demands of the bosses, to find a new job?

With the massive increase in labour productivity over the last decade or so – almost all of it pocketed by the bosses – we should be talking about retiring at 60 on the minimum wage. Add to that the fact that bosses are burning us pout earlier and earlier through longer and longer working days. We work an average 44 hours per week, and the unpaid part of that is worth $110 billion to the bosses. The case for a reduction in working hours, the retirement age and increasing the pension payment looks stronger and stronger.

We can afford this, and much more. We could pay for it by wiping out the superannuation tax concessions totalling $15 billion in revenue forgone the Government gives to the top ten percent of income earners. We could impose a wealth tax of one percent on the top ten percent of wealth holders, those who own about 45 percent of Australia and raise around $30 billion. We could abolish the fifty percent tax concession for capital gains, 80 percent of which are made by the top 20% of income earners.  We could get rid of the billions in tax concessions to the rich and business. We could make our tax system more progressive by having a new rate from $150,000 of 40 percent and above $200,000 of 60 percent. We could reintroduce inheritance taxes. (We are one of the few countries which does not have an inheritance tax.)

We could cut the working week to 30 hours without a loss of pay.

The fight against making us work longer could be turned into the fight for an earlier retirement age and for a shorter working week to recoup some of what the bosses have stolen from us over the last decade.

The more general fightback against Abbott must include not only demonstrations but strikes. There was already a large anti-Abbott anti-cuts mood which because of the Audit report has strengthened considerably.

Redflag promoters were asked by Federation Square security to remove T-shirts bearing pro

Redflag promoters were asked by Federation Square security to remove T-shirts saying ‘Fuck Tony Abbott.’ Photo from News Corp

If we don’t fight we will lose. The 25000 who turned up to the May Day Rally in Brisbane on Sunday show the will to resist is there. They have seen the Abbott future. Its name is Campbell Newman.

Now to turn the will to fight back into action.

The union bureaucrats won’t do that. Most of them will gasbag for a little while and then surrender without any fight at all, without any strikes.

That is why it is important for us to organise in our unions against Abbott’s attacks and for a better life.




Pingback from The pension at 70? | OzHouse
Time May 4, 2014 at 7:11 pm

[…] May 04 2014 by admin […]

Comment from Jim Brash
Time May 5, 2014 at 2:29 am

John, they’re inching up the retirement age to 70 here in the US as well. My union is currently if your 55 with 30 years but that’s bout to go up. It was 25 years at any age. Also there use to be buy outs. Most unions in. Collaboration with the bosses have eliminated that. In 39 now with a few months shy of 15 years. Probably retirement age will be between 75-80 when I’m done. People are living longer and governments the world over are trying to raise the retirement age in an attempt to curb multiple decades of pension recipients. Figuring workers will die before they got back what they’ve put in.

Comment from John
Time May 5, 2014 at 8:53 am

Thanks Jim. Exactly right. What sort of sick society views older people as a cost? Oh, yeah, capitalism does …

Comment from Lorikeet
Time May 5, 2014 at 6:58 pm

I agree with your comments here, John.

According to the National Seniors of Australia, people losing their jobs at age 50 will take nearly 18 months to gain employment, and many will never get a job again.

I believe this parlous state of affairs has been driven by the idea that workers could take an early retirement at age 55. This has given employers the idea that anyone over that age is too old to work.

Once again, according to the NSA, government departments and utilities are more likely to force people out of their workplaces in their 50s and 60s than the private sector.

A lot of these people end up doing part-time menial jobs which are physically taxing and very low paid (aged care, cleaning, security, shelf stocking in supermarkets).

So I guess we can say that lots of unwanted ex-government employees are being exploited by the corporate sector.

I actually think people will die at younger ages in future. Women in particular will lose their longevity due to being forced to work full-time while raising young children.

Today I was speaking with a young German backpacker who was trying to sell solar panels. He said that in Germany they are talking about raising the retirement age to 72 (currently 70).

He also seemed to understand that the superannuation system is allowing money hungry bankers to set up a global Corporate Neo-Communist Regime.

Comment from Kay
Time May 6, 2014 at 2:59 pm

An increase to 70 in the age at which you can get the age pension? Probably not achievable in practice for those doing heavy manual labour – so they will in all likelihood move onto a disability pension before that. As for the others? A great incentive to pay more attention to building up a decent superannuation fund amount. Thanks to Keating’s SGA, all workers have access to superannuation – not like when we Baby Boomers, and our parents, were working. Until the SGA initiative, only public servants, politicians and the rich could afford to retire without accessing the age pension. Maybe today’s workers should think less about spending any discretionary money they might have today, and more about building up their super for the future. I was lucky enough to be a public servant. But I also had to make compulsory after-tax contributions. Plus we took risks to invest and throw whatever profits we made into super. Perhaps the increasing age access to a government-funded pension might encourage more people do likewise!

Comment from Ross
Time May 6, 2014 at 7:39 pm

Lorikeet our super is not safe. The next big collapse is not far away and this time there will be no QE ( money printing) to create the illusion of growth.

Comment from Kay
Time May 7, 2014 at 7:01 am


Lorikeet has already told us she spent her superannuation years ago. So she doesn’t have to worry.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time May 7, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Yes, Ross, I agree with you. I have not trusted in superannuation since Paul Keating made it compulsory for everyone in 1992.

The contribution rate started at 3%, rose to 9% and is now supposed to be making its way up to 12%. Paul Keating has also fairly recently suggested that it needs to be moved up to 15%.

I agree with television commentators who say superannuation was a gift to the banks. It also helped multinationals to wipe the floor with small businesses.

The money that should be going into workers’ pay packets is now being used by multinationals to build their empires.

When they have knocked out all of the competition, they will be gifting everyone’s superannuation contributions to themselves.

Meanwhile ordinary Australians are already expected to supply food and clothing to all of the people the government and its corporate mates have dumped on the scrap heap.

Comment from Kay
Time May 7, 2014 at 5:49 pm


It is totally beyond me why you oppose ordinary workers having money set aside and invested by their employers for their future retirement! You had that privilege – you were a public servant. Why do you begrudge that to ALL other workers? And these workers don’t even have to make compulsory after-tax personal contributions like we public servants had to! Do you want them all living hand-to-mouth on a government pension – one that is unlikely to become more generous, quite the contrary in fact? If you oppose poverty, you should support superannuation. I sure am glad I have mine, and that I don’t have to ask the government for a meagre handout!

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