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Australia Baby Boomers’ Retirement Population Politics Australian Vision for Asia

Baby boomers retire on a reverse inheritance. If baby boomers want choice in their retirement, they should be prepared to spend their own money.

Earlier this month, Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats proposed a generation-specific tax to finance the welfare costs of retirees, under which young people pay while baby boomers collect.

Like Australia, Germany and the rest of Europe is facing an intergenerational challenge caused by increased life expectancy and the largesse of the welfare state.

The important difference is that by avoiding collapse under the pressure of the global financial crisis, Australia has been afforded the time, and opportunity, to start fixing its lot. We should be learning from reform in other countries, such as the Dutch experience in reforming universal healthcare.

Politics of population poisons sensible debate. THE economy generated barely any new jobs last year and grew by a meagre 2.3 per cent. Calls for the Reserve Bank to slash interest rates and for the government to let the budget slide into deficit to stimulate growth are now commonplace.

Yet the sputtering population growth, which weighs on our economy, is barely mentioned. Growth has plummeted from above 2 per cent in 2008 to 1.43 per cent in the year to September…

…A mini baby boom has propelled the annual excess of births over deaths to about 150,000 a year, but natural population growth is relatively stable. Permanent migration is the culprit, dropping from a peak of 316,000 in 2008 to 170,000 a year in 2011.

Since 2008, the Rudd and Gillard governments have more than halved the number of occupations on the “skilled occupations list”.  ANZ economists argue that the change has curbed applications for temporary work permits and sapped international demand for vocational education in Australia…

..Unfortunately, the politics of population remain poisonous. NSW premier Bob Carr famously said Sydney was shut. Kevin Rudd was lambasted for wanting a Big Australia (that is, for wanting a population for Australia smaller than Spain’s). And what should be a footnote in the population debate – the arrival of a few hundred asylum-seekers every year – continues to undermine rational discussion of the population trajectory…

..Australia’s population tripled to 1.2 million in the decade from 1851 as Victorian gold rush fever lured migrants from around the world. No one is suggesting the resources boom will trigger a similar expansion now. But a stronger population growth is in our economic interest; and as American military power wanes it is certainly in our security interests too.

We need vision to tap Asian boom, sasy Andrew Liveris. BARACK Obama’s manufacturing tsar, the Australian-born head of Dow Chemical, Andrew Liveris, has declared that Australia lacks strategies to deal with the opportunities presented by the rise of Asia and allow domestic manufacturers to take advantage of the nation’s energy resources.

Following a visit to Australia last month, when he met Wayne Swan and manufacturing industry leaders, Mr Liveris says he came away “shocked at the handicap Australia has” because of its lack of strategy, in sharp contrast to Asia where “literally everywhere there is a strategy”….

….Labor is finalising a white paper on future energy needs, and has commissioned former Treasury secretary Ken Henry to prepare a comprehensive report to help Australia capitalise on “the Asian century”.

Airport plan grounded as politicians back away. SLEEPWALKING is a state of low consciousness in which people perform limited activities……

Unfortunately, in modern politics an increasing number of political leaders should be diagnosed with the condition. Too often our political class shuns long-term essentials of public policy planning to satisfy its short-term political needs. In the process it is sleepwalking towards long-term disaster, seemingly comfortable in the knowledge that by the time it strikes politicians will be safely ensconced in retirement, on taxpayer-funded parliamentary pensions, no less….

…..No better example of this is on display at the moment than the inaction over the building of a second airport for Sydney. NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell is mostly to blame for the standoff, but the federal government must also bear some of the criticism for the policy impasse we are witnessing…

This is much more than a Sydney issue. The implications of inaction, or slow-to-move action, will affect the national economy, not just NSW….

….Once upon a time, politicians were prepared to fight for what was in the best interests of voters, even if that involved convincing those same voters of that fact. It’s called leadership….

….Nevertheless, false NIMBYism has won the day, as it so often does when political cowardice trumps political courage….

…..The politics of aircraft noise is much louder than the aircraft noise itself, and our political leaders lack the internal fortitude to put long-term planning ahead of risks to their short-term popularity.

AIEC QUEST Australian International Education Centre.

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