By Darragh O’Keeffe and Natasha Egan
The Federal Government has announced that the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing is to be scrapped – at a saving of just over $1 million a year.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that to further streamline government and reduce duplication, the government will abolish or rationalise 21 non-statutory bodies “where activities are no longer needed or can be managed within existing departmental resources.”
“Many of these non-statutory bodies have outlived their original purpose or are not focused on the government’s policy priorities. As a result, their work is best carried out by the relevant government departments or agencies. Ministers will continue to receive advice from a broad range of sources including industry and community stakeholders, relevant departments and from Ministerial Advisory Councils,” Mr Abbott said in a statement this morning.
The chair of the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing, Mr Everald Compton, tweeted this morning:
“I chair Federal Panel on #Ageing. Have been sacked. 6 months needed to finish Blueprint on how Australia can turn Ageing Tsunami into asset.”
Mr Compton told ABC Radio: “We’ve only got six months work to go and we can give the government a blueprint on all the legislative and policy and financial changes that need to be progressively made over the next 25 years to make sure we turn ageing into an asset rather than a liability. And I find it a little hard to understand why, when we’re so close to finishing something that we’ve had some years of work in, that it’s chopped off and that the government does not appear to want a report on how ageing is going to hit Australia.”
The Federal Opposition said the government’s decision to scrap the panel was“disgraceful and shameful” and it called on Mr Abbott to immediately reverse it.
Shadow Minister for Ageing Shayne Neumann said the scrapping of the panel meant seniors would be left without a seat at the table.
“While Treasurer Joe Hockey can find $360 million to fund superannuation tax cuts for 16,000 of the wealthiest Australians, he has axed funding to this critical advisory body – saving around $1 million a year.”
Cutting funding to this critical council is yet another example of the warped priorities of the Abbott Government, Mr Neumann said. “Thanks to Tony Abbott’s cuts, seniors will no longer have the strong voice they had in Canberra.”
Chief executive of Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, Ian Yates, said the panel did some good work, in particular its earliest report was the first to “put together in one place a lot of what everybody had been saying for some time about taking a more positive approach.” That report had also identified in a formal sense for the first time that seniors housing was going to become a major public policy issue, Mr Yates said.
He said COTA’s concern was the question of what the government’s alternative approach would be, “and certainly we don’t see any policy capacity elsewhere in the department at this point.”
Improve coordination of policy
The panel was established by the previous Labor Government in the 2012-13 Budget with funding of $4.7 million over four years.
Its primary functions were to raise awareness of ageing issues, improve coordination of policy across portfolios and work with the government on implementation and design of ageing policy, including responses to the recommendations of the Advisory Panel on the Economic Potential of Senior Australians. The panel also conducted targeted consultations on relevant issues.
On 11 December 2012, the panel hosted a roundtable on affordable and age-friendly housing, attended by housing industry representatives, including residential and retirement village developers, builders associations, the National Housing Supply Council and not-for-profits.
Along with Mr Compton, the members of the panel include Professor Gill Lewin, Professor at the Centre for Research on Ageing at Curtin University of Technology; Professor Brian Howe AO, former deputy prime minister; Ms Susan Ryan AO, Age Discrimination Commissioner; and Mr Neville Roach AO, chairman of the Advisory Board of Tata Consultancy Services in Australia and New Zealand.