The chair of the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing, which the government this morning announced is to be scrapped, has vowed to find a way to keep the committee going.
Mr Everald Compton said he was hopeful that interested organisations might support the panel so it could see its work through to completion.
“The only option I have now is to look around to see if there’s someone somewhere who will sponsor the finishing of this work, because I believe it’s essential and I can’t work out why the government doesn’t think it’s essential,” he told AAA.
Mr Compton said he was “stunned” by the scrapping of the panel, which he described as short-sighted.
He said he learned of the government’s decision when the panel’s secretariat in Canberra was contacted by the office of Treasurer Joe Hockey.
“I would have expected a call from Joe, who knows me personally for 20 years, or at least for his chief of staff or someone in his office to call me… It was not very gracious,” he said.
Blueprint on ageing
Mr Compton, who was chair of National Seniors Australia for 35 years, said the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing was in the midst of preparing a blueprint on the policies and legislation required over the next quarter of a century for Australia to meet the challenge of the “ageing tsunami”.
“We’ve done a lot of work on that. We’re about to hold town hall type meetings around Australia with seniors to get their input and we were due to wind up our work by the 30 June next year and give Joe Hockey a report.
“For some reason, we’re not going to be allowed to work the next six months and produce the report, which in my view is offensive to the future planning of Australia and the handling of the ageing situation. The government has just said stop work and didn’t tell us why.”
Mr Compton said the panel had done an “enormous amount of work” on the draft of the blueprint, which was to be made available on its website for public feedback.
“I’m determined they’re not going to let it die,” he said. “I’ve got to spend a few days working out how to do that, but I intend to keep it going some way or another.”
High-level advice needed: Commissioner
Fellow panel member, Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan also said she hoped the panel’s blueprint could be brought to fruition and released into the public debate and to policy makers.
“Given that the panel has been in operation for a few years, its advice has been highly regarded and has had a beneficial impact on policy, it would have been sensible for us to finish the work we’re doing on the national blueprint,” she told AAA.
Ms Ryan said that while governments were entitled to keep or discard advisory panels as they wished, she hoped the Federal Government would establish “some other ways of getting high level, community-based input into their thinking about the ageing population, which is the biggest issue of our time.”
The ageing population would have profound effects on the economy, on communities and on individual’s capacity to live happily and well into their old age, she said. “All these things require new and better policy responses from government… if they don’t want our particular panel that’s their decision, but there is a need for extensive, broad-based but high-level policy input into taxation policy, housing policy, health policy and crucially, into employment policy.”
Ms Ryan said she was waiting to have her first round of meetings with ministers but she was hopeful they could “find a way to make sure there was cabinet level consideration of this massive issue affecting so many Australians and the entire economy.”
She added: “I will be continuing as much of the policy development work that the panel was involved in as I can in my role as Age Discrimination Commissioner.”
Related AAA coverage: Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing scrapped