Proud Baby Boomer Ian McPhedran was News Corp’s defence writer for many years. Picture: Supplied
Proud Baby Boomer Ian McPhedran was News Corp’s defence writer for many years. Picture: Supplied

‘Offensive and wrong’: Proud Baby Boomers hit back

COMMENT

How sad it is to see yet another economist joining the "bash-the-Baby-Boomer" bandwagon.

Yesterday, news.com.au published a piece declaring Baby Boomers to be the "luxury generation", who have "a sweet ride on a gravy train consisting of franking credits and loopholes in superannuation and pension rules".

There has to be smarter and kinder way to find policies that will take our country forward into continuing economic prosperity without playing the old class warfare or generational warfare cards that so easily divide us.

Many Baby Boomers have long argued for a more balanced tax system but so far none of the political class have had the wit or the courage to make the changes necessary so that everyone from students to nursing home residents would receive a fairer go.

And speaking of fairness, franking credits are frequently raised, as they were in yesterday's piece, as an example of an unfair policy that largely benefits retirees. But it's not as simple as that - most simply, franking credits exist to stop tax being paid twice. If a company has already paid tax on its profits, why should its shareholders have to pay again?

Negative gearing is another policy touted to favour older people - but that ignores the fact that negative gearing and investors have driven the surge in Australia's property market, boosting our economy in the process.

As economists and academics seek to influence the debate about the growing cost of our ageing population they would do well to steer clear of the sort of inflammatory rhetoric that caused such controversy when "smashed avocados on toast" stole the headlines.

For those of us who have worked full-time for more than 40 years and dutifully paid our taxes while raising families, educating children, creating wealth and - by the way - generating decades of sustained economic growth and national good fortune, the idea that we should be tagged the "luxury generation" is offensive and wrong.

If retirees decide to spend some of their hard-earned superannuation savings or a windfall from downsizing on an overseas trip, they should not be vilified by people who feel there is no golden future for them and who would happily sentence their parents' generation to a life of poverty.

Many older Australians may not have enjoyed overseas trips as they raised their families, paid their mortgages, taxes and super contributions. It would be interesting to see how many overseas holidays have been taken by 25- to 45-year-olds compared with their Baby Boomer parents at the same age.

Here are some of the things that Baby Boomers didn't have early on, that have made life much better for all Australians since then:

• Free tertiary education, until 1973: The first wave of Baby Boomers - born between 1946 and 1955 - had to either pay for it themselves with no student loans or else win scholarships that were only available to the few. And there were only a handful of universities, so there were far fewer places.

• Medicare, until Bob Hawke introduced it in 1984.

Compulsory superannuation - until the Hawke-Keating government introduced it in 1991.

• Easy access to subsidised childcare at regulated childcare centres.

• Flexible working conditions.

• Paid (and unpaid) maternity/parental leave.

First homebuyer government grants (or, for the most part, the "bank of mum and dad").

• Anti-discrimination legislation until racial discrimination was outlawed in 1975 and other laws followed on.

• The power to say "no" to military conscription between 1964 and December 1972.

The nation does have an ageing population crisis and successive governments have been warned about it for decades, but what have they done? Answer, very little.

Bob Hawke and Paul Keating gazed into the demographic crystal ball and saw compulsory superannuation as a key component of the solution.

Now we are faced with academics and economists arguing against increasing super to 12 per cent while applying heavier taxes to the national nest egg. If they succeed then the very problem they are concerned about will worsen exponentially.

Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, Picture: Resource Centre, Old Parliament House.
Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, Picture: Resource Centre, Old Parliament House.

One way to ease the burden is to keep older Australians in the workforce, but that would involve a total rethink of the ageist policies adopted by both the private and public sectors that openly discriminate against older worker despite the law.

Some enlightened sectors of the economy have come up with ways to keep older workers and their wisdom and experience on the payroll, but sadly most haven't. Age discrimination is rife.

One of the most bizarre attacks against Boomers involves the family home. It is rare to hear anyone complaining about inheriting a property, whether valuable or quite modest, that was paid for by the sweat and tears of their parents.

Arguing the family home should be counted as an asset is nothing short of bizarre. Picture: Supplied
Arguing the family home should be counted as an asset is nothing short of bizarre. Picture: Supplied

There is a huge opportunity here for policy makers from Generations X and Y to succeed where the Baby Boomers have surely failed.

Ian McPhedran is a Sydney-based journalist, author and proud baby boomer.



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