Intergenerational Report avoids hard policy decisions

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

2 February 2010: The third Commonwealth Intergenerational Report for managing Australia’s ageing population has been labelled a "big disappointment” by Professor Scott Prasser, Executive Director of the Public Policy Institute at Australian Catholic University (ACU).

Professor Prasser said the report, released yesterday by the Treasurer Wayne Swan, was neither comprehensive, nor provided much analysis.

"It tells us what we already know, repackages existing polices to tackle completely different policy problems and takes no hard policy decisions let alone develops any options for any real debate about how to handle Australia’s ageing population," he said.

"We have long known our population is ageing, but in reality it is not as fast or as significant as other countries in Europe or Asia such as Japan, and thus needs a more measured policy response."

Professor Prasser said some key points where the latest Intergenerational Report misses the mark include:

  • The revenue shortfall is now not as great as previously estimated by Treasury raising the issue as to whether there has been an over-reaction to the problem;
  • Many of the policies listed as dealing with the ageing policy are just re-labelling of existing programs and policies that were designed for different policy problems such as:
    • Increased spending on schools and school buildings were part of existing policies and policies to address the global financial crisis;
    • Water policies announced were originally developed to address the drought policy;
    • Energy policies/clean energy were developed to address global warming not the ageing crisis.

"The latest Intergenerational Report does not discuss the hard policy issues that may have to be confronted as Australia’s population ages, like how to ration health services to the aged, retirement age and pension eligibility and whether taxes will have to be increased given the present government’s inability to keep spending promises in line," Professor Prasser said.