Change attitudes to older workers: Hockey
Joe Hockey has a big job to do on the economy and he thinks he's found the right tools for it at Bunnings.
The treasurer shook hands with Ralph Hogg and Tony Mebberson at his local hardware outlet on Friday - two men who are straight-from-central-casting examples of the type of worker he needs to help drag Australia back from the brink of widespread, unsustainable and uncomfortable retirement.
Mr Hogg is 83 and carrying on at Bunnings in a hardware retail career that started in long-gone Sydney business Nock and Kirby in the 1970s.
Mr Mebberson, 78, is on a second career: he closed down his engineering business during the 2008 financial crisis then opted for a job at the hardware giant after deciding a golf-filled retirement wasn't for him.
Men like Mr Hogg and Mr Mebberson are typical of the Bunnings workforce - a quarter of workers are over 50 - but not so much for the rest of Australia.
That's something that must change, Mr Hockey said.
"There is the cultural stereotype that you study when you're young, you work hard in your middle years and then you retire when you turn 65. Those days are over," Mr Hockey said.
"We need to start changing the culture of the nation to accept that longevity is opportunity, that living longer is an opportunity for a more fulfilling life."
Mr Hockey was speaking at the launch of a National Seniors Australia "management toolkit" designed to help employers take on and retain older workers.
The launch was the perfect platform for Mr Hockey to warn again about the threat to Australia's continued prosperity posed by the ageing of the population and the shrinking of the young, taxpaying workforce.
Those threats will be outlined in the soon-to-be released Intergenerational Report, which, Mr Hockey has been telling anyone who will listen, will shock the nation with its stark projections of spiralling costs and insurmountable debt.
Earlier in the week Mr Hockey said the report would show that in the next decade alone, the population of over-65s will grow at three times the rate of the traditional working age population.
The projected gap between government revenue and the cost of providing health and other services to those retirees will make people "fall off their chairs", he warned.
Part of Mr Hockey's solution is getting Australians to work longer, and getting older out-of-work Australians back into the workforce.
The treasurer said Australia had to have a conversation about how it will pay for its quality of life and the much-vaunted Intergenerational Report would start this conversation.
But Mr Hockey was not clear on what the topics up for conversation would be: he ruled out any shift of wealth from property-owning older Australians to younger ones who can't buy a home as "not my core ideological belief".