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Mark O'Connor's take on Bernard Salt's Ageist article

Mark O'Connor's comments are in italics, in the form of a running commentary through Bernard Salt's article.

In "Inconvenient truth on ageing" (4 Feb 2010, The Australian), Bernard Salt, who markets his version of demography to business for profit, writes,

"WAYNE Swan clearly missed a great opportunity earlier this week with the release of the third Intergenerational Report. He referred to the report by the bureaucratic abbreviation 3IGR4, but if the Treasurer really wanted to appear "with it" he should have christened it the iGen 3.0 Report.

The Intergenerational Report is, of course, the government's key reference document canvassing policy options for managing the ageing of Australia's population."

O'CONNOR: Well at least, that’s Salt’s journalistic slant on it. He wants to see the report as about Gens X and Y and the boomers.

SALT: "-- the problem being that from 2011 onwards more baby boomers exit than Generation Ys enter the workforce."

O'CONNOR: This is a claim he keeps making, but like the basis for his claim to be a "demographer" it comes without explanation. He doesn't say whose projection he is using that shows this will begin to be the case from 2011. (Are we meant to take it on his own authority?) I note that a Google search reveals numerous demographers saying that in the USA Generation Y is bigger than the baby boomer generation, and I can't as yet find any saying the reverse for Australia. But ask Bob Birrell or Katharine Betts.

Since presumably the reverse has been the case up till 2011, I would suspect that the imbalance in 2011 will be, even on his preferred projection, very small. And probably it will not increase very fast either -- otherwise he would have laid stress on that. In short, I suspect this is a weak statistic.

SALT: "The issue is not just the number of baby boomers looking for an aged pension; it's the loss of this cohort's contribution to the tax base."

O'CONNOR: Well, by definition retirees tend to retire from higher salaries than young persons joining the workforce are on, but so what?

SALT: "The favoured solution so far to managing this matter has been to grow the worker base, and in this regard ... "

O'CONNOR: I’d have to check if that (wanting to collect more tax) was in fact Rudd’s stated reason back then. He has since offered other excuses, even defence.

SALT: "Kevin Rudd was emphatic on the ABC's 7.30 Report last October when he stated he believed in a bigger Australia, and further that he made no apology for that view. The Prime Minister's comments have sparked furious debate about the sustainability and advisability of future growth."

O'CONNOR: Yes, perhaps Salt has been feeling the heat on those interactive blogs and online letters that now follow the publication of an article. He used not to have to worry about people raising awkward debates re sustainability, water, food, etc because, at least in the Murdocch Press, there was no counter view.

Mark O'Connor is the author, with Bill Lines, of Overloading Australia, of which a new edition has just been launched. The book is about how Australia is suffering from overpopulation. Mark O'Connor will be one of three people putting the environmental case for a small population in a debate with some die-hard growthists at the next Property Council Conference.

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