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Politics for the over-fifties - calling all silverbacks to action

So, what has become of all that grey power in Australia? The 'aging population' promoted as such a threat by various grey-haired politicians, seems to be awfully quiet. Why aren't they raging in the streets over here? Opinions and theories welcome. We need to solve the mystery and galvanise and organise the greys.

Click to the pic hear these chicks sing their song.

Grey-haired establishment does not speak for grey-haired majority

Yes, indeed, the aging and grey minority have a high profile in the rapacious activities of property development, banking and parliament, where they are seen, filmed, interviewed and promoted talking economic rationalism and high density living. And they are there to represent money; they are enemies of wisdom, social solidarity and citizen self-government. But what of the great majority of greys who are old enough and wise enough to know that this country is being robbed by its politicians, bankers and property developers? What of those who remember wars to defend this country? What of those who huddle miserable in sub-standard accommodation, unable to pay rising electricity bills and rents? What of those in special accom houses? What of those silently gagging in front of tv cookshows and wondering is that all there is? What of those anxiously watching their children and their grandchildren and hoping to be able to salvage something from the mortgage to assist those children and grandchildren in the increasingly desperate race to survive that is the present condition of so many Australians?

Where are they? What are they doing? Where is their song? Where are their marches and their cries of rage?

Over Fifties publications seem to have been glossied and corporatised, vehicles for pushing superannuation deals and investment packages to the wealthy elderly. Grey Power organisations seem to be orphaned, drifting without support. Here's a sample of what's on offer for over fifties: "Entertainment, travel, retirement villages, dating for the over-fifties..." You would think that people over 50 were children to be entertained. What is this mentality? Where are the politics for Over Fifties?

Look at the history of Grey Power in Wikipedia. What's going on?

This article is about the Australian lobby group. For the New Zealand lobby group, see Grey Power (New Zealand).

Grey Power, an Australian political party lobby group, first registered in 1983. At the federal elections of 1984 and 1987 it ran candidates, but on both occasions these candidates (who included former Liberal cabinet minister Bill Wentworth) did poorly. The group was designed to represent the elderly vote, advocating issues dealing with aged care and a mature perspective on national policy; hence the name "grey power".

Grey Power ran in the Western Australian election of 1989, garnering 5.2% of the total lower house vote. The last election which Grey Power contested was the South Australian election of 1997, but then it only managed to receive 1.6% of the South Australian Legislative Council vote.

The best result Grey Power ever achieved was at the 1994 Taylor by-election in South Australia, at state level. Without a Liberal candidate in the running on this occasion, Grey Power managed to get 13% of the primary vote, and finished second after preferences had been distributed, acquiring 27% of the vote. Labor retained the seat.

Did loss of seniority system in workforce fundamentally destabilise our society?

A generation ago or less there was a strong tradition and enforcement of promotion by seniority in the public service and in many other forms of work. Promotion by so-called 'merit' has merely turned out to foster croneyism, bureaucracy and a culture of obedience. A range of personality disorders with little capacity for empathy and a tendency to focus on bean-counting and enforcing petty rules has come to dominate managment in most systems. Bullying is the major symptom. Natural human organisations do not promote youth over wisdom or encourage youth to compete. Natural human organisations are led by the council of their elders.

We now see a huge rise in unemployment, homelessness, and isolation among middle-aged and older men and women who would previously have held stable and respected positions - in business, local activities, and their homes. Society did not adapt this new order of things all at once. It required sustained social engineering, carried out by and for the benefit of economic rationalists and market-force theorists. The result has been a society with a dearth of mature citizens in positions of power in the workforce, which is the major social system that dominates most people's lives, either through participation or exclusion. When people with years of experience had security, it was possible to speak out in the workforce, in the public service, and demand that things be done properly. No more. People are cowed and frightened. I don't think that Howard would have got away with his workplace disempowerment laws if senior people had been able to retain careers in the public service. I cannot include senior people who are the public face of official politics - those who rise to the top of the Labour and Liberal parties - as true representatives. They have been chosen for their decadent values - money, privilege and status - and they speak only for the moneyed and powerful.

The vast majority of 'seniors' are now just seen as a cohort of cash-cows, to frighten with financial insecurity and to market commodities to.

We should bring back seniority to our society and to our workforce.

Can anybody hear me out there?

Photo: Mature silverback citizen mentors little one.

Maybe one of the things that went wrong with grey power was too narrow a focus. I mean grey power should be about people power, not just about what happens to you when you need aged assistance. Greybeards, silverbacks and raging grannies should be looking after their clan and tribe and their clan and tribe should look up to them and support them as real representatives.

Politics are free. You can meet people like yourself. You can speak your mind. You can become engaged. Put down those antidepressants (slowly of course, to avoid significant withdrawals) and combat with political engagement that awful feeling that you are disappearing. Yes. Take a lesson from the existentionalists. You have to be in it to feel like you are alive.

Show your confused and dispossessed, endebted and oppressed children and grandchildren that you don't have to be 'Someone' to participate in politics; you just have to be a citizen. You don't have to be rich to have an opinion; you just have to start speaking out.

Let's get organised again. But this time, don't look for 'corporate sponsorship' or government grants or recognition from the mainstream press. Those forces will just take us over, make money, then spit us out, whilst continuing to sail falsely under the banners we first erected. We have to remake our society for us - and that means doing it together, not for money.


It seems intuitive that promotion should be based on merit. One would think that with merit based promotion the best and brightest will always run the show and that this will be better for an organisation. With merit based promotion, the "Peter Principle" (that each officer will rise to the level of his/her level of incompetence) will no longer permeate public bureaucracies and company staff structures, surely? In the government body where I worked for more than a decade , this "evolution" roughly coincided with a staged corporitisation. This is how it seemed to me. Changes to work practices were gradual and incremental enough to cause little complaint from the staff who were generally eager to please and to show they could absorb extra work. They usually declared that it would make little difference to them and gave the impression that they could go with the punches. The younger or newer the staff members, the less likely they were to complain about increases in work load. Increases in workload were due mainly to administrative changes consequent to the increasing need for the organisation to fund itself. This is a climate for favoritism. An eager uncomplaining young officer will win favour with a boss who has been ordered from above him/her to implement an unpalatable change and those staff under this boss but more senior who offer resistance, even if it is expressed in terms of the quality of work will be seen as an impediment. One of my colleagues who was senior but not promoted tells me he was asked to leave the organisation at the age of 53 because he would not cooperate in a particular revenue raising exercise which involved expense to pensioners and which he felt was not warranted in most cases.

I also noticed that more senior staff would recognise "new" ideas as repeats of ideas brought forward usually about 5 years previously and abandoned in daily practice. This was termed "re-inventing the wheel". A more senior employee will usually recognise an idea that has come up before and will know what happened to it in practice. This can be very time and energy saving for the organisation.

Treasury's Intergenerational Report's warning that an ageing population threatens lower rates of growth, with increased welfare costs and lower productivity, needs to be challenged.

Older people are not a "threat" to society, and increased "rates of (economic) growth" should not solely justify our government's budgets. The Economy is a system for providing for our lives, and supporting our existence, not the contrary. It's not meant to devalue the people it's meant to support.

Older people are not always unhealthy dependents. Young people have long economic dependency periods too. Older people provide family support and child care to workers. They often do volunteer jobs, and provide wisdom, balance and stability.

It is likely that older communities will be more law abiding communities since older people are less inclined to commit crimes against property and people.

The "ageing population" phenomenon has been over-used to support population growth.

To dilute the Australian ageing effect in the population would require a net addition of 400,000 migrants per year, almost twice the 2007-08 record level. The costs of growth, estimated to be about $200k per person in the developed world, are usually ignored, along with the fact that all people age.

Increasing immigration to keep the population "young" would create a pyramid of people and see our human numbers explode in the following generations. Older people need to be appreciated for their contribution to society, and be given care when they need it, not maligned by economic evaluations.

All this constant worrying about "aging population" is nonsense.

(a) The only way to avert it is to rapidly grow the population literally forever. As soon as you stop growing, or even slow down, the problem catches up with you. The longer you keep the growth going, the worse it is when it catches up with you.

(b) And to avert it you need extremely rapid growth which would cause the population to balloon to absurd numbers in a few decades.

(c) Past a certain point providing for a rapidly growing population becomes more expensive than providing for a stabilizing/aging population. We are probably past that point already. And in historical terms anything over half a percent (or less) is rapid.

And of course the biggest threat to continued economic growth is peak energy, which we are in the first stages of right now. But I doubt the economists at the Treasury Department are even capable of understanding that. Aren't economists taught that wealth = labor x capital and that natural resources are infinite? They are probably in for a rude awakening.

Well I've read some posts here and it's nice to know I'm not the only one who feels we are being pushed aside. I bet you can count on one hand the last time someone asked for your advice or your thoughts. Me too. I'm no one special just a 56 year old Aussie male, no degrees and definitely not a member of any political party. Just one who sees and hates the way this society doesn't want know or pay attention to those over 50.

It was us and our descendants that has made this great country by going through hard times of flood, bushfires, war, depression and epidemics. My grandmother brought up a son and handicapped daughter on her own by working shift work for about 40 years. Without the government payments available now. You did what you had to do, we do what we have to do. My grandfather served in 2 world wars but because he didn't die, his name can't be placed on the local war memorial. And others have told me a lot worse.

Our honest sacrifices and now we have a Prime Minister who was not born in Australia, lied about a carbon tax and today has made Mr Carr, not a parliamentary member who lives in New Zealand, Foreign Affairs Minister. I just don't understand.....

Everyone seems happy to let things go, whinge to those that will listen and write stories (blogs). I've had enough I think its time to act. On the 30th June, I and anyone else who wants to join me, are going to walk to the state parliament house to show anyone who listens that we're not dead yet.