Vonnie's View with QT columnist Yvonne Gardiner
Vonnie's View with QT columnist Yvonne Gardiner Ipswich Advertiser

Grey power on a roll towards the ballot box

SENIOR POWER: Margaret Dow, 77, of Leichhardt’s vote is sure to count.
SENIOR POWER: Margaret Dow, 77, of Leichhardt’s vote is sure to count. Claudia Baxter

IF POWER in politics is all about having the numbers, Australia's seniors are in a strong position during this Federal Election.

Yet surprisingly, some complain that they're not getting the attention they deserve, policy-wise.

While holding a huge slice of the votes in their hands, seniors will make decisions that are sure to have a big bearing on the election outcome on September 7.

A sizable bunch of 6,878,213 seniors aged over 50 are on the roll - that's 47% of all voters who want action on certain issues.

Various advocacy groups are making sure the political parties are aware of those issues.

National Seniors Australia CEO Michael O'Neill has put forward an election wish-list which centres on health, cost of living and age discrimination.

Seniors have also aired concerns about the quality of nursing homes, aged care, farmers walking off their farms and border protection.

Groups of older Australians, coming together outside Parliament House in Canberra, condemned both major parties for avoiding the "big issues" in the lead-up to the Federal Election.

"We've had a few crumbs but where are the big issues such as dental health and nursing homes?" O'Neill said.

"We went into this election calling for leadership on the tough issues but the campaign has degenerated into a race of personalities rather than policies.

"Disillusioned older Australians, rather than voting along traditional lines, are seriously considering third party options."

With a string of minor parties running candidates this election, some promising significant increases to aged pensions, swinging seniors could well abandon the ALP and Coalition in droves.

Grey power is shaping up as a formidable force in deciding who will sit in our next federal parliament.

Party leaders Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott are trying to win us over with promises and policies.

For younger voters, maintaining their standard of living hinges on jobs, housing, access to health care and education, infrastructure and the environment.

All of these issues concern seniors too, as they watch over the wellbeing of their children and grandchildren.

COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates says the negative politics that portray our ageing society as a "problem" is outdated and simply incorrect.

"Our ageing population provides an unprecedented opportunity if the next Australian government provides the leadership to harness the skills and experience of older people, and change community attitudes and behaviour," he adds.

"The older population have been at the forefront of cultural change in Australia, and demand policies that will allow them to live more healthy, active and engaged lives for longer."

Policy-makers, there's still time to satisfy those demands.


Tribute to distant dads doing it tough

FATHER of the year Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith accepted his award this week on behalf of all the parents who have sacrificed time away from loved ones to serve in the Australian Defence Force.

This gesture brings to mind all the fathers who work far away from their families, and who will not be home for Father's Day this Sunday.

Corporal Roberts-Smith, a Victoria Cross recipient, is the father of twin three-year-olds.

"(All parents) who've served, particularly in the last 10 years while we've been at war, have really made that sacrifice so that other families in Australia can live in safety and really enjoy that time with their own families," he said.

Australian Father's Day Council chairman Maurice Newman described the war hero as a "normal dad who is devoted to his children".

Fathers who work away from their families might miss out on their child's first steps, first words or first day at school.

They're often not around for birthdays and family events.

However, if fathers build a strong and connected relationship with their children when they are physically together, this bond is maintained and felt by both father and child, even when they are far away from each other.

Other suggestions about how dads can connect with their children when they work away from home or work long hours can be found on the KidsMatter website.

Sunday is a day for families to celebrate and show their appreciation for fathers and father-figures like stepfathers, fathers-in-law, foster dads and family friends - whether they are close or far from home. Have a happy Father's Day.

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