Friday, June 15, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning

Club test: elder abuse
The ageing population has a darker side

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day didn’t turn out too badly at the Concordia Club in Tempe in Sydney’s inner south, with fine weather and a spot of highly competitive croquet. The retirees here, including one who has done Meals on Wheels for more than 15 years, have no direct experience of physical, emotional or financial abuse, and don’t know anyone who has. But they’re sure it’s a problem. As former Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs writes in The Guardian today, elder abuse is almost certainly under-reported, and in many ways intergenerational violence and exploitation “is the hidden face of the domestic violence discussion Australia has been rightfully having for many years now”.

At the launch of the Elder Abuse Action Australia in Sydney yesterday, Jenny Blakey from Seniors Rights Victoria told some heart-wrenching stories. One was about David. Two weeks after David’s wife died, his son moved in with his wife and children. David found himself a prisoner in his own home, told that he had to cook in his bedroom, not in the kitchen, and could only use the bath, not the shower. At the same time, David had to take out a loan against the house to fund his son’s business, and the bank is now chasing him.

Another story Blakey told was about Rita. Rita turned up at her priest’s door on a Friday afternoon, with all her possessions in a shopping trolley. She’d sold her house and given all her money to an adult son and her daughter-in-law, to buy a bigger house where she would move in and they were going to look after her for the rest of her life. The relationship broke down and Rita had to leave, but she went through six years of litigation, finally succeeding in the Victorian Supreme Court.

Yes, it is hard to take anything the banks say at the moment at face value – under the hammer of the Hayne royal commission, they are no doubt desperate for the merest skerrick of positive publicity. At yesterday’s launch, Australian Bankers Association chief and former Queensland premier Anna Bligh was welcomed as a recent convert to the cause. Nevertheless, there was something to what Bligh said on the ABC RNs AM this morning: banking staff “all too often see people who are their customers being pressured to give access to their accounts, all too often see their accounts being drained by family members, by friends that they trust and care about”.

It’s a problem that we don’t know the full extent of yet. More fool me for thinking I could bowl up to a bowlo and get a few frank accounts of elder abuse.

Franz, 81, who lives on a part-pension, does Meals on Wheels for 30 hours over five days a week, driving from Punchbowl to Villawood. “Sometimes we go into a home and the person is lying on the floor and they can’t get up, and they’re waiting for us to come and pick them up, but that’s not abuse.” The worst thing he sees is people who’ve blown their pension on the pokies and have run out of money. Elder Abuse Action Australia? “It’s a lot of rubbish, I deal with the elderly every day, I’ve never come across it. Somebody up there is getting paid for it.”

Laurel, 74, has a totally different view: “I’m sure it’s a problem, because I can see you get very vulnerable when you get old and you have to rely on your children. Fortunately our children are very nice. But they have very set views that are different to our views. My daughter is absolutely against nursing homes – she doesn’t want anything to do with them. Also there’s the financial aspect that if your children are not as successful as you’ve been, there’s the financial wish that you should spread some of it around.”

Laurel is a solid Labor voter who supported changes to include superannuation into the assets test for pension purposes. A churchgoer who does line dancing and tai chi, Laurel says she and her husband mix with active seniors: “They’re not the ones most likely to be taken advantage of … [they’re] the ones that would be missed if they dropped out.” It’s the isolated ones we have to worry about.

On one common interpretation, today’s political divide is essentially between the well-off retirees benefitting from generous housing and superannuation tax concessions, and faithfully represented by the Coalition, and younger generations locked out of unaffordable housing markets and staring at a future of low-paid, insecure work, represented by Labor and the Greens. On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the Coalition might ponder whether policies that exacerbate this divide, pitting their old voter base against the young, might not worsen the very same tendency to ageist attitudes and intergenerational conflict they say they are concerned about.

Laurel has just been on a two-week river cruise through France. Normally, she says, cruise ships are like a “floating branch of the Country Party … this time it wasn’t, they were all Labor”.

since this morning

The Australian reports [$] that Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has said the rape and murder of Melbourne comedian Eurydice Dixon shows that men need to change their behaviour. In Fairfax Media, Clementine Ford writes that we should not let Dixon’s death be a “cautionary tale”, and that “it’s up to society to work together to dismantle misogyny and the particular kind of male rage that informs these acts of aggression”.

The Guardian’s Amanda Meade reports that veteran ABC Radio host Jon Faine this morning took aim at managing director, Michelle Guthrie, and her chairman, Justin Milne, for not standing up to ABC critics and defending the broadcaster. Faine said that politicians were “laughing” at the ABC for staying silent while it was “done over” by the Coalition government.

in case you missed it

In Fairfax Media, Nick McKenzie and Chris Masters report that the Defence Force is scrambling to deal with a suspected “mafia style” plot by a small number of special forces soldiers to threaten and intimidate witnesses assisting an inquiry into war crimes.

Conservative heavyweights will move [$] to unseat former Howard government MP Trish Worth from one of the party executive’s four vice-president positions, in a strike against the moderate faction at the Liberal Party annual federal council meeting this weekend, according to The Australian.

In The Guardian, Graham Readfern looks at the Australian Environment Foundation, where Tony Abbott will next month deliver the 2018 Bob Carter Commemorative Lecture. The event’s ticketing site says that Abbott will talk about “Climate Change and Restraining Greenhouse Gas Emissions”.

In The Conversation’s Friday essay today, “Dark Emu and the blindness of Australian agriculture”, UWA’s Tony Hughes-D’Aeth writes that farming in this country “is a religion – it is as much a religion as it is an industry”.

by Anwen Crawford
The Cure’s permanent twilight
Robert Smith and co. are celebrating 40 years of the band. Why do they still inspire such love?

by Richard Denniss
Dead Right
How neoliberalism redefined growth in the ugliest of ways

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?

The Monthly Today logo

In-depth analysis of the moments that define the day from Paddy Manning.
Free to your inbox every afternoon.


The Monthly Today

A stadium’s last stand

Arrogance. Vandalism. Victory. It’s the NSW disease

Ardern confirms gun law reforms

With the world watching, NZ’s PM shows how it’s done

Unpopulation policy

The PM’s efforts are too little too late

Christchurch and the media

A more diverse mainstream media wouldn’t platform so much hate

From the front page

A stadium’s last stand

Arrogance. Vandalism. Victory. It’s the NSW disease

Image of ‘The Seventies’ by Michelle Arrow

Making the private public: ‘The Seventies’ by Michelle Arrow

This new history traces how the decade’s redefined politics shaped modern Australia

Image from ‘Destroyer’

Hell hath no fury: Karyn Kusama’s ‘Destroyer’

Nicole Kidman confronts in this LA crime thriller

‘Exploded View’ by Carrie Tiffany

This new novel is most striking in how it diverges from its predecessors