Submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission in response to its discussion paper grey areas—age barriers to work in commonwealth laws (dp 78)

COTA Australia is the national policy arm of the eight State and Territory COTAs (Councils on the Ageing) in NSW, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia, ACT and the Northern Territory.

COTA Australia has a focus on national policy issues from the perspective of older people as citizens and consumers and seeks to promote, improve and protect the circumstances and wellbeing of older people in Australia.

COTA’s policy work is guided by five policy principles:

  • maximising the social, economic and political participation of older Australians;
  • promoting positive views of ageing, rejecting ageism and challenging negative stereotypes;
  • promoting sustainable, fair and responsible policies;
  • focusing on protecting against and redressing disadvantage; and
  • protecting and extending services and programs that are used and valued by older Australians.

COTA welcomes this as it addresses some of the key barriers to improved workforce opportunities for older people. It is clear that there needs to be significant change in the attitudes of employers, the community and older people themselves towards older people continuing to participate in the paid workforce and this attitudinal change cannot be brought about simply by legislative or regulatory change.

However it is also clear that there are a number of systemic barriers, including legislation and regulations that put upper age limits on a range of employment related activities including superannuation contributions, workers compensation, and compulsory retirement ages, or have different provisions depending on age such as the differences between the Newstart Allowance and Age pension. These barriers need to be addressed if the attitudinal changes are to be translated into real choice for older people around workforce participation.

The Discussion Paper presents a comprehensive set of proposals covering the key areas for change that are within the terms of reference for the Inquiry. COTA believes all the proposals could be implemented but that there is a need to prioritise actions. Therefore this submission concentrates on those proposals which we think should become the priority recommendations from the