Pension backflip, Queensland blitz, signs election campaign under way
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Pension backflip, Queensland blitz, signs election campaign under way

With major party leaders already criss-crossing northern Queensland to woo swinging voters, radical talk of an "energy Royal Commission" and toxic policy baggage being jettisoned by the sleigh-load, it's clear the election campaign has begun.

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While we may have to wait some time before the date is known, there is no doubt last month's Liberal leadership debacle has breathed a new sense of urgency into both the Government and the Opposition.

The Morrison Government is under no illusions it is up the creek without a paddle after Abbott, Dutton, Cormann, Cash and friends pressed the Liberal party's self-destruct button. It now needs to knuckle down and work hard to win back the thousands of votes it has shredded.

The Shorten Opposition has the opposite problem. Before the Dutton challenge Turnbull was virtually unassailable as preferred Prime Minister. The gap in the two-party preferred vote was about as narrow as it has ever been since 2016.

That's all changed. Shorten is now smashing it as preferred PM. The polls are giving the next election to Labor in a landslide. The 2019 federal election is Labor's to lose.

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When this much is at stake pragmatism trumps ideology every time. This is why Morrison, McCormack and others have had a "road to Damascus" moment on the energy Royal Commission they were canning 14 days ago.

It is also why the last really big ticket "zombie" measure left over from the 2014 Hockey budget, the plan to increase the pension age to 70, has been dumped in the trash pack along with the other Abbott barnacles.

How anybody in the Coalition could have ever thought telling every Australian unable to fund their own retirement and born after 1965 they would have to work until they dropped was a good idea beggars belief.

Labor copped enough flak over Wayne Swan's December 2009 decision to increase the pension age from 65 to 67 by 2023.

Even Vladimir Putin was forced to wind back his plans to increase his country's pension ages this week in the face of widespread community outrage.

Given, like the big business tax cuts, legislation to increase the pension age to 70 by 2035 was never going to pass in the Senate, it was a dead letter anyway. It was also electoral poison. Under this proposal Australia would have had the oldest pension age in the developed world.

The economic rationalists who made the case for the age increase by saying people are living longer and it costs  way more to support an aging population don't seem to have got out much.

They should have realised some careers, particularly in the regions, involve hard labour well beyond the capacity of the average 67 and 68 year old. These people aren't suddenly going to find work as computer programmers and social media experts.

Australia's next Prime Minister would do well to listen to the Council on the Ageing. Its chief executive, Ian Yates, said the focus should be on creating jobs for older Australians, not forcing them onto Newstart in their mid to late 60s.

"[This would contribute more to the budget than raising the pension age further could save] and will result in better retirement incomes for many retirees, again saving the budget," he said.