This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning till the end of the election. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au
The solution was bloody and brutal. When the mob decided those who had once led them, fed them and cared for them had reached their use-by date, they came for them with spears and clubs. Sometimes they even buried them alive.
And no, we're not talking about the ritual blood-letting that Labor undergoes after most federal elections.
The Ache were a Paraguayan hunter-gatherer tribe that believed they only had one choice when dealing with their elderly and infirm: they euthanised them using the only available methods.
"We react with horror at these stories but ... what else could they do?" asked the noted anthropologist Jared Diamond, who spent years investigating the way different cultures treat their old people. "The people in these societies are faced with a cruel choice."
As the two major party leaders went head to head in their first "debate" last night in front of an audience of 100 undecided voters in Brisbane, the issue of aged care belatedly emerged as an election campaign issue. You might have thought it would be front and centre after the findings of a Royal Commission that only a year ago described our treatment of the elderly as nothing short of appalling and a cause for national shame. But as a nation we tend to be awfully good at ignoring the bloody awful.
For the first time in this campaign the voice of Labor leader Anthony Albanese shook with passion when he was asked yesterday morning about a looming strike by workers in aged care facilities. "This is tough work," he said. "They are faced with circumstances whereby they're in an aged care home and they have three buzzers going at once. Which person do they go and lift up? We have people living in their own soil, unable to be changed for days. We have 50 per cent - the royal commission found this; this isn't Labor party versus Liberal Party - that over 50 per cent of aged care residents were not getting the nutrition they need. They're literally starving. This is a crisis in this country."
Politicians on all sides will undoubtedly engage in cheap point-scoring over the coming four weeks about how many more billions of dollars need to be thrown at an already incredibly complex problem that, with our rapidly ageing society, will only grow more complicated.
But since when has caring for elderly Australians only been about political, budgetary or industrial relations solutions? Isn't this one of those topics that demands a real national debate given what the current flawed system says about our youth-oriented culture and our disregard and even contempt for those who came before us? Aged care barely rates a mention in any voter poll about the important issues in this election. How many stories of care residents being left alone uncleaned for days and photographs of mushy slop not fit for a dog do we need to bring about a cultural change?
There's no point just blaming governments and politicians. Australia's wealth should mean we face less crueler choices caring for our elderly. But after decades of neglect, abuse and malnutrition, good luck trying to argue that we are so much more advanced than a tribe of Paraguayan hunters and gatherers.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Have you or a family member had experience with the aged care system? How can Australia improve its treatment of - and respect for - our elderly? And if you saw the debate last night (It finished too late for The Echidna's deadline), who was the better performer? Send us your views: firstname.lastname@example.org
SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoy The Echidna, forward it to a friend so they can sign up, too.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- The Coalition revealed it would reintroduce its previously abandoned industrial relations legislation if it is re-elected covering enterprise bargaining, wage theft and increased fines for union officials found guilty of breaking the law. Labor branded the move as an attack on unions and a ploy to keep wages low.
- The latest ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index, which is often used as a guide to household spending, rose more than two per cent following the government's cuts to the fuel excise in last month's federal budget.
- Two-thirds of young voters said they believe they will never be able to own a home in their area, according to a poll conducted by Nine newspapers.
- Scott Morrison visited the Liberal-held seat of Boothby in South Australia to announce a $50 million pledge to invest in defence research in a partnership with the University of Adelaide.
THEY SAID IT: "Loyalty is a fine quality. But in excess it fills political graveyards." - Neil Kinnock, former British Labour Party leader.
"We don't want our own little Cuba off our coast." - Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce on the security pact between China and the Solomon Islands.
YOU SAID IT:
"I am writing this from my supplied palliative care bed as I have been sent home to die. I am 85 and although a Liberal supporter I can point out the failings of Scott Morrison and the Libs. He has failed to recognise the plight of the pensioners and welfare recipients and does not recognise the struggles they face every day. When, Mr Morrison, leader of my party, are you going to face and help these desperate people?" - Peter.
"Dear Mr Albanese and Morrison. Sydney median house prices going up $1100 per day in 2021. Did our nation just get stratified by inflation into 'landed gentry' and 'forever renters'? What are your plans to arrest inflation and to return housing to being a "commodity", that, like bread, rises 2-4 percent per annum, not 20-40 percent? - James.
"Policy appears to be a dirty word in this latest contest of ideas. I really don't care about the political half-truths both major parties spin on the voting public. What I would like is political vision to take the younger generations forward to achieve a more compassionate Australia - a nation that cares about climate change and really cares about First Nation People." - Richard.
"Would you release all detained refugees, including the Biloela family, and provide them with Australian citizenship as recompense for the torture they have undergone?" - Murray.
"I'd like to know what, if anything, is being done to address the poor mobile coverage. I live in a vibrant rural city, 4 hours from Sydney. We live in the CBD area and never get more than 2 bars of service. It's very poor. Surely there is a better way? Satellites perhaps?" - Sally.
"Finding this 'debate' concept a bit weird. The two people who wish to lead our country are having a 'debate' on Sky News. This is something that is relevant to every voter in Australia and yet will be staged on a minority news feed? I don't even know where one can tune in. I am probably not alone." - Maureen.
"Now that I'm getting older I would like to move to an apartment or townhouse in the next few years. I don't mind if the value of my free-standing house drops, provided that there is a corresponding drop in the value of properties I would be interested in buying." - Deb.
"Today's political scene is peppered with lies. It has become commonplace to present falsehoods without shame. This is most prevalent in the Labor party." - Wayne.
"Will a hung parliament allow all members to finally work together for the good of the nation? Supporting Labor or Liberal just doesn't seem right anymore." - Samantha.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.