Rupert Murdoch an example for older Australians


Rupert Murdoch81-year-old Rupert Murdoch has been on display in a London court room during the past week as a possible role model for older Australians. There is a lot not to admire about his business practices, but he stands tall as an elder who is able to maintain his stature in the face of momentous challenge. His 103-year-old mother is another example of a person whose dignity remains undiminished in old age.

Murdoch and his mother are privileged in that personal wealth has afforded them the best aged care money can buy. Obviously Murdoch does not yet receive 'aged care' because his good health sets him apart from many of his contemporaries, who are afflicted with Alzheimer's and other conditions of old age. His well-funded lifestyle and health regime is geared to ensure the longevity of his working life.

Murdoch and anybody else who can afford to fund their retirement and aged care costs should do so. They have a potential to maintain their dignity and quality of life in old age that those of slender means lack. The Government needs to fund the retirement and aged care of those who cannot pay their own costs, but there is no reason why it should give funding to those who can.

That is the thrust of the Federal Government's new aged care blueprint, which was announced last week and welcomed by most stakeholders and, it seems, the Opposition. Tony Abbott's response to the plan is essentially that it's good but too good to be true. Let's hope it's not.

The essence of the blueprint is that aged care is an entitlement rather than a luxury. That is a departure from the rather muddled and undefined position of the past, when a greater number of people died before reaching old age and there was less call for aged care.

There has been an imperative for the Government to update and articulate aged care entitlement as a core value linked to what it means to be Australian. There is no such entitlement in certain other countries, notably in the United States, where there is resistance to the idea of support for those who cannot pay.

It is a vast understatement to suggest the increasing population of older Australians has stretched resources. Martin Laverty of Catholic Health Australia speaks of 'sustainability deficits'. He said 60 per cent of our aged care services have operated in the red for the past few years, and a paltry 1800 of the 24,000 applications for aged care at home were successful.

'The government fell short of adopting all the Productivity Commission's plans, which, if adopted, would have set up aged care services to meet the needs of older Australians for the next few decades. But what the government did offer is a blueprint that will improve what is a pretty dire situation.'

There's a lot of work to be done to ensure that the reforms are legislated and implemented without the political and media obstruction faced by that other great reform the NBN. To that end, Lin Hatfield-Dodds of UnitingCare has called for an implementation group with bipartisan representation from federal and state governments, as well as the non government sector. 

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.

Topic tags: Michael Mullins, Rupert Murdoch, aged care, Productivity Commission, Martin Laverty



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Existing comments

Yes. What you say is important and true. Yet, what struck me about Mr Murdoch's recent appearances in public arenas were his remarks about the state of affairs in Australian politics. 'Slimy', I think is the word he used in calling for an election in Australia.. It's an old trick, of course. When you're accused of theft, accuse someone else of a bigger theft, or of murder - whatever you reckon you can get away with. 'Slimy'. Well, hell. That sums it up for me. More front than Myer's. More neck than a herd of giraffes. More entrees than a dinner at 'Borgia's'. I understand that you mean well. As an ageing Australian, I am worried about what might happen to me, and to those I love. But I haven't lost all of my marbles yet, and I really need you, at Eureka Street to keep your eye on the ball. On this occasion, the 'elderly' issue was worthy enough, but a bit of a stretch from your stated starting gate. How could you have so neatly sidestepped the obvious issue? What about the Murdoch/media control/no phone is safe/no holds are barred/any disgusting behaviour can be cleverly diverted/ issue? I think you fell for it.
Kate Ahearne | 30 April 2012

UK Independent 20 November 2011: "Charlotte Church waived fee for 'good press' "Charlotte Church described today how she agreed to waive a £100,000 fee for singing at Rupert Murdoch's wedding in exchange for a promise of future favourable coverage in his papers. "The star, dubbed the Voice of an Angel, told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards she was just 13 at the time and wanted to take the money. "But she was persuaded by her management and record company that she should go for the option of being "looked on favourably" by a "powerful man" like Mr Murdoch. "Church, 25, said she accepted that her strategy failed and that the media mogul's newspapers had since been "some of the worst offenders". ... The singer said she was told Mr Murdoch wanted her to sing Pie Jesu, even after she pointed out that it was a funeral song. Murdoch may display personal dignity, but his career has been a long (too long?) tacky exercise in corruption. Was there a Lord Acton who said something about the corrupting effect of power? Murdoch has not the character to rise above Acton's aphorism.
David Arthur | 30 April 2012

Kate Ahearne's comment is on the ball. However, in defence of Michael Mullins' headline and his use of Rupert Murdoch and Rupert's mother as examples of self-supporting senior citizens I should like to say this. The headline and the example of the Murdoch family made me read the article. As a self-supporting and frugal senior citizen I am fed up with politicians posturing on social issues and their avoidance of facing up to what is fundamentally wrong with Australian society. I usually give little attention to issues like an "aged-care" blueprint. But the danger with using an attention grabbing headline and an extreme example is that readers such as myself end up concentrating on the headline or the example. I live in a seaside area of NSW. Next door to me is a complex of 14 townhouses. Only two are permanently occupied. The owners of the other twelve units use these modern (1990s) houses at the most only ten weeks of each year. I have just heard another report on ABC news of persistent homelessness and the absence of affordable rental housing. Something has to be done about a more equitable distribution of resources in this great country.
Uncle Pat | 30 April 2012

I agree strongly with both comments - Kate Ahearne and David Arthur and am surprised at the 'press' you give Rupert Murdoch.
Pat Jennings | 30 April 2012

I must say that I agree with the first respondent Kate Ahearne. There is in fact an elephant in the room here. How can we side track to something else.
John Whitehead | 30 April 2012

Mr Murdoch may be adroit at answering - or dodging - embarrassing questions but this is much less important than how he uses his great power to manipulate public opinion. The basic principle of democracy - the equality of every citizen to influence the composition and action of government - is hugely compromised when one person can and does use his control over newspapers in a partisan manner. There was a principle, once widely accepted, that the news pages reported the news and that the opinions of the owners or editor should be confined to the editorial.
Bob Corcoran | 30 April 2012

I agree with your comments generally and particularly in relation to Elisabeth Murdoch - her wealth and privileged lifestyle has given her an advantage but she's been philanthropic towards her community. Aged care will continue to be a major issue as the baby boomer generation retires and lives longer. Just so long as we don't go the way of the US health system!
Pam | 30 April 2012

As one watches Rupert Murdoch's desperate attempts to hang onto the shreds of his reputation and to his business interests, one can but surmise that your comment about him being a role model for the elderly was not meant to be taken seriously. More significant is your comment that, unlike Mr Murdoch and his mother, most Australians do not have the financial means readily available to pay for the medical asistance required to enjoy a healthy, old age. The reality of Australian society is that most indigenous people rarely live to be as elderly as Rupert Murdoch, that it is almost impossible for anyone of any age to get to see a doctor without a lengthy waiting period, that in some country areas there no doctors available anyway and further, that a four-five hour wait in an emergency department in a public hospital is considered normal. In my opinion, for a healthy lifestyle for anyone at any age, there would be more suitable role models than any member of the Murdoch clan.
Isabel Hodgins | 30 April 2012

Everyone is right of course about care of the elderly, of whom I am one. However, can I comment on Michael's opening paras. Thursday night is a disaster on the two ABC channels since they took off that lovely three-parter on famous trials. And since I refuse to watch ads separated by some programming on the other channels, I found myself watching the grilling of Murdoch on News 24. Forget for a moment the disgraceful treatment of the Gillard govt by his media in this country, in London Murdoch was brilliant: calm, reasoned, unflustered, in no way intimidated by the smart legal brains less than half his age. Kerry Packer would have done it differently, no doubt. But I could only admire the way this 81-year old stood up to the grilling. One for the oldies.
Frank | 30 April 2012

Dignity? Stature? 'Stands tall as an elder' Rupert Murdoch??? Surely the status of 'elder' needs to be earned by being more than a certain age and showing self-confidence fed by power and wealth. I don't know how indigenous communities bestow such titles, but I'd expect the term to involve a communal recognition of wisdom and moral stature.
Chris Watson | 30 April 2012

At least Murdoch has had to face up to the failures of his empire, and with the way the law/economy/media operates, if Murdoch wasn't the big media mogul, someone else would be and we'd be pointing the finger at them. What about the faceless wealthy shareholders (ie Royal families) in thousands of other companies that we never bother to look into? What about the dubious profits from the defence industry and arms manufacture? That's an industry that will never grow old.
AURELIUS | 30 April 2012

Your definition of dignity is different to mine. Mr Murdoch may have appeared before the committee clothed in an expensive hand made suit, but in fact, like the emperor, he has no clothes. He stands before the world naked in his duplictiy and dishonesty.
Vincenzo | 30 April 2012

Rupert Murdoch’s nomination for sainthood may be a little bit too pre-mature, but he has been a strong defender of press freedom. Without freedom of the press, we would have far more corruption and nepotism. He is right, some people did not do their job and thought that cheating and law breaking would be rewarded.
Beat Odermatt | 30 April 2012

Rupert's "momentous challgene" was his own doing, the systemic culture of the devious practice of phone-hacking, extremist political viewpoints (one only has to read The Australian's right-wing bias on anything that is perceived to be socialist-left, from climate change to the invasion of Iraq - refer Robert Manne's essay on Murdoch's Australian). Mullins might as well point out that Hitler saved Germany from financial ruin or Mao eradicated illiteracy...... Apart from mistakingly hailing Murdoch as a role model for other elders, I have no quarrel with the rest of Mullin's dissertation on the fate of older Australians.
Alex Njoo | 30 April 2012

Michael, you failed on both counts. First, in praising Murdoch's stature as an elder, and second, in defending the government's reform package on aged care, which focused only on funding and ignore the rampant abuse of our true elders in residential "aged care facilities". See http://www.agedcarecrisis/a-fly-on-the-wall-in-hell.
Juanita | 30 April 2012

But all of these reports forget to say that most of us will die and does not allow for any dying at all.

There might well be 4 million baby boomers about to become old but who says we will all live long enough to need care.
Marilyn | 30 April 2012

The Murdochs appear to be very lucky with their health, but not everyone is so lucky. Many elderly people would like, when confronted with a diagnosis of dementia, or some other awful way of dying, to go quickly, painlessly and with their dignity intact. I'm hoping that voluntary euthanasia will be demanded as an option by the growing number of decrepit baby boomers, so that that option will be there for me.
Russell | 30 April 2012

The headline is catchy, but why mention Rupert Murdoch and not write about his habit of deciding who will govern in Australia, the UK and the USA. The Federal government has brought major reforms to bear in the face of intense opposition led by Mr. Murdoch's papers, not just in Aged Care but in almost double Health funding, and now the National Disability Insurance Scheme. With each announcement there has been increased criticism of the government in the headlines to deflect from the real news.
P. Oliver | 01 May 2012

Beat seems to imply that Rupert Murdoch's problems were caused by a few rogue individuals. To me, that sounds very similar to the explanations given for the atrocities perpetrated by some US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the corrupt practices of some members of the Queensland Police in the second half of the 20th century, and the abuse of children by some priests and ministers of the Catholic and other churches. As an explanation, it has its attractions, especially because it negates the need to question the contribution made by the cultures of the various organisations of which these so-called 'rogues' were a part. Systemic abuse of whatever kind does not occur in a vacuum and it's about time those at the top of abusive organisations - be they military forces, police forces, or churches realised that the buck stops with them, and that the rest of us hold them accountable.
Ginger Meggs | 01 May 2012

Murdoch can stand tall because he is standing on some billions of dollars An old codger who is only standing on the aged pension cannot even be seen
Bede Hickey | 04 May 2012


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