Although he has been in power for almost ten years, one wonders
sometimes just how well we know our prime minister. He is often
portrayed as a dry, humourless sort of man. Yet only someone with a
wicked sense of humour could have made the speech that John Howard gave to an industry breakfast in Sydney on Monday.

His theme was the damage caused to the economy by early retirement:

It is not so long ago that there was a premium placed
within Governments of both political persuasions …. on developing and
implementing policies that encouraged and facilitated early retirement.

It is only in the last 10 years or even less that we have begun to
change that and we have begun to discover this great and growing
potential resource of older and mature age workers.

He was specifically concerned about “the workforce participation rate
of the age cohort of between 55 and 64” – a cohort that Howard left
some two and a half years ago. But just so no-one would miss it, he
made a point of saying “I don’t have any objections at all of course to
workforce participation beyond the age of 65”. As Peter Costello has
already realised.

And if Howard lacks a sense of humour, he’s certainly not the only one: AAP reported the story as straight news, with nothing more perceptive than the headline, “PM advises against early retirement”. Indeed.