Meet the pensioner running for the Senate

Meet the pensioner running for the Senate


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Kenneth Betts (centre) with his family.

Kenneth Betts (centre) with his family.

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He says pensioners don't get enough help from the government.

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KENNETH Betts is sick of politicians' promises.

"I pledge to promise that I won't make any promises," said the 77-year-old from Footscray in Melbourne's west who claims to be the only pensioner running for the Senate in Victoria.

"I'm not looking for a career; one term is enough. I think pensioners are treated poorly and need a voice in Canberra."

As an active member of his community (and passionate Western Bulldogs supporter), Ken is running as an independent, he says, in order to give something back.

"I just can't sit at home. I still feel guilty if I'm not out of bed early!"

Ken would like to see changes to the way older people are treated.

"They say you can judge a government by how they treat their elderly," he said. "Right now, at all levels, it's not very good."

He says pensioners don't get enough help from the government.

"I think there's much more they can do, like free public transport in off-peak times. We just don't seem to get a look in."

He describes the $4.95 increase to the age pension in March as "an insult".

"It's just a cup of coffee. We're worth more than that. I think most pensioners saw it the same way."

Ken is also lobbying to see changes in the aged care sector. "I think it's a disgrace that we need to have a royal commission because things have gotten to this stage."

But his interest isn't restricted to older people. He is also concerned at youth unemployment in Melbourne's western suburbs.

"I want to invest in the future. I have 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren on the way.

"The future is not too bright for them at the moment."

A former media professional, Ken officially retired 12 years ago. Since then, he has thrown himself into community work, including serving on local council committees.

He has run for government twice: for the Liberal Party in the 2010 Victorian election and as a member of the Voice of the West party in the 2014 state election.

Ken describes his campaign so far as a David vs Goliath battle and relied heavily on donations to pay the nomination fee.

"I had to hand my hat around to family and friends. I don't have a budget."

Wooing grey voters

Of course, Ken isn't the only older candidate. Nor is he the only one appealing to the grey vote.

The Seniors United Party of Australia lists its core focus as "a better, fairer deal for all seniors" and is particularly concerned about self-funded retirees, superannuants and pensioners.

The party's policies centre on health, aged care, income and housing.

Major political parties are also trying to woo seniors.

Labor leader Bill Shorten announced a pensioner dental plan that would provide $1000 every two years per pensioner and per holder of the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card to pay for oral and dental care.

Mr Shorten said the $2.4 billion program would benefit up to three million people and was "the next step towards Labor's vision for universal access to dental care".

The Liberal party is promising no new taxes on superannuation as well as allowing up to $300,000 from the proceeds of downsizing to be contributed to super.

The party has also pledged wage subsidies and training incentives for mature age workers.

Record numbers

The Australian Electoral Commission touts this year's election as having the biggest electoral roll in Australian history.

A record 16,424,248 Australians are enrolled to vote, making the national enrolment rate 96.8 per cent. One third of registered voters are aged over 65.

The commission estimates voters will use 52 million ballot papers, 70,000 ballot boxes, 187,000 voting screens, 250,000 pencils and 160km of string!

And it wants to make sure all enrolled voters understand how to cast a formal vote for both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

"It is really important that people understand their voting options and how to cast a formal vote so they are able to have their vote counted according to their preferences," said the electoral commissioner Tom Rogers.

The federal election will be held on May 18, with polls closing at 6pm.

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