Too old to rule?

The decision today by United States President Joe Biden to run for re-election in 2024 and potentially extend his tenure until he is 86 has raised the question: when should our elder statesmen hang up the reins of power?

Young and old believe age shouldn’t matter when electing Australian politicians. Audio: Xander Sapsworth-Collis.

Different generations of political leaders believe it’s mental acuity, not age, which should determine whether someone is fit to be a premier or prime minister in Australia.

While President Biden’s age is a divisive topic in America, the WA chairperson of the United Seniors Party Bob Burdett says mental sharpness is more important than age for West Australia’s politicians.

“I wouldn’t put an age limit on [being WA Premier] but I would put a cognitive awareness limit on it,” he says.

“As long as someone is physically and mentally capable of being Premier I wouldn’t put an age limit on it. ”

Oldest world leaders. Graphic: Xander Sapsworth-Collis.

The United Seniors Party encourages people over the age of 55 to run for state and federal parliament.

Mr Burdett says seniors have the experience of being young, middle-aged, and old, which makes them suited to deal with the issues of Australians of any age.

“Seniors have a lot of life skills and most of us can remember when we were young,” he says.

“As you age you get to the point, as long as you’re honest and forthright, you can make decisions that benefit everybody.”

Mr Bob Burdett.

Leader of the Young Nationals Angus Webber agrees and says Australians should consider empathy over age when selecting members of parliament.

“I don’t think there should be an age limit but I think it’s extremely important that they’re in touch with a broad range of the community,” he says.

“It’s about ensuring they’re in touch with young people and the issues we’re facing but also the issues of the older generation.”

Robert Menzies was the oldest Prime Minster to hold office in Australia and John Tonkin was the oldest WA premier – both retired from the position aged 72.

Young Nationals leader Angus Webber encourages political participation from all ages. Photo: Supplied Angus Webber.

Mr Webber says it’s important to encourage younger people and seniors to get involved in politics as both need a voice for their issues.

“It’s important in our democracy that we allow anyone from any background to put their hand up and from any age group,” he says.

“I think it’s also important to promote young people in politics.”

While Mr Burdett says there should be no official age limit on running for office, he also says that as people age their ability might decline, which voters should consider.

“There would be an upper limit but it would be in the eighties and nineties I think,” he says.

“Depending on the person’s ability to hold the position.”

Joe Biden became the oldest US president when he was sworn into office in 2020, aged 77, and he is now 80.

His likely opponent, Donald Trump, would become the second oldest president should he win, aged 76.

Categories: General, Politics, Youth

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