One Nation WA candidate claims he was dumped for being “too old”: Is age discrimination still an issue in Australia?

A former One Nation official has reportedly filed proceedings with the Equal Opportunities Commission after claiming he was sacked as a candidate in the Western Australian election because he was “too old” to run for parliament.

Ron McLean, a One Nation supporter since the late 1990s, alleges he was removed from the One Nation ticket in the WA election and sacked from his position as Western Australian branch president by party leader Pauline Hanson last month due to his age, reports Fairfax.

McLean is 87, and if elected he would be 91 at the end of his term.

“She said: ‘Ron, I’m sacking you from the position on [the] agriculture [ticket], I believe you’re too old and you’ll be 91 when the term’s finished’,” McLean told media this week, reports Fairfax.

McLean and his wife and former state secretary Marye Louise Daniels have reportedly engaged a lawyer to file proceedings with the Equal Opportunities Commission over the incident.

A 2016 report from the Human Rights Commission revealed 27% of people over the age of 50 had recently experienced discrimination in the workplace. The average length of time unemployed came in at 68 weeks for workers over 54, compared to 30 weeks for 15-24 year olds.

Meanwhile, HR specialists tell SmartCompany that age alone should never be a decision factor when deciding whether someone can carry out a role, and that older workers have a specific set of strengths in the workplace.

WA One Nation state leader Colin Tincknell has replaced McLean, and told Sky News McLean was pinned for replacement due to his health.

“We advised Ron we had a younger more virile candidate who could take the position,” he told Sky News.

“His health’s not good, he has trouble hearing, we had another younger candidate who could step forward.”

The couple’s lawyer, John Hammond, told The ABC the situation was “abhorrent”.


Age discrimination in business present, but improving

HR expert at HR Staff n Stuff Deborah Peppard believes Australian business’ attitude towards older workers is “definitely improving”. In some cases, businesses prefer to hire older workers, she says.

“There’s an age of entitlement from the younger generation, and employers are quickly seeing that an older workforce typically [has] a different type of work ethic,” Peppard told SmartCompany.

“They have a better understanding of their responsibility and obligation to their employer. Some businesses think younger workers have a bit of an entitlement handout.”

However in regards to McLean’s sacking over him being “too old”, Peppard believes “no one can make that judgement”.

“You need to assess an individual’s capability to carry out the requirements of their role based on the whole package. Age alone should not be a decision maker,” she says.

Peppard recognises some older workers may start to falter in their responsibilities, and notes the difficulties business owners experience when communicating this to a long time staff member.

“The biggest question we get is how to get workers progressing towards retirement when they may no longer be contributing to the business to the level the business would like,” she says.

“We found just being honest and open with the employee about their ability to do their tasks was the best approach. Businesses should work with them and be as supportive as they can.”

“You can’t force them to retire, and you can’t discriminate based on their age.”

SmartCompany contacted One Nation but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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