superannuation

Don’t Forget Super
By Brian Boyd
Published by the Victorian Electrical Trades Union, 2018

Ever wondered where your superannuation scheme came from and what it is meant to do?

I always thought it was a lump sum payment so I could buy a caravan and go around Australia before going on the age pension, and many have tried to do just that. But today anyone will tell you the age pension is not enough to live on, and working until your 67 is just not possible for most people, especially if you work in the construction industry.

During his recent meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull proposed that Australian superannuation funds invest in Trump's plan to renew the US's ailing national infrastructure. He was repeating a view being pushed by Australian ambassador and former Treasurer Joe Hockey for the US to adopt Australia's controversial "asset recycling" scheme by state and local governments, aided by federal subsidies.

The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) has reported a huge disparity in the superannuation that women retire on compared with men.

Last year, the mean superannuation balance for women across all age groups – from workers just starting out to retirees – was $68,000, compared with $112,000 for men.

Women who retired in 2016 had an average super balance of $157,000, while men had an average balance of $271,000.

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating loved this quote of his long-time mentor former NSW Premier Jack Lang. I was reminded of its currency and utility recently, when I read that the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) had made an (overdue) entrance to the public debate about the costs and benefits of the emerging “gig” economy — let’s be honest, it’s mainly costs.

In another example of wage theft, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) has revealed that employers have failed to pay superannuation for their staff by an average of $2.81 billion every year between 2009 and 2015: a total of $17 billion.

The worst offenders were small and medium businesses in the construction, retail, food and accommodation sectors.

The ATO has been investigating "the superannuation guarantee gap" — the difference between the 9.5% superannuation guarantee payment required by law and the contributions employers actually make.

In launching the report Not so super, for women: Superannuation and women’s retirement outcomes” by David Hetherington and Warwick Smith on July 20, Australian Services Union (ASU) national secretary David Smith said: “Australia’s compulsory superannuation system is failing women. According to the latest figures, women are retiring with around half as much superannuation (53%) as men.”

I can understand Brian Boyd’s frustration concerning the Superannuation Guarantee Scheme (SGS) in “Superannuation: A Generation Betrayed” (Green Left Weekly #1144 and #1145).  The original promise was short on delivery.

He is right to point out the inequity that existed in providing superannuation for workers prior to 1992.

Superannuation should provide a comfortable retirement for the several million workers who signed up to the 1983–95 “superannuation revolution” by the ACTU and Hawke-Keating Labor governments. But what should be in a super account to provide a comfortable retirement for this “pioneer” generation?

The historical and current injustices following the establishment of industry superannuation and the subsequent undermining of this important social policy initiative needs to be scrutinised.

Australia's four big banks plus AMP are ripping off the country's workers with huge fees charged on their superannuation investments, a recent study has revealed.

New research carried out by Rainmaker for Industry Super Australia, a mainly union-backed body, shows that the retail super funds, largely operated by the big banks, absorb about half of all fees charged in the superannuation system, despite holding only 29% of retirement savings.

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