Tuesday, 8 December 2020
Matters of Public Importance
I thank the members for Petrie, Hotham and Whitlam for their contributions to this debate. I want to start off by saying that the superannuation system that we have in Australia is an incredibly important innovation. Paul Keating, Bill Keelty and Ian Ross deserve credit where credit is due. As the report into retirement income makes the point, we have a system that is sustainable, is manageable and has capped Australia's ongoing unfunded liabilities at between two and four per cent of GDP. Most other nations, like the United States, the UK and Japan, have unfunded liabilities in the hundreds of per cents. The UK's unfunded liability prior to COVID-19 was 900 per cent.
But we also have to be honest in this chamber and in this parliament about what the superannuation system in Australia has done. It was the policy purpose of this system, as set out by Paul Keating and Bill Keelty, to reduce or suppress Australian wages. They wanted to do this for the specific and express purpose of reducing inflation in the Australian economy. It was the grand bargain. They said it: Keating said it; Keelty said it; Ian Ross said it. And Callaghan, in the retirement income review process, has proved it. Those opposite are very keen to recite what is on page 1 of that report. I encourage all of them to read past page 1, maybe get as far as page 10, if they feel so inclined, and look at the tables and the economic modelling that Callaghan did that emphatically showed the superannuation system that we have in Australia makes workers worse off over their lifetime. It is not an accident. It is the specific policy design of this system.
As Callaghan had to come out the day after and say, 'Look, if I am wrong in the way that I have modelled this, in the way that I have approached this, if the model is wrong, if the data is wrong, tell me where.' The multi-trillion-dollar industry superannuation system—and I would say to the member for Whitlam, my criticisms are not of industry super. Too often, to the member for Hotham's point, this has become a political argument between Labor's largest donors—that is, industry super—and the Liberal Party. And they are right to make the point—