Tuesday, 8 December 2020
Matters of Public Importance
I'm pleased to speak on this MPI on superannuation today. I remember when compulsory super was first introduced. I think I was in one of my first jobs. I did change jobs, and it took me a good decade and a half to relocate that original super that had been put away somewhere for me. Fortunately, I did. I'm also glad we're moving to a single-fund super system.
The Retirement income review has found that the Australian retirement income system is effective, that it's sound and that its costs are broadly sustainable. It also noted that there's room for improvement. Nobody on this side disagrees with the statement that superannuation is important. As the member for Hotham said—and I share her concerns—it's particularly concerning that women end up with about half the amount of super as men at their retirement. This is a concerning fact, but there are also many reasons for this. While I'm not wedded to any increase and while I haven't put a stake in the ground to say we shouldn't increase super, I do know that simply increasing super across the board is not going to address the difference between what men retire on and what women retire on. If we increase it across the board, everybody's super will increase, so that doesn't address the difference. What we should be more concerned with is making sure that women are retiring with an adequate amount of super, as opposed to necessarily comparing it to men's super.
I know that there are members on this side of this chamber who have expressed very publicly that they don't think the super guarantee should increase. I have not put my name to that, but I do have concerns when I hear arguments that increasing the rate of the super guarantee is not going to impact upon jobs or upon wages. I have been an employer. I have an been employer who actually increased superannuation for their employees in one year. There is a finite amount of income that a business or a not-for-profit earns. When you increase super, as we did one year by three per cent, it impacts the amount of money that you've got left to spend on other things. So a three per cent increase in super is of course going to impact upon any salary increases you can give or on additional jobs you might be able to offer. And, at this point in time, when we are all about creating jobs, it is important that we keep this dialogue going and keep looking at the superannuation guarantee. We want employers to be employing people. We want to get that unemployment rate, which has gone to a revolting level, to come down. If we need to look at the superannuation guarantee to do that—even if it's just in the short term or for a certain period of time—then that's what we should be doing. We want people to have jobs; we want people to be earning income now.
One thing related to this topic that I've become aware of as a result of my membership of the Standing Committee on Economics is the increasing power of industry super funds. My own super is with an industry super fund. But what we've seen through the House Economics Committee is that the trillion dollars these industry super funds now have is giving them an enormous amount of power and an enormous amount of control in the marketplace.
Our industry super funds boast—and I'm not saying 'boast' in a critical way. They advertise that they hold up to 10 per cent of shares in ASX 200 listed companies. To me, that gives rise to a problem, potentially, of common ownership. When you have the same bodies owning shares in all of our ASX 200 listed companies, there is a danger that we're impinging on that notion of common ownership, that the level of control and power they have over decisions being made in companies and in corporate boards all across Australia is excessive. I'm not saying this to signal out industry super funds as demonic bodies but rather to point out that this is something we need to watch—we need to watch as a government, we need to watch as an economy and we need to watch for the sake of our country.