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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 11310

Ms ROWLAND (Greenway) (12:35): I rise to celebrate the 20th anniversary of one of the most transformational economic and social reforms in Australia's history—namely, the superannuation guarantee—and to highlight the next steps this government is taking to improve superannuation for all Australians. Announced on federal budget night, 20 August 1991, by then Treasurer John Kerin, this reform was fundamental in shaping the superannuation system as we know it today, as well as a key policy for addressing the need for all Australians to have adequate retirement savings.

This government, like the Hawke and Keating Labor governments before us, believes in building our capacity for lifetime income security in order to ensure comfort and financial wellbeing after one's working life, not just during it. Not only has the superannuation guarantee made all workers shareholders in their own destiny; it has improved the economy for generations to come. The more private savings that people have to retire on, the less younger workers need to pay in tax to support those retirees. The more of our own money we have in retirement, the less we must rely on the age pension.

That is why the introduction of the superannuation guarantee was such a visionary and progressive piece of policy. Yet it is timely in present circumstances to remember that at the time of its introduction it came under attack by the then opposition, who made baseless predictions about the supposed damage—with no corresponding benefits—that universal superannuation would wreak on Australian workers and the economy. The former Liberal member for Bradfield, David Connolly, told the House during the superannuation guarantee debate:

It is simply that this legislation will cost jobs at the very time when Australia, like most other developed countries, regrettably, appears to be going into a phase of our economic development where periods of unemployment in excess of 12 months may well be the norm.

Doesn't it sound familiar? Senator Richard Alston also managed to get it so wrong. He said during the same debate, whilst espousing the virtues of Fightback:

That is the tragedy of this sordid little deal. It is not going to be in anyone's interests. It is simply going to have very disadvantageous consequences for the people it is designed to help.

What a visionary! And, finally, Senator John Watson continued the fear campaign, saying:

At the lowest level, the superannuation regime represents the loss of one job in 30 …

Those who once sat opposite told the Australian people that one in 30 workers would lose their jobs as a direct result of introducing superannuation for Australian workers, a policy designed to provide them with sufficient funds for a dignified retirement. How wrong they were. Today, we have a multitrillion dollar industry of funds under management, developed over the past 20 years, creating jobs and investment in sectors not even imagined at the time of its inception, both within and beyond financial services.

Not only was this policy so right 20 years ago but it is why this government is delivering on the next steps for superannuation reform. The package of Stronger Super reforms, announced yesterday by the Assistant Treasurer, continues the long tradition of Labor governments delivering for Australian workers. Under the Stronger Super reforms, Australians will benefit greatly from a new era of low-cost superannuation through the introduction of the MySuper proposal; new data and payment standards for superannuation transactions under the SuperStream proposal, which will make it easier for superannuation funds and their members to locate and consolidate multiple accounts; and improving standards of trustee governance and strengthening the requirements for trustee directors to act for the benefit of members.

It is not just this government that considers these initiatives to be important. There are many industry leaders who agree with us. In today's Australian Financial Review, for example, there are many such examples, including John Brogden, CEO of the Financial Services Council, who is quoted as saying:

It's an improved package, a balanced package and one that our members ... regard as very much worthy of support.

We have come a long way since the Cooper Review and its 177 recommendations for improving the Australian superannuation system. We have come a long way since the introduction of the superannuation guarantee system itself. We recognise the importance of a considered and market-leading retirement incomes policy, and we are delighted to continue our push to ensure every Australian has the opportunity to enjoy a dignified retirement. Lifting the rate of superannuation from nine to 12 per cent continues this government's commitment to working Australians. We do this for the over eight million Australians with superannuation accounts, their families, future generations, the funds and wealth management industry which continue to grow as we speak, Australian enterprise which benefits from our savings pool, and our citizens generally. They know that superannuation is an institutional Australian pillar, like Medicare, the minimum wage, the age pension and a national disability insurance scheme. This is why it is so ironic that those opposite cannot bring themselves to support the proposed increase from nine to 12 per cent. In fact, those opposite who were elected to this place prior to 2004 enjoy superannuation benefits which are defined benefits and notional contributions well in excess of the proposed 12 per cent for most Australians. They must realise that we have a superannuation system that is the envy of the world. They should not stand in the way of genuine reform, building on the history of this success, and this government's commitment to improve the superannuation system for future generations of Australians.