Australia’s industry superannuation system is a national treasure that has delivered generations of workers a decent and secure retirement.
Liberals like MP Tim Wilson and his gang of like-minded, free market zealots remain fixated on destroying it.
Wilson, a former Director of the extremist, ultra free market propaganda shop, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), is obsessed with nobbling industry super and he was at it again on the weekend.
“There is only one policy that stops young Australians using all of their savings to buy their first home, and it’s prioritising super over home ownership,” Wilson claimed in a front-page piece in The Saturday Paper.
Wilson, who is chair of the influential House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, is no stranger to scare campaigns. It was his use of taxpayer dollars to take his phoney Franking Credits House of Representatives “inquiry” around the country that spooked older Australians about a tax dividend they most likely didn’t understand and probably didn’t even receive.
This bloke knows how to play game show politics. The money or the box? Franking credits or poverty? Super or home ownership?
Of course, it’s junk economics underpinned by hardline, ideological dogma that working Australians need to reject.
Here’s a question for Tim Wilson.
Working Australians have always believed their governments should provide economic conditions that allow them to work, save and afford their own home and retire with enough superannuation to live a dignified retirement.
What does it say about how incompetent and disastrous your economic policies are that you want to make them choose between one or the other?
What Tim Wilson won’t tell you is that forcing workers into a corner to choose between a home of their own or superannuation savings is the Liberals economic plan.
This is the Government that has built the Australian economy on the foundations of casualised and insecure work, leaving over 30% of Australia’s workforce locked into the cycle of worrying about whether they get enough hours to pay the bills, let alone save for a home.
Rather than focussing on providing secure work and a decent retirement for the hundreds of thousands of families in this predicament, Wilson would rather indulge his ideological obsessions, tweeting about mysterious meetings with Labor voters in bowling clubs and stroking his ego about the success of his Franking Credits campaign.
What you won’t hear from those waging war on workers’ retirements, like Tim Wilson, is how industry super performs.
The inconvenient truth for them is that, according to the Productivity Commission, industry funds outperform commercial funds by about 2% per year on average. In real terms, for a 30-year-old woman earning $50,000 a year, who has about $30,000 in a super account, that 2% differential means that she would retire with $503,000 compared to a nest egg of $318,000.
That’s a life changing amount.
The Commission also confirmed that at every point in the last 12 years up until 2017, fees for not-for-profit industry funds were lower than for profit schemes.
Oh, and despite Royal Commission’s intense scrutiny, industry super funds sailed through the examination, torpedoing the Morrison Government narrative that legislation was required to strike our union nominated directors from the boards of super funds.
The Liberals attempt to erode the superannuation system went up a gear in 2020 when they allowed Australians facing financial uncertainty to withdraw money from their super accounts amidst the pandemic crisis.
It was a cynical abrogation of the Government’s responsibility to support Australian workers, and a deliberate attempt to undermine one of the key tenets of the super system – the sanctity of savings ahead of retirement.
The result was devastating for the super balances of tens of thousands of workers.
The latest figures from the Australian Prudential Regulations Authority reveal that workers withdrew more than $36 billion from their retirement savings after being forced to fend for themselves.
More than 700,000 workers completely emptied their super accounts, with over 80% of those being under the age of 35.
It is a catastrophic blow to the retirement prospects of a whole generation of Australian workers, engineered by Scott Morrison’s Government.
Let’s cut to the chase on the politics of this war on workers retirement funds.
Tim Wilson and his free market fanatics hate the idea that workers have organised themselves to control their own capital through superannuation. Workers should stay in their lane, and let the moneyed class of bankers, financial advisers, stockbrokers and real estate types build their wealth by skimming fees and profits from the pockets of ordinary Australians.
The enormous success of industry super in providing low-fee, high return results for its members is a shirtfront to the spivs and sharks Wilson would rather handle your money.
The very same people who The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry found were up to their necks in dodgy deals and exploiting the vulnerable.
In his interim report, Commissioner Kenneth Hayne laid it out in stark terms that the free market cowboys and regulators knew and did nothing about the scams that were being run.
“.. the answer seemed to be greed – the pursuit of short term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty, from the executive suite to the front line…. When misconduct was revealed, it either went unpunished or the consequences did not meet the seriousness of what had been done.”
Industry Super was also put through its paces as part of the Hayne Royal Commission and emerged with a clean bill of health. Yet, it’s Industry Super that Wilson and the free market fanatics are fixated on, not the crooks in suits that the Royal Commission exposed.
It’s been two years since the Royal Commission released its findings and only one third of its 76 recommendations have been implemented.
Tim Wilson, along with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg voted against holding the Royal Commission 26 times and now seem determined to ignore the majority of its findings in the hope that their mates can get back to business as usual, which include such charming grifts as charging dead people fees for financial advice, and bullying disabled people into life insurance policies they could never benefit from.
Where is Tim Wilson’s outrage about these systemic rorts that have damaged the financial wellbeing of working Australians?
So Tim, spare us the smug assertions that you’re only interested in improving the lives of working Australians and looking out for their financial best interests. The scoreboard doesn’t lie, and you have done next to nothing to end the outrages perpetrated by your banking mates.
And if you can’t do better than offering working Australians the miserable, binary choice between owning a home and retiring with dignity, that’s a black mark on your record.
Australian workers deserve decent jobs, a home of their own and the dignified retirement industry superannuation can provide. And they certainly deserve better than the cynical, ideological politics of Tim Wilson.