What is it about the Morrison Government and its continued attempts to sabotage Australia’s superannuation system?
Dismantling our world-leading retirement savings regime has become an ideological obsession for many in the Liberal Party. Even amidst a global pandemic, an economic meltdown and wide job insecurity, crushing super seems their only priority.
Look at recent history.
First came the calls from some government MPs to bench its own legislated timetable to increase the superannuation guarantee from 9.5% to 12% by 2024.
Next were the calls led by Liberal MP Tim Wilson (lately of the hard-right economic extremist think tank, the IPA) to allow people to raid their super for a housing deposit, the result of which would see a soaring price bubble in the market.
Then came the pandemic and the Government’s decision to allow workers facing economic hardship to pilfer their super savings to survive the recession.
The latest attack on super came and went in a flash and was the most tone-deaf thing heard in Australia since Meatloaf’s performance at the 2011 AFL Grand Final.
In the week when Australian women were taking to the streets to voice their rage at the systemic abuse, violence and misogyny they face in this country, the Liberals floated the idea that those caught in a domestic violence situation pay their own way by using their superannuation savings.
Emma Dawson is the Executive Director of independent think tank, Per Capita. She told On the Job that the Government’s hastily withdrawn domestic violence superannuation thought bubble left her aghast.
“I’m pretty outraged, frankly. It’s yet another attack on the women who are most likely to retire into poverty. The system is already letting them down because of a failure to address issues like super unpaid parental leave and the $450 a month threshold [you need to earn a minimum of $450 a month at any one workplace to be entitled to a super contribution from that employer],” Ms Dawson said.
“To say to women in their most vulnerable, desperate circumstances, you’re on your own, you’re going to have to rob your future-self if you want to be safe now, trade off your financial security and retirement against the safety of you and your children – it’s completely irresponsible.”
Sophie Ismail is Australian Unions’ Legal and Industrial Officer, working within the space of gender equality. She points out the Government opening up people’s super accounts during the COVID crisis has been devastating for the retirement prospects of hundreds of thousands of women.
“Superannuation was supposed to improve women’s economic security,” Ms Ismail explained.
“It seems part of a pointed strategy to turn superannuation into a personal emergency bank account, rather than what it’s supposed to be which is a long-term retirement savings plan.
“The first response the Government had to the COVID crisis was to allow Australians to access their superannuation, and that saw over $14 billion taken out of women’s already low retirement savings, and 345,000 women completely empty their accounts.”
Helen Cooney is on the board of Industry SuperFund REST which has over 1.7 million members and manages over $54 billion in assets for its members. She is adamant that the early withdrawal of super balances by younger women have particularly devastating consequences long-term, particularly as they move in and out of work whilst having children.
“Just say that you’re in a situation that you’ve got a couple of kids, maybe you’re pregnant with your next. You’re on parental leave, and not getting superannuation paid on that leave,” said Ms Cooney.
“You really need superannuation paid on every dollar you earn to get the benefit of compounding interest so that when you retire you’ll be able to maintain your standard of living.”
Per Capita’s Emma Dawson sees a political motive in the Government’s determination to undermine the integrity of the superannuation system."The Liberal Government are in the business of taking money out of the pockets of workers and putting into the pockets of big corporations and the people that own them.” Per Capita Executive Director @DawsonEJ Click To Tweet
“They [the Liberal Government] are terrified now that industry super – workers’ capital – has got a seat at the table at some of the biggest boardrooms of the corporations that have traditionally run Australia,” Ms Dawson said.
“They resent that we may be forcing those companies to decarbonise, to invest in safe work practices, to be more on the side of workers when it comes to industrial relations. It threatens their power, it threatens the power of institutional capital and traditional capital.
“Workers are finally getting the kind of power that threatens their ability to continue to live the life of Riley off the back of low paid workers.
“They’re terrified of that power and they want to dismantle it. They are in the business of taking money out of the pockets of workers and putting into the pockets of big corporations and the people that own them.”