This month, we celebrate 30 years of Australia’s compulsory superannuation system. That’s 30-years and $3.5 trillion-worth of improved retirement outcomes for Australian workers. This is a significant achievement, and it’s in no small part owed to every union member who has helped establish, advocate for, and defend our world-class and world-renowned retirement income system. Super is a powerful testimony to what employers and employees can achieve when they unite in the interests of everyday Australians.
Super began as a simple idea – an idea that putting aside a small portion of wages in a dedicated fund today could make a big difference to Australia’s workers tomorrow in their retirement. Initially set by the Keating Government at 3% of wages, the Super Guarantee had grown to 9% by 2002. At that point, Australian workers had collectively amassed more than $500 billion in retirement savings.
Despite the Howard Government’s attempt at making super non-compulsory, workers and everyday Australians refused to let their best shot at a dignified life in retirement be traded away in the name of ideology. In 2010, the Gillard Government legislated to increase the super rate to 12%.
Successive Liberal Governments then froze the super rate at 9.5%. But at the 2022 election, after an unrelenting campaign led by workers, unions, and the employer and employee representatives of industry super funds, both major parties committed to seeing the Super Guarantee increase to 12% by 2025.
When the Coalition announced that it would let young people access their super to buy a home, ISA and the union movement were quick to identify how this policy would both harm workers’ retirement incomes and make housing even more unaffordable for young Australians. Australians voted with their feet – turfing the LNP from power after almost a decade in office.
Under an ALP Government, we have an exciting opportunity to make our super system even better. Paying super on parental leave will ensure that women who take time off work to care for their families don’t miss out on dignity in retirement. Getting super paid on payday will help ensure that the 1-in-4 Australians missing super they have earned don’t miss out on more of what they’re owed in their retirement.
But in looking ahead, we should take a moment to reflect on our journey so far – and celebrate that thanks to the advocacy and ingenuity of our union movement, the future looks a whole lot more super for every Australian worker.
Watch ISA’s 60-second retrospective on our super system