May 10, 2021
Our politicians get 15.4% super, but they’re trying to keep workers’ superannuation guarantee at 9.5%. We need to keep the pressure on for the increases we’ve been promised.
Australia’s compulsory superannuation system is something all working people should be proud of.
Up until the election of the Hawke-Keating Government in the 1980s many Australians were lucky to have any form of super. Most worked all their lives and then had to make do with a pension.
But the 1983 Prices and Incomes Accord saw the new Labor Government sitting down with business and unions to work out how to revitalise the economy. Workers’ representatives agreed to give up a national three per cent pay increase to put towards a new superannuation system for everyone, matched by employers’ contributions.
The system has thrived since then. And again it is workers who have led the charge though their industry super funds, like our own Mine Super. But the conservatives have never liked compulsory superannuation – and they certainly haven’t enjoyed seeing workers’ representatives managing workers’ money better and more responsibly than bankers.
Industry funds, managed by unions and employers together, consistently outperform retail funds because they are fully committed to the best interests of working people.
At our union’s recent National Convention we honoured Peter Muldoon, who has recently retired from Mine Super after 39 years. Peter is a great friend of coal miners who has dedicated his career to helping working families achieve financial security.
Over the course of his career, Peter delivered countless pit top talks to coal miners on financial matters. He attended picket lines to advise striking miners. He assisted bereaved widows and supported members with home visits if they needed help with insurance applications or accessing their superannuation.
The idea of working class Australians being actively engaged in their wealth management through industry funds and people like our friend Peter Muldoon is anathema to the whole conservative way of thinking.
So it has been little surprise to see the Liberal Party forces who opposed compulsory super back at it again, agitating to block the currently legislated Superannuation Guarantee rate of 9.5 per cent rising incrementally to 12 per cent a year.
Their main argument was that many Australians would be better off if they received higher wages rather than an increase in the rate of compulsory superannuation contributions.
But can you spot the big flaw in that argument? There have been no higher wages.
The super guarantee hasn’t gone up since 2014, when Tony Abbott froze the scheduled increases. Since that time Australian wages have been rising at a snail’s pace. If the conservatives’ theory was right, we should have seen booming wage growth unhindered by super increases. We’ve seen the opposite.
Increasing the super guarantee is actually one way of forcing employers to increase pay.
Not every Australian has a financial advisor or a swag of investment properties. Super is often their only chance to invest intelligently and capture that capital growth that has been traditionally confined to the wealthy.
The good news for now is that in the wake of all his recent dramas, Scott Morrison seems to be backing off on the super freeze he had been inching toward. That’s obviously a good thing.
But given he leads a party itching at the chance to hobble the superannuation sector, you’d be foolish to take your eye off him.
Working people must stay on guard to make sure everyone in government understands that blocking our super rises won’t stand. Twelve percent has been identified as an appropriate amount to give workers a dignified retirement and we’ll keep fighting for it.
After all, federal politicians like Scott Morrison get 15.4% super – who do you think deserves it more?
Peter Jordan, Northern Mining and NSW Energy District President
This article was first published in At the Coal Face magazine.