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Retirement

Why it is ‘cruel’ and ‘embarrassing’ not to raise the SG

  • September 29 2020
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Retirement

Why it is ‘cruel’ and ‘embarrassing’ not to raise the SG

By Cameron Micallef
September 29 2020

Australian workers, who are bearing the brunt of the public decision to shut down the economy, could be “cruelly rewarded” for their sacrifice with a less dignified retirement, industry experts have said.

John Hewson

Why it is ‘cruel’ and ‘embarrassing’ not to raise the SG

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  • September 29 2020
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Australian workers, who are bearing the brunt of the public decision to shut down the economy, could be “cruelly rewarded” for their sacrifice with a less dignified retirement, industry experts have said.

John Hewson

The superannuation guarantee is currently 9.5 per cent of a person’s wage. But it’s legislated to rise to 10 per cent next July, with follow-up staggered increases by 0.5 per cent a year until reaching 12 per cent by 2025.

Debate about Australia’s rate of superannuation guarantee has varied with some politicians, business leaders and economists calling for the rate to remain at 9.5 per cent as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe said allowing the rise to go ahead would hinder already burgeoning unemployment figures, prompting Prime Minister Scott Morrison to say in August that the government was “undecided” on whether previous scheduled rise should go ahead.

During a recent ACTU emergency superannuation summit, trade unionist Bill Kelty explained how public decisions – albeit correct ones – have created a divide between politicians and ordinary Australians.

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“While a member of Parliament gets 15.6 per cent [super], has no reduction in wages, no reduction in salary, no reduction in part-time work,” Mr Kelty said. 

“They are not asked to take their annual leave or their long service leave.

“But ordinary workers out there respond to these correct public decisions, are asked to take their annual leave, their long service leave, are asked to work part-time, they are asked to take their money out of superannuation.

“And reward for that. In addition to all the pain you have to bear for all these public decisions, we are not going to give you your superannuation increase next year,” Mr Kelty said.

The unionist pointed out how holding the rate of superannuation since 2014 has not led to an increase in wages, despite the narrative that Australians could see a pay rise if they sacrifice the additional superannuation. 

“Oh, and by the way, you might get lucky and get it in wages. There’s not the slightest bit of evidence you’ll get it wages.

“This is cruel, this is simply a set of cruel and unfair policies being imposed on the community if they take away the additional superannuation,” Mr Kelty said. 

Former Liberal opposition leader John Hewson agreed with Mr Kelty, pointing to the overused slogan “all in it together” with those who are saying it unlikely to be experiencing the same problems as workers.

“The government has refrained from bearing any of the pain. They haven’t, for example, their own salary and here they are arguing to maintain a 15 per cent super benefit, while denying everyone else the transition from 9.5 to 12 per cent.”

“What does it take to embarrass our political leadership to share the burden properly and to be a leader.

“Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand cut salaries, while this government won’t,” Mr Hewson stated.

Mr Hewson also fuelled speculation that the government might be trying to dismantle compulsory super, noting the Coalition will use “any argument” not to increase super for workers.

“This is not a political issue; it’s not about the need to exit the COVID recession – it’s about longer-term strategic challenges,” Mr Hewson said.

“It’s a challenge for good and responsible government; it’s got nothing to do with the other short-term challenges that can be used as an excuse. 

“The government is now finding any argument not to [increase the SG]... if you step back, you have to wonder if their aim is to kill off compulsory super altogether.”

Mr Hewson said that while the super system could be improved, Australia’s progress in the retirement space was “commendable” and should be protected against the government’s desire to lift the economy out of the short-term recession following the COVID-19 crisis.

“It’s not to say the present systems are as good as they could be – we know the system discriminates against women, low-income earners and casuals, and the concessions people might take advantage of are skewed heavily in favour of the wealthy,” he said. 

“The COVID recovery has become a test of whether to look at this issue in the context of the desperate need to recover from the recession – it’s a test of the government’s capacity to think strategically and stick to a reform agenda that is clearly in the national interest. 

“It’s an opportunity for dealing with a longer-term structural change that was started decades ago and needs to be finished.”

Why it is ‘cruel’ and ‘embarrassing’ not to raise the SG
John Hewson
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About the author

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Cameron is a journalist for Momentum Media's nestegg and Smart Property Investment. He enjoys giving Aussies practical financial tips and tricks to help grow their wealth and achieve financial independence. As a self-confessed finance nerd, Cameron enjoys chatting with industry experts and commentators to leverage their insights to grow your portfolio.

About the author

Cameron is a journalist for Momentum Media's nestegg and Smart Property Investment. He enjoys giving Aussies practical financial tips and tricks to help grow their wealth and achieve financial independence. As a self-confessed finance nerd, Cameron enjoys chatting with industry experts and commentators to leverage their insights to grow your portfolio.

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