A key focus of AIST’s advocacy work is to improve the retirement outcomes for low- to middle-income earners who face the greatest adequacy issues in retirement, says CEO Fiona Reynolds. To this end, AIST has completed more than 40 submissions to government in the past few years on issues including: the Cooper and Henry reviews; simplified super legislation; private equity investments; first-home saver accounts; lost super; online financial services disclosure – in addition to pre-Budget submissions. Many submissions relate to reviews [including Cooper and Henry] that are still deliberating or, in some cases, the government has yet to act on the review recommendations, so it is still too early to know whether AIST’s submissions have been effective.
Recently, major superannuation policy reforms that AIST has achieved include: equal treatment of super for same-sex couples; improved outcome for the super belonging to temporary residents; more equity for low-income earners on first-home saver accounts; and the promotion of intra-fund advice, says Reynolds. Climate change and the lowcarbon economy is a new language for super funds, says AIST’s policy and research manager, Andrew Barr. “The move to a lowcarbon economy over the coming decades is a far-reaching economic transformation, and trustees will play a central role in driving the massive investment required to achieve it,” he says. AIST has commissioned research into the carbon intensity of Australian equities fund managers with Trucost, and has collaborated with Investor Group on Climate Change to write “A Climate for Change II” – a trustees’ guide to climate change investing. AIST has also collaborated with the Climate Institute to survey funds on their preparedness for climate change.
During the GFC, says Reynolds, AIST worked closely with other industry bodies, including ASFA and IFSA, to reassure the public that the super system was in good shape to weather the crisis and that markets would recover. “Post-budget 2009 when the interim Henry Report flagged the raising of the preservation age for super beyond current levels, AIST was very vocal in condemning this move – and then was pleased to see Kevin Rudd respond quickly to rule out this move,” says Reynolds. AIST has also mounted successful media campaigns on: lost super; low balances for women; the need to extend and enhance the co-contribution super scheme; the need for greater equity for low- to middle-income earners in regards to tax concessions on super; and the superior track record of the not-for-profit sector compared to retail funds.