Now, with the population graced by increasing longevity, universal SG at 9 per cent may not be enough for most people. “The question, at the 25-year mark of compulsory superannuation, is: are we doing enough or are we complacent? This debate about going from 9–12 per cent is a classic fork in the road, where you can just sit by and hope the industry will keep sailing along, or we can develop it and grow an adequate retirement savings pool,” Shorten says. “There will be plenty of wrinkles in the implementation, and we will count upon people in this room, and again, the broader industry, to help us iron out those wrinkles.” MESSAGE TO THE MASSES Despite the well-documented Cooper Review and the ultimate role of retirement savings in most peoples’ lives, Australians, in the main, are not tuned into the superannuation debate. This may in part be because it is being contested in meeting rooms and conference sessions by men and women in suits, in jargon-heavy trade media and occasionally in the mainstream financial press.

“In many cases, it’s the industry talking to each other, and I think there’s a whole conversation the rest of us need to have with the rest of Australia,” Shorten says. “You see yourselves working for multiple constituencies. You’ve got shareholders, you’ve got stakeholders. But at the end of those constituencies is the Australian people, and they rely upon the industry and government to ensure we have a system which can hopefully mean that when people – the people in our towns and cities, our own families – finish their 40-45 years of work they can retire adequately, and by that I mean have enough money.” The push for an increased SG will be fought over in Parliament and ultimately passed or rejected, but will be decided in the living rooms and beside the mailboxes of millions of Australians awakening to the fact they will count on super to support their retirement, he says.

“Parliament should be the adjudicator of the views of the community, but we shouldn’t adjudicate absent the engagement of the community first. “Get out and talk to the people who get paid superannuation. It doesn’t matter if it’s a self-managed super fund (SMSF), it doesn’t matter if it’s an industry fund, a retail fund, a public sector fund or a corporate fund. They’re the people who, I believe, will grasp the benefit of superannuation.” This also means talking to employers who mistakenly see the SG as a cost burden on their businesses, and the workers who would rather keep their contributions in their pockets rather than invested for retirement. And it means overcoming the high, but not insurmountable, barriers that have so far split the super industry into opposing factions. This crossfire can undermine consumer confidence in the system. Marianne Perkovic, head of distribution at retail super provider Colonial First State, says the industry should agree on a unified position “so it’s not retail up against industry, but one industry, and it’s superannuation, instead of attacking each other and criticising the different value propositions that we bring”.

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