In November 2010, Andrea Forbes, senior policy adviser to Bill Shorten, told attendees at an industry roundtable in Canberra that the argument to boost the Superannuation Guarantee (SG) to 12 per cent needed broader media coverage. She wanted coverage of the policy push to extend beyond the trade and financial press to metropolitan dailies with broader readerships. Her intention was clear: the Minister for Financial Services Superannuation wants the debate heard by all Australians. On October 17, Shorten featured in a policy roundtable convened by Conexus Financial, publisher of Investment Magazine, in which consumer advocacy, economics and investment professionals debated whether the boost to 12 per cent SG will benefit working Australians. It was covered by 7.30 that night. The story asked questions that Shorten and the industry must answer to convince the public why more super is necessary. Super asks a lot of workers: why should they forgo more of their salary now – in addition to potential wage increases – for the promise of more money later? In the story, Shorten’s answer was that the system is successful and will continue to be so. Indeed, the universal benefit and worthiness of super to Australians and the national economy are clear to this magazine. Some thought otherwise. Nick Gruen from Lateral Economics argued that people should be allowed to satisfy mortgage demands before contributing to super. Eva Cox, a feminist academic and commentator, opposed an SG increase because super is taxed at a flat rate of 15 per cent for all people.
Displaying her flair for soundbites, she called it a “welfare system for rich men”. Cox also said the finance industry had benefited inordinately compared to the services it provides to fund members. “There is an awful amount of people that have got their snouts in the superannuation trough,” she said, referring to how numerous “agents” in the industry – funds managers and other service providers, and indeed media and conference companies – incur significant costs that are ultimately paid by members. Soon after the 12 per cent campaign was launched, Ian Silk, CEO of AustralianSuper, said a boost to 12 per cent SG is a massive “free kick” for the industry. To justify this privilege it must prove it is capable of delivering valuefor- money investment services to its mandatory customers. It must deliver what it promises – and be seen to do so.