Teenagers are more likely to suffer from depression if they see their parents arguing often. In a Cambridge University research paper published late last year, it was claimed that those who witness frequent arguments and possess a gene making them more sensitive are significantly more likely to become depressed.

The findings are important but hardly surprising, and it is with the same concern for the public’s feelings of anxiety that over the last few weeks superannuation funds have exercised common sense in side-stepping the political row over taxing the rich. For ‘not in front of the kids’, read ‘no scaremongering about the safety of retirement savings’.

Indeed, the back and forth in the media over tax changes has been a low quality and at times hysterical debate, and for this reason, the proposal for a council of super custodians to help formulate policy for discussion behind closed doors makes sense. Its purpose is not just a council of wise men and women, but a means of quelling politicians’ exploitation of the public’s sketchy knowledge of superannuation. The council is surely an idea cooked up by super funds themselves and indeed, three weeks ago, Ian Silk, chief executive of AustralianSuper, said as much at the CMSF in Brisbane. “The industry cannot jump up and down and say ‘we do not want any changes to super’. I think the issue is what the best changes are. We need to take the politics out of it, and get a bipartisan and long-term approach.”

True to his beliefs, Silk has avoided the political mud bath over the last few weeks as the debate has hit its lowest points whenever politicians have felt pressured into making reckless promises. Tony Abbott said: “There will be no adverse changes to superannuation,” before correcting himself with the more ambiguous “no unexpected adverse changes to superannuation under a Coalition government”. Julia Gillard is finding herself having to explain words she has too-rashly spoken on superannuation.

Lastly, a council of super custodians could not only reduce such careless remarks, but also reduce special interest bias. One of the wisest comments on this issue comes from Michael Pascoe, writing in The Age at the weekend. “What is genuinely extraordinary about our current media and political landscape is that there has been so much more heat generated about superannuation for the FW (fabulously wealthy) few, and extremely little about superannuation for the great many more FFW (far from wealthy) – those earning less than $37,000.”

A last thought on that Cambridge University research. It says only some teenagers are affected, and many superannuation members will have seen the debate for the petty electioneering it actually is and it will have gone straight over their heads.


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