The charter group for the Labor government’s proposed council of superannuation custodians has begun public and private consultation with the superannuation industry, with Jeremy Cooper at the helm as chair.

Cooper said the primary task for the group, appointed in May by Minister Bill Shorten, is to deliver a coherent report on the role of the council and its accompanying charter of superannuation adequacy and sustainability. The report is to be delivered to a tight deadline of July 5, with the assistance of Treasury.

“I think the sort of facts that surround this are there have been so many changes that a demonstrable number of people have lost confidence in superannuation. How can you prove that? How can you measure it? What would you do about it?” Cooper told Investment Magazine.

“Then also assessing what seems to have caused a lot of the heat in this debate has been around how fair the distribution of concessions in superannuation is. What does superannuation actually cost the nation to have a system? What are the benefits that accrue?”

Cooper spotlighted the fairness of tax concessions and how they’re employed in practice as a crucial issue.

A further consideration is the composition of the council, which Cooper said will be “quite a different group of people” from those commissioned to write the report.

Getting it right

“One of the most difficult questions is how you get the right balance of people who know enough about superannuation to be helpful on this council, but don’t have vested interests and don’t have commercial interests. That’s a key issue,” he said.

“Because the one thing that this body has to have is it has to have people’s respect and it has to give confidence, otherwise you could argue that there’s not a lot of point in having it. You’ve got to get that bit right.”

Sitting on the charter group are also non-executive director of MLC, Elana Rubin; former judge, Alan Goldberg; APRA deputy chair, Ross Jones; and former MLC head, Steve Tucker.

Cooper dismissed the possibility of being a member of the council should it come to fruition, saying he’s “way too connected” and that he is employed full time at Challenger as chairman of retirement income.

“My sense at the moment for this council is, you wouldn’t have people who are in those sorts of roles,” he said.
Cooper acknowledged that a change of government in September may put an end to the establishment of the council, but despite the opposition’s talk, he said the charter group is focused on adding value through its report.

“My gut feeling is that it won’t actually go away. If you do public policy work, you’ve got to accept that it doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve actually been quite lucky in the sense that a substantial proportion of the recommendations that were made in the Cooper Review have actually come to fruition.”

 

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