After campaigning for more permanent funding this year, Super Consumers Australia (SCA) has received a $5 million grant from the government, to be delivered across five years from 2023-24.
The grant was determined via an open process and will be funded by the Superannuation Supervisory Levy – administered by APRA.
In a media release today, the minister for financial services Stephen Jones said the decision helps make sure “consumers to have a strong voice on their super”.
“Having an independent advocate to government and industry will deliver better outcomes for members,” he said.
With six staff on the team, SCA describes itself as the “people’s advocate” within the superannuation sector that advances and protects the interest of particularly middle to low-income populations.
‘Awash with self-interest’
The organisation’s acting director Gerard Brody said the grant win gave it more confidence to consolidate the team.
“We’d have to do some planning work but really the grant will help us build upon our existing work,” Brody said of the organisation’s upcoming focus areas.
“That includes policy advocacy, using people’s stories to shine a light on the biggest problems in superannuation, and support work in investigative journalism.
“Importantly, we also want to provide rigorous conflict free research that uncovers things like fund performance, fees, insurance and customer service.”
Some of the research pieces SCA put out this year include the updated retirement saving project, assessing realistically how much people need to retire, and it is the top-read article of the year with over 30,000 views, Brody said.
Another key investigation was on First Nations people’s experience with the system, which revealed that the group is twice more likely to have lost and unclaimed super compared to the national average.
In its January submission to the 2023-24 federal budget, SCA has highlighted that – as the then government funding was due to run out in June – the lack of budget certainty was “threatening access to consumer advocacy and research in an industry that deeply needs it”.
“As the Productivity Commission identified in 2019, the heart of many problems with super is that it has been dominated by the interests of funds and trustees rather than consumers,” the submission read.
SCA was established just after the Productivity Commission released its report on superannuation, Superannuation: Assessing efficiency and competitiveness, in late 2018.
“The system was awash with self-interest… We should not slide back to this standard.”
This sentiment was reiterated by SCA’s director Xavier O’Halloran in an interview with Investment Magazine in June. Even with the variety of stakeholders in the super industry, an organisation that explicitly represents consumers’ interests is still critical.
SCA does that on an annual budget of a large fund CIO’s salary, he said at the time, but still needs to count on government funding.
“[The value] we saw ourselves adding is that we could keep regulators, the industry, and policy makers really accountable to consumer needs, when they’re thinking about policy in super, and also the quality of the products that they’re already delivering.”