Stephen Jones MP
Bob Turner is 85 and retired now after a life of hard and honest work.
In 1950, at the age of 15, his first job was droving sheep and cattle through the heat and dust of Western Queensland.
He spent his days either in the saddle or swinging an axe or a pick.
His nights passed under the stars, sleeping on the hard earth.
Come the age of 30, he knew a bloke, who knew a bloke … who got him a job as a deckhand on a freighter.
The endless blue horizon of the seas had replaced the sweeping plains of the outback, but the work was no less gruelling.
At the best of times the constant listing and rolling of the ship took its toll on his body, his weight constantly and unpredictably shifting from foot to aching foot.
But the true test came when the skies darkened and the wind whipped the ocean into a roiling seascape of moving mountains.
Bob tells me about workers doing dangerous work in heavy seas. Crawling about the upper deck on hands and knees as a ship took a battering from a tempest, such was the violence of the storm and the threat to life and limb.
Needless to say, these days his knees and back are shot.
You can only imagine how much greater Bob’s pain would be if he’d been forced to work into his 60’s or 70’s, a most unlikely proposition for workers of his generation.
As it is, he gets by with his superannuation topping up his pension.
Like countless others, these arrangements give Bob a dignified retirement.
It’s worth noting at this point that the super payments Bob gets were not something he could have expected when he first mounted up as a teenage drover.
Back then, the country had yet to grapple with the challenge of an aging workforce.
When Prime Minister Paul Keating brought in superannuation the ratio of workers to retirees was one-to-six.
Today it is one-to-four.
What that means is the taxes needed to fund retirements falls on a shrinking pool of workers.
Making matters worse, the pension was widely accepted as inadequate to ensure dignity in retirement and would inevitably need to rise to meet community expectations.
One potential answer to this conundrum was to make people work longer.
That means harsh consequences for manual workers like Bob.
Such a move would simply have pushed him onto unemployment benefits or the disability pension.
Superannuation was the magic bullet that solved many of these problems.
It allowed small contributions over a lifetime to build saving for a longer and better retirement.
Furthermore, it boosted the nation’s domestic savings, we now have the third largest pool of retirement savings in the world.
It means that workers now own more of the wealth that we produce, from mines to airports, tollways, seaports and high-rise buildings.
Of course, super has had its opponents.
Business said it would dampen wages.
Banks said it would diverts savings traditionally held with them into non-bank options.
The life insurance also worried about competition.
Most of that has moved on, but not the political opposition.
Liberal politicians have displayed a pathological animus to super, their stamina driven by ideology, not economics.
Industry super shatters their world view.
Workers representatives, the unions, now sit in chairs once the privileged domain of the old chaps’ club.
Workers now collectively own billions in capital that’s invested in their futures and the nation’s productivity.
Australian capital owned by Australian workers, not the London Club and the wink-and-nod crowd.
The other great thing about super is that it’s for everyone.
Instead of managers and politicians like myself being the only ones who can rely on a decent retirement, workers can too.
With that said, we have to acknowledge super is not perfect.
The industry was slow in dealing with duplicate accounts, which meant fees eroded savings in inactive accounts.
Contributions derived from a percentage of wages meant existing gender pay gaps project into retirement income gaps for women.
There’s a huge gap in performance between above-average funds and the cellar dwellers. Over a lifetime, this can mean you end up with half as much to retire on as if you had been in a good fund.
And while women’s’ representation on boards is better than the corporate average it is less than it should be.
Fees overall have come down fast of late but should have done so sooner.
Investment in regional Australia is still well below the ideal.
Superannuation tax concessions that overwhelmingly favour the wealthy are not sustainable.
The Government, of course, is largely disinterested in any of that.
They focus instead on dismantling a system that is already changing the face of work and the experience of retirement.
Their agenda is clear.
Get union reps off boards.
Make contributions voluntary.
Wind back rises in the Superannuation Guarantee Levy.
Make existing retirement savings just like any other bank account, to be accessed for any purpose.
What will that mean for people like Bob?
They will have to work longer.
They’ll have less to retire on.
Ports and other infrastructure will be owned by the sovereign wealth funds and superannuation funds of other countries, instead of Australian funds making money for Australian retirees.
Workers like Bob who bent their backs to make this country what is deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labour in their golden years.
Working-age Australians who are building on what Bob and his generation left for them need to know their futures too are secure.
Sign the Petition and put your name with hundreds of thousands of other Australians at https://saveyoursuper.com.au/