Liberal Party’s latest super plan an attack on Aussie workers

Superannuation should be something all Australians can benefit from, writes the ACTU Assistant Secretary.

Superannuation should be something all Australians can benefit from, writes the ACTU Assistant Secretary. Photo: Getty

Superannuation is one of the great democratising vehicles that Australia has created, and an important driver of equality.

Thanks to the efforts of union members a generation ago, working people like teachers and truckies are now able to not only retire with dignity, but also invest and own an enormous share of our national wealth and production through their super funds.

It is a sign of how backwards the Liberal Party is that it would see the broad ownership of Australian companies by the Australian people as a threat.

Recently, the one-note, anti-super Senator Andrew Bragg called for workers to be barred from owning more than 10 per cent of listed Australian companies through their super funds.

This proposal would absolutely smash the returns working people would get on their superannuation.

On day one of the Senator’s fever dream, Australian superannuation funds would need to jettison stocks to be gobbled up by those he thinks would be better owners – foreign-owned multinational investors like Brookfield, Vanguard and BlackRock.

Before working people started banding together and investing collectively through their super funds, the ASX was more foreign owned and more concentrated in the hands of the wealthiest.

Long-term investment for all workers

It is only now, through working people and their super, that nearly all Australian workers have a broad long-term investment in the stockmarket.

A policy to prevent Australians from owning Australian companies would result in more foreign ownership and increased ownership by the very richest in Australia.

Working people would lose out on investing in their country, in their companies and in their future, and more money would be sent offshore to make up the lost returns they would otherwise get at home.

The thought bubble would also treat working Australians as second-class citizens.

Why should UBS or HSBC be able to take more than 10 per cent of a company for their foreign clients and Australians be denied that same opportunity through their super fund?

2024 is a critical year for the Australian people to assert what their goals for superannuation should be, crystallised in the debate about its legislated objective.

It has been a generation since the first workers, as union members, went on strike to win employer-paid superannuation.

In doing so, they asserted that every worker deserved to retire with dignity and that superannuation as a vehicle should not be reserved for only exclusive management, men or the very rich.

Universal values

Super must be available to every worker and their savings should be invested responsibly for the long term and preserved for retirement.

It is part of the great Australian spirit that the campaign to win superannuation was started workplace by workplace, with the ultimate goal that every worker should be afforded that right.

Universality, equity, adequacy and preservation are the pillars of the system, which make it one of the best retirement income systems in the world.

This attack on how superannuation is invested is the latest in a series of hare-brained schemes by Bragg and the Liberal Party to undermine the pillars of the system the Liberal Party has always opposed and is actively seeking to unpick.

In the previous government, the Liberals froze workers’ legislated super increases for five years, permanently cutting the retirement incomes of millions of Australians.

They forced workers to drain their super just to get by in the pandemic, abdicating their responsibility to the Australian people by cutting something they don’t care about.

They attack preservation by suggesting working people should add super to the bonfire of house prices, making people rightfully desperate to buy a house and drain their super to do so.

And now the Liberals are looking to smash workers’ investment potential by robbing them of the magic of compounding returns.

This idea, along with all their others that cut workers’ retirement incomes, should be rejected.

Joseph Mitchell is the Assistant Secretary of the ACTU

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