PROJECT M
 

The true believer

The voice on the line has the measured pace and slight drawl familiar from news reports, but at first seems curiously dispassionate. Then it warms to the theme: the creation of one of the world’s best pension systems

© Fairfaxphoto

The true believer

The voice on the line has the measured pace and slight drawl familiar from news reports, but at first seems curiously dispassionate. Then it warms to the theme: the creation of one of the world’s best pension systems

Australia’s “Super” Idea

Superannuation is a compulsory retirement program requiring a percentage of salaries and wages to be paid into a fund. The money is invested into individual accounts privately managed in the marketplace and which receive significant tax concessions.

The system is in addition to a safety-net pension available to eligible Australians (currently AUS$658.40 for singles and AUS$496.30 each for a couple).

In 1985, only 39% of the workforce had “super.” Access depended on age, gender and occupation. Women and blue-collar workers were least likely to have access. With research showing that there would be insufficient taxpayers to meet the cost of supporting the pensions of retiring baby boomers, unions responded with a campaign for compulsory, universal superannuation.

By 1991, superannuation had spread to 68% in the private sector. In 1992, the Keating Labor Government introduced the “Superannuation Guarantee.” Businesses were required to put aside 3% of each employee’s salary into a superannuation scheme.

Contributions gradually rose to 9% by 2002. Combined with voluntary contributions, the average worker now has 12% of their earnings going into super, usually a mix of shares, bonds and property. Upon eligibility, money can be taken as a lump-sum payout or rolled over to another system, such as a steady income payout.

The Keating Government

Key achievements of the Keating Government included the review of the Sex Discrimination Act. He advocated Australia becoming a republic. His Redfern speech on 10 December 1992, on reconciliation with indigenous people, is considered one of the great Australian speeches.

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