Let Productivity Commission settle compulsory super debate

The rent-seeking boss of Australia’s largest superannuation fund, AustralianSuper’s Ian Silk, has urged policymakers to ignore the Grattan Institute’s “flawed and ideological” arguments for scrapping further increases to the superannuation guarantee to 12%. From The AFR:

“Those discredited arguments are echoing now as the opponents of super try and lay the groundwork to oppose the scheduled rollout of the superannuation guarantee (SG) from 9.5 per cent to 12 per cent,” he said…

Mr Silk was responding to Grattan research that found that lifting the super guarantee to 12 per cent would leave many Australian workers poorer over their lifetimes…

Mr Silk said good public policy should not be “based on easily rebutted, ideological arguments that have been smacked out of the park when raised over the last 30 years”…

“The super nay-sayers have been rejected since the 1980s and we now have a super system that is regarded as one of the best in the world for workers and retirees,” he said.
“This is quite apart from the significant drop in the call on the age pension, the reduction in the current account deficit and the impact of the SG on the cost of capital in Australia.”

Obviously, I believe that Silk is talking his own book. The Henry Tax Review explicitly acknowledged that compulsory superannuation costs the federal budget more than it saves in Aged Pension costs:

“An increase in the superannuation guarantee would … have a net cost to government revenue even over the long term (that is, the loss of income tax revenue would not be replaced fully by an increase in superannuation tax collections or a reduction in Age Pension costs).”

The Henry Tax Review also explicitly recommended against raising the superannuation guarantee, in part because it would rob lower income earners of much needed disposable income:

“Although employers are required to make superannuation guarantee contributions, employees bear the cost of these contributions through lower wage growth. This means the increase in the employee’s retirement income is achieved by reducing their standard of living before retirement…

The retirement income report recommended that the superannuation guarantee rate remain at 9 per cent. In coming to this recommendation the Review took into the account the effect that the superannuation guarantee has on the pre-retirement income of low-income earners”.

The Productivity Commission’s (PC) final report on the efficiency and competitiveness of Australia’s $2.8 billion superannuation system explicitly recommended “an independent public inquiry into the role of compulsory superannuation… in advance of any increase in the Superannuation Guarantee rate”:


The Australian Government should commission an independent public inquiry into the role of compulsory superannuation in the broader retirement incomes system, including the net impact of compulsory super on private and public savings, distributional impacts across the population and over time, interactions between superannuation and other sources of retirement income, the impact of superannuation on public finances, and the economic and distributional impacts of the non-indexed $450 a month contributions threshold. This inquiry should be completed in advance of any increase in the Superannuation Guarantee rate.

Let the PC decide the debate and silence the super industry rent-seekers once and for all.

Leith van Onselen
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  1. I’ve always wanted one of those blued Smith Model 29’s. Shooting full power .44 Magnum loads is a bit like having an atom bomb go off in front of your face. It’s not an entirely pleasant experience, but something a man should do every now and then.

    • lol. I used to own a brno .458 winchester magnum. I never actually got the thing sighted in because I just couldn’t help but flinch even when it had a hair trigger. Not to mention that after about six shots you were so sore that it would take a week to be able to shoot again. But boy was it fun!

      • I believe you can use them to shoot Metallic ailhouette, but it’s all too much hassle and I hardly have time to shoot all the guns I have now. Once I’m a retired gentleman of leisure I’ll look into it.

  2. Silk talking like an asset manager rather than in the interest of his members.
    And does not understand the oversaving by the rich after tax break outweighs the forced saving by low income workers that end up on a govt pension and some private pension and if they are lucky most of their savings in their house.
    Overall overseeing in super and house together and under consumption, higher unemployment and a worse standard of living for the average aussie …but the rich one gets a big intergenerational transfer!!!
    No more incentives for super or forced saving for super ….Silk should be helping his members unlock their savings in their homes at a better arte than the govt’s new pension loan scheme…govt borrows at 1.5% and lends to poor pensioners at 5.25% …a much more profitable deal for govt…and a riff off for govt pensioners

    • Spot on 4Ps. I could pay out my mortgage tomorrow and still have a reasonable amount of cash saved before retirement. Also I’d happily spend more in Aust but we don’t make anything anymore because of compulsory super stoking the Ponzi.