Treasurer outlines govt super agenda

treasurer superannuation

Treasure Jim Chalmers has outlined key areas for change in the superannuation sector, but has appeared to contradict one of his colleagues with his comments.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers has revealed the federal government is committed to making no changes to the purpose and underlying structure of superannuation, but sees it having a role in tackling issues such as housing affordability.

Chalmers made the comments during a recent speech in which he said the government had no interest in engaging in “unnecessary or ideological fights” around superannuation.

“There’s been too much of that for much of the last decade. We are looking for solutions and for opportunities, not needless brawls,” he said.

He added that among those solutions, the government was working on a reform package to deal with non‑payment and non‑compliance relating to the superannuation guarantee (SG) to ensure fund members receive any super they have earned.

“We see gender disparities in retirement balances and we will fund the SG on paid parental leave when the budget circumstances permit,” he said.

“We see a lack of appetite for retirement income products and we will work with [the superannuation sector] on some new options to try and turn that around.

“We see the rapid growth in spending on aged care and we obviously need to fund that and contemplate what, if any, further role there could be there for super.”

Addressing the nature of superannuation, he said it was “the hope of the side when it comes to building national savings for the masses, when investing in our national priorities, when projecting our influence in the region.”

“That’s why we won’t be messing with its fundamentals: not sole purpose, not preservation,” he said.

“We won’t be directing funds into asset classes or looking for new excuses to give members early access – that was a disaster in my view.”

In regards to early access, he noted it was enabled by the ongoing absence of a clear purpose for superannuation.

“We see the lack of a legislated objective of super as a source of ambiguity which left the gate open for early access – and so we will legislate one,” he said.

On this point he has taken a different view to that of Assistant Treasurer and Financial Services Minister Stephen Jones, who as opposition financial services and superannuation spokesman said super had been a key factor in maintaining the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jones also praised the role early access to superannuation under COVID-19 relief measures had in sustaining businesses and individuals during the first wave of the pandemic.

Chalmers repeated statements made in opposition by him and by Jones that the superannuation sector should play a larger role in growing the housing and renewable energy markets, adding this should take place in conjunction with banks, venture capital funds and government investment funds.

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