Daniel McCulloch and Paul Osborne
(Australian Associated Press)
Labor has seized on startling new figures as evidence an increase in the superannuation guarantee is more important than ever.
Quarterly contributions to retirement savings have plunged below zero for the first time since super was introduced three decades ago.
“The Morrison government’s lack of a plan for jobs and the recovery has already forced millions of anxious Australians to raid $33 billion of their hard-earned retirement savings,” shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said.
“Now more than ever Australians need help to rebuild their superannuation balances.”
Superannuation benefit payouts soared 77.7 per cent in the June quarter, driven by the early release scheme that started on April 20.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has flagged a legislated rise in the super guarantee rate could be shelved if the economy continues to struggle through the coronavirus pandemic.
He also launched a blistering attack against industry super funds while defending his decision to let people dip into their retirement savings.
More than 600,000 people have taken money out of their super accounts early during the coronavirus pandemic.
The prime minister claimed Labor was acting like “puppets on a string” for union fund managers by questioning the controversial scheme.
Mr Morrison argued people should spend the money as they see fit.
“Those opposite (Labor) want to keep the hard-earned savings of Australians away from them when they need it most and have it tucked up into the … union fund managers as they count their directors’ fees,” he said.
The Morrison government is separately pursuing legislation making it easier for employees to pick their super funds.
Some workers covered by enterprise bargaining agreements previously had their super fund chosen by employers.
Concerned the system was leading to duplicate accounts and higher fees, the government rewrote the rules through legislation which cleared the Senate on Tuesday.
The bill will receive a final tick of approval in the House of Representatives before it becomes law.
ACTU assistant secretary Scott Connolly said the laws were a coalition government gift to under-performing, for-profit, bank-owned superannuation funds at the expense of workers.
“Workers bargain for a single fund in the workplace where they know it is in their best interest,” he said.
“This ensures superannuation is paid in full and on time, that workers have the best insurance available to them and their line of work, as well as access to defined benefit schemes.”