Australia’s retirement income system was built to be more than just an anti-destitution measure. It is an expression of our national social contract – how we as a nation are committed to care and accommodate for those whose contributions built the country we enjoy today. A grand bargain between workers, their employers and our Government to ensure that those who have worked hard – those who have contributed to our community and economy – have a standard of living post-work which allows them to live a comfortable and dignified retirement. The structure of our retirement income system reflects this grand bargain.
Superannuation is the bargain between workers and their employers to ensure that the value workers created during their working life isn’t forgotten. The Age Pension is the social guarantee that no Australian should live in poverty.
Australia’s superannuation is one of the most successful vehicles for a decent retirement in the world. It is also a monumental solution to challenges our nation faced and is the source of solutions for our current and future challenges.
Right now, however, parts of our social contract are failing. Low income workers – in particular women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers – are not adequately supported by our superannuation system, and many workers are wholly excluded from the system. The Age Pension is not high enough to guarantee a dignified retirement. And some parts of our system work against each other.
We have the opportunity and the obligation to rebuild the retirement income system for the future. To strengthen the system and ensure that it is sufficiently robust for workers to retire with dignity. The generation which built our retirement income system have entrusted us to be custodians of the system. We cannot let down those who will come after us.