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Senator takes aim at 'selfish' super funds

Credibility gap: Bragg stokes Coalition war-of-words with super funds

Normal text size Larger text size Very large text size Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg will accuse super funds on Wednesday of running a "misinformation" campaign against him and the Coalition government, saying the $3 trillion industry has resorted to name-calling because it feels threatened.

Senator takes aim at 'selfish' super funds

Sydney Morning Herald by Rob Harris, Jennifer Duke

23 | September | 2020

Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg will accuse super funds today of running a "misinformation" campaign against him and the Coalition, saying the $3 trillion industry has resorted to name-calling because it feels threatened.

The first-term senator, who has antagonised the industry in recent months, will speak directly at the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia to hit back at claims he is like an "anti-vaxxer", wants to condemn women to poverty retirement and is "obsessed" with dismantling the industry.

The latest in a tit-for-tat battle over the future of the industry comes after Greg Combet, chairman of Industry Super Australia, accused Senator Bragg and his colleague, Victorian MP Tim Wilson, of being "puerile" in their treatment of super funds.

Senator Bragg will tell the conference he is "pragmatic" about the future of superannuation and wants to fix a system that was "30 years old and not delivering".

Bad Egg, a scathing book he wrote in early 2020, has put him at odds with the super industry as it raised concerns he has with the system, accused super funds of becoming major political donors and suggested significant reforms.

"I'll live with the name calling if it means Australian workers get a better bang for their buck," he will say. "Let's face it, the industry hasn't had to work very hard to get its capital ... just sit in a cosy office while a mandated 10 per cent of people's pay drops into the coffers."

He will warn the industry there is a "credibility gap" that went beyond the failure of the system.

"The misinformation propagated by the super industry highlights the appalling self-interest," he will say. "If the super industry can't present the facts about their own investments honestly and accurately, what else are you fudging?" Mr Combet, speaking at a Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees function last week, warned that the industry was spending more time on dealing with the "puerile antics of people like Tim Wilson in government and Andrew Bragg" than it did in constructive engagement with government about investment issues.

"And that's just got to change in my opinion," he said.

"Governments need to identify the projects and make a judgment that they would like to work with long-term equity investors like the super funds and mobilise private investment that way."

Industry Super has called individual MPs "hypocrites" for opposing a rise in the superannuation guarantee from 9 per cent to 12 per cent by 2025.

Mr Wilson is the chair of the Standing Committee on Economics and has used his position to heavily scrutinise superannuation funds. Both he and Senator Bragg have previously been critical about the legislated rise in the superannuation guarantee.

When asked about Mr Combet's comments, Mr Wilson said it was "puerile" that he refused to answer questions to the Parliament about bonuses worth "tens of millions he's paying from Australians' super to his fund manager mates".

"Mr Combet's comments reflect the arrogance that is now worryingly pervasive in a sector that thinks super is their money to play with, and we now know what he thinks about Parliamentary accountability too," Mr Wilson said.

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