AbstractsLaw & Legal Studies

Present at the Creation: The Origins of the Australian System of Superannuation

by Mary Easson

Institution: University of New South Wales
Department: Actuarial Studies
Year: 2014
Keywords: Origin of Australian Superannuation; Creation of Australian Superannuation
Record ID: 1059408
Full text PDF: http://handle.unsw.edu.au/1959.4/53882


The thesis explores the origins and development of the Australian system of superannuation, from 1983 to the mid-1990s, during the terms of the Hawke and Keating Labor Governments, and the Accords between those governments and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), on behalf of the Australian union movement. Prior to 1983, access to superannuation was largely confined to male managerial and professional employees and was further limited in terms of eligibility, vesting and portability. In the 1970s unions began to exploit limited power in particular enterprises and industries to pursue superannuation as deferred income. The three tier Australian system evolves from this start: (i) mandatory contributions under legislation; (ii) employee supplements to retirement savings; and, (iii) a social security safety net, the universal age pension entitlement. Relentlessly pursued by the unions, generalled by ACTU Secretary Bill Kelty, from Accord Mark I in 1983, and its subsequent iterations, superannuation became an industrial right. It may never have occurred but for the leadership of Prime Minister Bob Hawke and particularly his Treasurer, later Prime Minister, Paul Keating. The circumstances of the origin of Australia’s system of compulsory superannuation were unique. A question explored and answered in the thesis is whether its origins and development were deliberate or largely accidental. The development of superannuation savings as a means of curtailing direct inflation through wages growth is also evaluated.