An agreed income goal for Australia's retirement system would solve issues around superannuation's taxes and default schemes, as well as its cost and efficiency.
This is the view in a new discussion paper by the Committee for Sustainable Retirement Incomes (CSRI), a non-partisan and non-profit body of retirement system experts.
CSRI executive director Patricia Pascuzzo said after seven years of reviews, the government and industry "should know what super is for."
"It should not be about maximising wealth or minimising tax or funding 'nation building' projects. It should be about providing adequate income through all the years of retirement for all Australians," Pascuzzo said.
CSRI say short-term budgetary and political positioning over superannuation threatens to put off even an effective long-term reform plan for Australia's retirement income system.
Pascuzzo said there is no silver bullet but a package of measures is needed "if we are to move to a more sustainable system."
"Further, while lower cost and greater efficiency are important and worthwhile aims for the superannuation system, these are inputs not outcomes and reflect lack of clarity about the actual purpose of superannuation," Pascuzzo said.
CSRI said the lack of a clear objective for super leaves the system open to political pressures for super to be diverted into other purposes like providing home deposits, paying off higher education debts, or fixing the budget deficit.
The CSRI also argues that good long-term policy is more likely to help overcome many of the problems plaguing the system - like poor targeting of tax concessions, excessive complexity, waning community support, limited sustainability and inadequate longevity risk management.
"Yes, wealth accumulation is necessary for improving retirement incomes, but it isn't a sufficient condition for achieving financial security in retirement," Pascuzzo said.
"How accumulated superannuation balances are transformed into income streams and how longevity risk is hedged are critical for income security and lessening reliance on the age pension."
The CSRI says in enshrining a retirement income objective, the government should also lay out a number of supporting principles - ensuring fairness and equity; assisting individuals manage financial risks; providing certainty with necessary safeguards; and contributing to the sustainability of government expenditure.