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Labor, unions, industry funds seethe

The opposition party, Industry Super Australia (ISA) and unions have criticised the Retirement Income Review and say the super guarantee (SG) must rise.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the government is looking for excuses to break its promises.

"Can I say with regard to the government's ongoing attacks on superannuation, this is a government that has never supported universal superannuation," Albanese said.

"The fact is, we have a legislated increase for universal superannuation to 12%. The coalition committed to not change that. But once again, they're laying the groundwork for another backflip."

He also pointed out that thanks to the early release of super program the government bought in to allow people to access their retirement savings to get them through COVID-19, 600,000 Australians now have a super balance of zero.

"That will have an impact on the quality of their life in their retirement, but it will also have an impact on the future budget position of future governments down the track. And that's why this government's ongoing attack on superannuation will be resisted by Labor," Albanese said.

"Make no mistake, Labor supports the existing 12% superannuation that has been legislated and we'll fight any attempt to undermine it or change it."

Asked by a journalist if there were any circumstances where Labor would support pausing the scheduled SG increase Albanese replied categorically, no.

Shadow finance minister Stephen Jones also had some criticisms. He took to Twitter to question the manner in which the government released the report - with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg fronting a press conference before the report was released to the public and the media.

"The Treasurer has been sitting on this report for four months. He does a 24-hour media blitz on it and doesn't give it to anyone...... then asks 'Any questions?'" Jones said.

He also suggested the government was "gearing up to overhaul retirement income" and the formula would be to cut super, make people sell their homes and tell workers they're better off with less.

Meanwhile, ISA welcomed the findings of the report, but interpreted its findings as clearly indicating that the legislated rise to 12% SG needed to go ahead.

"While the detail of the 600-page report is yet to be assessed, some of the findings on the legislated super guarantee increase the government selectively released overnight seem ill-founded," ISA said.

"The review states that super increases are at the expense of wages growth, claiming working life income would be 2% higher if the super rate does not lift, as legislated, from 9.5% to 12%."

ISA added that in 2014 the government froze the SG on the promise that it would promote wage rises.

"An ISA analysis of more than 8000 [enterprise bargaining agreements] struck then shows that promise went unfulfilled. There was no magic wage rise," it said.

"The reality is that the super rate has increased just 0.5% in the last 18 years, in that time real wages growth has been sluggish - many factors determines income growth."

Prior to the release of the report, the Australian Council of Trade Unions also feared whatever the review's findings were they could be used to delay SG increases.

The ACTU released its own report today, which found that many Australians will be forced to work well into their 70s if the SG does not increase.

The ACTU report found that lost savings from the 2014 SG delay and a further delay in 2020 will amount to between $70,000 for a pharmacist or retail worker and $149,000 for police and teachers.

"The Retirement Income Review was supposed to provide certainty, instead the Australian people are left wondering whether next year's superannuation increase to 12%, promised to them and enshrined in law will be stripped away by this government," ACTU president Michele O'Neil said.

"Any further delay to the super guarantee increase will rob millions of workers of the best and healthiest years of their retirement, including workers who have performed essential work during the crisis."

Read more: SGISAACTURetirement Income ReviewIndustry Super AustraliaAnthony AlbaneseStephen JonesTreasurer Josh FrydenbergAustralian Council of TradeMichele O'Neil
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