Super for nest eggs not ‘pet projects’

The federal opposition has accused the Labor government of trying to funnel superannuation into “pet projects”, and called for the health of Australian nest eggs to remain the top priority.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers wants super funds to double down on the clean energy transition and housing, noting these areas are clearly in need of investment.

“We also see trillions of dollars in workers’ capital, government budgets heaving with debt, and obvious needs for investment in areas like housing and energy,” Dr Chalmers told super and banking bosses at an Australian Financial Review roundtable on Monday.

Dr Chalmers also called for a treasurer’s investor roundtable to bring together super funds, banks and venture capital funds to explore investment opportunities with national importance.

Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor said the primary purpose of super was to support comfortable retirements rather than finance projects the government deemed important.

“Protecting hard-earned savings through the highest quality investments must come first,” Mr Taylor told AAP.

“History has shown when Labor governments try to pick winners, the result is poor productivity, poor business returns and poor outcomes for Australians.”

Industry Super Australia chief executive Bernie Dean said it was possible to boost super balances and strengthen the economy simultaneously.

“By investing in things like nursing homes, allied health providers, renewable energy, airports, emerging manufacturers, ports and toll roads, these funds are growing nest eggs and generating economic growth at the same time,” Mr Dean said.

An Industry Super Australia report revealed industry super funds were already investing in renewable energy projects.

Industry super funded clean energy projects were expected to power 800,000 homes and abate 3.6 million tonnes of carbon annually.

Dr Chalmers also intends to make it easier to invest in the clean energy transition and housing, he said on Monday evening.

This includes work on standards to disclose climate risks and opportunities, as well as the formation of a housing strategy.

Dr Chalmers said improving the supply of housing was particularly important given the influx of migrants needed to help ease labour shortages.

There were $3.3 trillion in superannuation assets at the end of June 2022, according to quarterly Australian Prudential Regulation Authority data.

This represented a 0.5 per cent drop in value in the past year, which reflected volatility in financial markets triggered by high levels of inflation and subsequent interest rate hikes, troubled supply chains and uncertainty surrounding the conflict in Ukraine.

Super contributions have increased, however, jumping by 15.2 per cent from last year.

APRA put this down to high levels of employment driving an uptick in employer and personal member contributions.

 

Poppy Johnston
(Australian Associated Press)

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