The somewhat strained relationship between the government and the superannuation industry – particularly the SMSF part of it – was the pachyderm in the room when Kelly O’Dwyer, Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, addressed the 2017 SMSF Association conference, and the Minister gave tacit acknowledgement to the Large Grey One, noting that the government accepted that not everyone was satisfied with the superannuation tax reform package – but that despite this, it believed that the legislation would improve the sustainability, flexibility and integrity of the super system overall.

“As our population ages and our fiscal pressures increase, it is important that superannuation tax concessions are affordable and well-targeted. It is important that all Australians are encouraged to save for their own retirement,” the Minister said.

O’Dwyer told the SMSF conference it was “absolutely critical that our superannuation industry as a whole has well-governed standards of oversight, probity and accountability at its foundation”.

O’Dwyer described the new professional standards legislation as the government’s means of ensuring that future retirees had access to the highest quality financial advice possible, and fostering trust and confidence in the industry.

“Access to appropriate financial advice can significantly improve people’s long-term financial wellbeing, however reduced trust acts as a barrier to consumers seeking financial advice. That is why we has committed to raising the education, professional and ethical standards of financial advisers,” the minister said.

“There are, after all, few industries that have such far-reaching effects on people’s later lives and it does mean the system must be the best it can possibly be, whether it’s through changes to provide people with more choice or better professional standards. The government is committed, like you, to making it happen,” she said.

O’Dwyer also said the government would resubmit legislation it shelved last March that would allow “around one million” Australian employees to circumvent enterprise bargaining agreements and workplace determinations to choose their own super fund – whether non-profit, retail or SMSF.

She said there were more than 2 million Australian employees with contributions “shackled” to non-profit funds, and this would open up further choice for about one million of those.

Minister O’Dwyer’s in-person address was followed by a short video from her shadow counterpart, Senator Katy Gallagher, Shadow Minister for Small Business and Financial Services, who battled an ill-timed bout of jack-hammering from behind her recording location to thank particularly the SMSF Association for its help in the grounding she had received since taking over the shadow financial services portfolio last July, at a time of major change in the superannuation industry.

Gallagher and O’Dwyer may not agree on everything in terms of the super settings, but they certainly appeared to agree on one thing – that 2017 would be another busy year for the sector.