Aleks Vickovich, Angus Taylor and Jane Hume

The federal opposition says the government’s focus on legislating a purpose for the superannuation system fails to place sufficient priority on home ownership and the age pension.

Shadow Treasurer Angus Taylor told the Conexus Financial Political Series lunch on Monday that the Coalition would not take a position on the government’s plan to enshrine an objective for super until it sees draft legislation, which is expected to come before Parliament in coming months.

The government’s proposed wording for the legislated purpose is to “to preserve savings to deliver income for a dignified retirement, alongside government support, in an equitable and sustainable way”.

But he said super should be considered just one of three pillars of the retirement system, alongside home ownership and the age pension, pointing to the findings of the Retirement Income Review, led by Treasury official Mike Callaghan and Conexus Institute board adviser Deborah Ralston.

“There are some who like to think of superannuation as an end in itself – it is not,” Taylor said. “What I’m saying is we need to think about this in a broader context of how do we ensure that people have a great retirement, and choose their own retirement.

“Superannuation is clearly part of that story. [But] owning a home, we know from much work that’s been done over time is also a really important part of our story.”

Shadow Minister for Finance Jane Hume, who worked for AustralianSuper and NAB/MLC before entering politics, praised Ralston, who attended the lunch, for her work on the 2020 review. She said debate around the purpose of super was at risk of overplaying super’s role, arguing that instead the regulatory settings should encourage a “consumption smoothing effect”, rather than ever-expanding pot of super savings.

“Quite frankly, if we’re going to set an objective for anything, why would you not set an objective for the retirement system, rather than just the one pillar in the system?” Hume said. “It’s so important that we get the three pillars working effectively to make sure that people have a higher standard of living in retirement.”

Real estate reform

The shadow ministers confirmed the Coalition was committed to its controversial Super First Home Buyer scheme, under which Australians can withdraw up to 40 per cent of their super, capped at $50,000, to buy their own home.