Speaking to media at the recent book launch for Nigel Banker's book The Super Secret, the NSW senator reiterated growing backbench support for extending access to superannuation for home ownership purposes.
The senator and chair of select committee on Australia as a technology and financial centre commented that Australia should “open up super for home ownership to meet the Callaghan Review’s findings that the best way to avoid poverty in retirement is to own your own home”.
He added that other tweaks to super should include: cutting fees further with a government default fund; passing the Your Future, Your Super laws to “cut fees and improve transparency”; setting an objective so “we know where we’re going and what we’re trying to achieve”.
“With these changes, the system’s future would be at least sustainable,” Mr Bragg said.
Delving into the home ownership argument further, Senator Bragg said that in the book that he authored last year on super, Bad Egg: How to Fix Super, he had argued that the First Home Super Saver Accounts should be expanded to allow superannuation guarantee contributions.
“Super has damaged home ownership, especially for lower-income Australians, and this trend must be reversed,” he said.
“Home ownership is more important than super. I am not saying that super for housing is a silver bullet, especially in an overheated property market. But it could especially help lower-income Australians get onto the property ladder.”
According to Mr Bragg, several of his constituents had written to him to outline that “their only shot at getting a first home deposit is to access their super”.
He continued: “The Retirement Income Review clearly states that private property ownership should be the focus of the retirement system, with home owners having better retirement outcomes than renters and more equity to draw down on in their later years. (According to the independent review: ‘About a quarter of retirees who rent privately are in financial stress, primarily because of high housing costs... Renters who retire before age pension eligibility age have the highest level of financial stress in retirement.’)
“More Australians are struggling to buy a house and pay off their mortgage than ever. The average deposit for a first house doubled between 2000 and 2015...
“I will continue to push for more young Australians to have access to their super so they can purchase a first home. Financially and morally, we must pursue this,” he said.
Superannuation Minister Jane Hume has previously played down the idea, while super fund and independent economists have also warned that it would only inflate house prices further.
While Mr Bragg said that he wasn’t against compulsory savings and warned that people who want to “abolish super only remove themselves from the debate”, he believes that the system as it stands doesn’t work and that it needed a set objective to deliver retirement outcomes for Australians.
“The system doesn’t have an objective: It was drawn up on a napkin in a Canberra pub. The napkin was subsequently lost to history. No modelling was done and no proper policy framework has ever been enacted,” Mr Bragg said, arguing that the former prime minister Paul Keating, the architect of the superannuation system, "gave the keys to the super city to the banks and unions".
Earlier this year, former prime minister Paul Keating suggested that super funds could “create a whole new asset class in build-to-rent” and also fund public rental housing.
Speaking at the conference of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) in February, Mr Keating said: “We have a problem; younger people can’t afford housing. Giving them money for a deposit is only going to push up the price of the existing stock of houses. What we have is as a supply-side problem, not a demand-side problem.
“So, the answer is to use a superannuation fund money to add to supply. In other words, if money’s invested in superannuation, the super fund can create a whole new asset class in build-to-rent. And also, they can fund public rental housing.
“So, if you’re an earnest minister, and you truly want to put a roof over some young person’s head, the best thing to do is let the super funds fund build-to-rent and public housing.”
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Annie Kane is the editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business.
As well as writing about the Australian broking industry, the mortgage market, financial regulation, fintechs and the wider lending landscape – Annie is also the host of the Elite Broker and In Focus podcasts and The Adviser Live webcasts.