8 April 2018
Transcript - #2018036, 2018

In the role of: Minister for Revenue and Financial Services [19 July 2016 - 28 August 2018]

Interview with Clare Hooper, The Pineapple Project

Subjects: The superannuation gender gap

CLARE HOOPER:

So how much money do you have in your super?

RESPONDENT 1:

I'm not really sure – I don't know what to compare because no one really talks about it.

RESPONDENT 2:

I couldn't tell you for sure but I would estimate at around $500.

RESPONDENT 3:

I haven't got to that stage yet, maybe in the next 10 to 20 years I might start thinking about that.

RESPONDENT 4:

I checked my super a few months ago actually.

RESPONDENT 5:

I don't really even know what it is to be honest.

RESPONDENT 6:

It's a relevant matter for me having gone through divorce.

RESPONDENT 7:

I think I have two but I'm not sure what they are – I got a letter in the mail that tells me what I have.

RESPONDENT 8:

Yeah that's something that I probably think about thinking 'I don't need to worry about that for a while'.

CLARE HOOPER:

Superannuation is a boring word and a boring thing and it's so far in to the future that you shouldn't worry about it now right? Wrong.

I learned this week that in Australia on average men retire with twice as much money in their super account as women. So just to spell it out that means once you stop working for good money your money will only stretch half as far as the guy next to you. It's like in retirement he gets to fly business and you're on an economy airline. What is this nonsense?

I'm Claire Hooper this is The Pineapple Project – the podcast that makes you better with money and this just seems diabolically unfair. Can't somebody do something about this? There must be a woman in charge of all the women who can sort this out pronto. Who is in charge of women in Australia? Ahh got it – there is a number here for the Minister for Women – I'm taking this straight to the top – to the Minister for Women.

[Ringing]

OFFICE WORKER:

Kelly O'Dwyer's office Grace speaking.

CLARE HOOPER:

Hi my name is Clare I'm a woman I'm looking to talk to the woman in charge of all the women, I've got questions about superannuation. Have you read about the superannuation gap?

OFFICE WORKER:

A little bit – I'm not totally around the issue to be honest but are you a constituent of Kelly's? Do you live in her local area?

CLARE HOOPER:

Ahh I live in it very broadly – I live in Australia. You sound very young, are you across your super?

OFFICE WORKER:

Yes – a little bit.

CLARE HOOPER:

She's probably got heaps of advice for you. But my point is are you upset about it because I didn't realise it was so bad and I'm upset about it and am wondering why people aren't like rallying in the streets about it?

OFFICE WORKER:

Yeah sure – I can put you in contact with her ministerial team if you like. They would be able to discuss these issues with you if you'd like.

CLARE HOOPER:

Will I have to use big words?

OFFICE WORKER:

No [laughs] would you like their number?

CLARE HOOPER:

Yes thank you very much.

OFFICE WORKER:

Hold on one moment and I will just get it for you.

[Hold music]

CLARE HOOPER:

Right okay, am I a constituent? Well, being a women makes me a constituent right? I would have thought so. I have a number, we have a minister, I have questions, let's do this Minister. Deep breaths, here we go. They're putting me through.

KELLY O'DWYER:

Hello, this is Kelly O'Dwyer, Minister for Women.

CLARE HOOPER:

Hello Minister my name is Clare and I'm an Australian woman.

KELLY O'DWYER:

Hello Clare, what can I do for you?

CLARE HOOPER:

Kelly, oh, Minister O'Dwyer I don't know how you… – your highness.

KELLY O'DWYER:

I answer to most things. I've got two small children under three I answer to everything.

CLARE HOOPER:

Then I'll call you mummy. Are you aware of the superannuation gap between men and women?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Absolutely – in fact all too aware. There is about 42% difference between men and women in terms of the retirement balance that they currently end up with. Based on today's figures it is about $166,000 for men and around about $96,000 for women. It's a gap that we absolutely need to close and I am conscious of this both as the Minister for Financial Services and also for revenue but also as the new Minister for Women. And we've got a plan to tackle that.

CLARE HOOPER:

You have got a plan? Because I was going to say this couldn't be more your job as Minister for Women and Minister for Revenue. If you can't fix it then it can't be fixed. What's the plan?

KELLY O'DWYER:

We have introduced a low income superannuation tax offset which means that they're not paying more tax than they need to which helps around about 1.9 million women in Australia with an income of less than $37,000. We also know that there are a lot of women who take time out of the workforce to care for their children and we need to be flexible in our approach to them making a contribution to their super.

CLARE HOOPER:

How's your superannuation?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well look like a lot of people I wish I had more money in it but I'm very conscious of the fact that it is an issue that a lot of people don't feel particularly connected to. A lot of people think about their superannuation when they are thinking about their retirement and by then we know, Clare, it is just far too late. It's very difficult to change things right at the end rather than make some incremental steps along the way.

CLARE HOOPER:

So there is this massive difference currently in what women are retiring on compared what men are retiring on. Women who have been in the game for 20 or even only 10 years are maybe already a bit behind the men in their life, that's only going to compound. How long is it going to be before this is fixed? I mean we start fixing it now but it's gonna be a full 50 years before people are retiring with equal amounts isn't it?

KELLY O'DWYER:

I'm a bit more hopeful than you on all of this in that I think that if you can build in better flexibility measures that people can take advantage of at different point of time in their life, recognising that you have different life events that occur. If we can also recognise that more men need to take on caring responsibilities as well in a family situation and that they too ought to consider working part-time so that it's not just women who are actually bearing the load in that regard then I think we will be able to see not only those cultural changes but also the economic impact of that. People obviously need to be paid the right amount of money for the work that they do and we should have a fair taxation system that doesn't penalise people for what it is that they do and again fixing up the fact that there are a lot of low income earners out there who are forced to pay the superannuation guarantee but who might earn a lot less than that 15% tax rate means that we're putting them in a much much better position.

CLARE HOOPER:

Superannuation as a word sounds exciting, why is it so boring?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well it actually isn't boring when you think of it in a slightly different way and when you think of it as your money, which it is. It's your wages that you earn today that are set aside for your benefit into the future and when we think about it like that people should be really interested in their superannuation because it is money that ultimately comes from them. It doesn't come from someone else, it's not government money, it's not employer money – it's actually your money and that's why people should take a really strong and active interest. And it's incumbent, I think, upon the government that mandates the system to make sure that that money that people put aside is properly protected for them and for their benefit.

CLARE HOOPER:

Good luck fixing it.

KELLY O'DWYER:

Terrific, thanks again.