Superannuation has been a relevant public policy consideration in Australia since at least 1915, when the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915 created a taxation exemption for superannuation fund earnings.
The tax treatment of superannuation funds was subject to many changes over the next several decades but it wasn’t until the mid-1970s that governments began the process of universalising superannuation.
In 1976, Keith Hancock handed down a report into superannuation commissioned by the Whitlam government in 1973. The report, ‘A national superannuation scheme for Australia: final report of the National Superannuation Committee of Inquiry’ recommended the establishment of universal pension system. The scheme was to have a contributory element and was designed to encourage voluntary savings.
In 1983, then Treasurer Paul Keating announced that the Hawke government would support the establishment of an employee superannuation scheme. A year later, the first industry fund was established. CBUS became the superannuation fund of the building industry, with a board comprising directors from both employee and employer representative groups.
Since that time, industry funds have grown substantially in terms of both members, and assets under management. There are now more than 13 million accounts held with industry superannuation funds, and, in total, industry superannuation funds manage more than $466 billion in assets.