Maritime Super – Australia’s first industry super fund turns 50

Maritime Super, the first industry super fund established in Australia, turns 50. There is no doubt that superannuation has resulted in dignity, peace of mind and security in retirement for generations of working Australians.

Fifty years ago, workers retired with their last pay cheque but Maritime Super members now retire with on average $480,000 in super – much higher than the industry average.

“If it isn't broken don't fix it,” Maritime Super Chair Paddy Crumlin said of the current rules. “This latest push by the Government is nothing more than a cash grab by Malcolm Turnbull and his banker mates, at the expense of hardworking Australians.”

Crumlin said that in 1967 the maritime unions, along with industry employers, established a pension funded by employers and by the workers that saw employers contribute 1.5 times the employee’s contribution rate.

"Superannuation for wharfies and seafarers was negotiated with employers as part of a social package on the introduction of new technologies and a great reduction in the workforce,” Crumlin said.

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“Superannuation has continued to be an effective focus for social dialogue between unions and their members and employers for 50 years, including during difficult industrial periods such as the Patrick dispute.”

Crumlin said that in addition to being the first industry super fund in Australia, Maritime Super was also among the first funds to appoint independent trustees.

“This long, functional and successful history has secured the retirement benefits of tens of thousands of maritime workers and their families in that period and has been an integral part of building a productive and functional industry for both corporate interests and their employees,” Crumlin said.

Approx. 75 per cent of members take up a pension with Maritime Super on retirement, with over 5,000 pension members. In the past 10 years the fund has paid around $2.5 billion in benefits to members.

Maritime Super Chief Executive Peter Robertson said the foresight and initiative of the maritime unions and employers forged the path for a retirement savings system by establishing a pension funded by employers and workers.

“Maritime Super was a pioneer in its approach to help maritime workers save for their future – establishing the first industry super fund in 1967,” Robertson said.

“In the 70s just over a third of the workforce had some form of super. In the 80s the Australian Industrial Relations Commission decided that workers covered by some awards should be provided with 3 per cent super, but not all workers were eligible.

“It was not until 1992, 25 years after the establishment of Maritime Super, that the Superannuation Guarantee (SG) was introduced, making super a compulsory entitlement for all Australians.

“Our members are all too aware of how past generations of maritime workers retired with next to nothing.

“We have wonderful members who are grateful and loyal to Maritime Super, 55 per cent of our membership have been with us for well over 10 years – because they know we have their best interests at heart.”

Crumlin said “The fight is still real; deregulation pressures threaten the future growth of industry funds and could place the retirement benefits of members at the mercy of profit-oriented banks and retail funds.

“With super assets estimated to potentially outgrow the assets of commercial banks by 2030, it’s no wonder the banks want to get their hands on it. Over a 19 year period, industry super fund outperformance added around $51 billion to national super savings.

“Now more than ever industry super funds need to work together for the collective interests of our members, and the future prosperity of the Australian economy.

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