Ai Group’s long-standing support of superannuation in Australia and the country’s largest super fund, AustralianSuper, was acknowledged at our 150th anniversary celebrations in Melbourne last week. 

At the start of the 1980s, superannuation was generally limited to public servants and white-collar employees of large corporations and was not transferable between employers. 

Bert Evans, then Chief Executive of the Metal Trades Industry Association of Australia (MTIA), a predecessor of Ai Group, was instrumental in unions and business eventually cooperating on universal superannuation for Australian workers as part of industrial relations negotiations under an historic agreement between the Labor Government and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) known as the Prices and Incomes Accord (or “the Accord”).  

Under Accord Mark II in the mid-1980s, unions agreed to pursue lower wage increases in the National Wage Case in return for government support for measures including superannuation entitlements. 

The negotiations between MTIA and unions resulted in the creation of the Superannuation Trust of Australia (STA) as an industry super fund. Mr Evans served as Executive Chairman of STA for many years. 

The Australian Chamber of Manufactures, another predecessor of Ai Group, was instrumental in the establishment of the Australian Retirement Fund. 

STA and the Australian Retirement Fund merged in 2006 to form AustralianSuper, which has since grown to become Australia's biggest super fund, managing the retirement savings of some 3million Australians, amounting to about $300billion. 

Today, about 15 per cent of Australian workers contribute to AustralianSuper. 

AustralianSuper's Mark Comer, Stephen Collins and Andrew Mantello at Ai Group's 150th anniversary celebrations at Melbourne Town Hall.

The fund's trustee is jointly owned by Ai Group and ACTU. 

A board comprising union and employer representatives oversees AustralianSuper’s operations, ensuring the fund runs efficiently and in the best interests of members. 

Ai Group’s Chief Executive Innes Willox joined the AustralianSuper Board in 2014 and remains an Employer Director. 

Speaking at Ai Group’s 150th anniversary gala event at Melbourne Town Hall, AustralianSuper Chair Don Russell (pictured) said: “I want to personally acknowledge the commitment and valuable contribution Ai Group-appointed directors have made to the ongoing success of AustralianSuper since our inception in 2006 — and to universal superannuation in Australia. 

AustralianSuper has been immeasurably strengthened by Ai Group’s continuing commitment to the fund and to the effective operation of the board. 

“A commitment to collaboration, openness and always working in the best interests of fund members has been the hallmark of Ai Group’s contribution to AustralianSuper.” 

Compulsory super payments, often referred to as the Superannuation Guarantee (SG), were introduced on July 1, 1992, with minimum employer contributions of 3 per cent of Ordinary Time Earnings (OTE).  

This ensured coverage for almost all employees, with employers required by law to make tax-deductible superannuation contributions on behalf of their workers. 

Today, super forms part of an employee’s overall employment package, and in general, employers must pay super contributions of at least 11 per cent of employees’ annual salary. 

In congratulating The Australian Industry Group on 150 years of successful representation and advocacy on behalf of Australian business, Mr Russell said Ai Group had established itself as the pre-eminent industry association in Australia. 

Wendy Larter

Wendy Larter is Ai Group's Communications Manager. She has more than 20 years’ experience as a reporter, features writer, contributor and sub-editor for newspapers and magazines including The Courier-Mail in Brisbane and Metro, News of the World, The Times and Elle in the UK.