Industry funds promise $19.5b infrastructure spend

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Past union boss and Labor minister Greg Combet will head an advertising campaign endorsing plans by industry funds to expend $19.5 billion on infrastructure over the next three years, generating an anticipated 200,000 jobs.

Airport developments in Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide, upgrades to the NSW electricity distribution network and new shopping centres in Western Australia are amongst the projects earmarked for investment.

Industry funds are increasing efforts to assure workers that lifting compulsory contributions to 12 per cent is the best path forward for household budgets, jobs and economic recovery.

“We’re working on something bigger than we’ve ever done before,” Mr Combet declares at the beginning of the promotion, which will run on television and social media.

“We’re creating over 200,000 jobs by investing in Australia. That will help get our super and the economy growing again.”

Mr Combet is the chairman of Industry Super Australia, the lobby group for 15 major funds, and IFM Investors, which is owned by 27 industry funds.

He is also a member of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission, which is advising the Morrison government on post-pandemic economic recovery.

The super sector is keen to promote its contribution to the economy amid relentless rumblings from the Coalition backbench about delaying or abandoning the planned increase in the compulsory contribution rate from 9.6 per cent to 12 per cent by 2025.

Mr Combet said if the increase was abandoned, industry funds would have a smaller amount to spend on job-creating projects.

“If the super guarantee is frozen a very significant amount of contributions that should be coming into the system and should be able to be invested into the Australian economy won’t be possible,” he said.

Much of the projected spending by industry funds will happen through IFM Investors, as well as Cbus Property and industry fund-owned property investor ISPT.

ISPT chief executive Daryl Browning said a decision in April to pull out of a near-$1 billion deal to buy an office tower in Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD did not indicate a lack of appetite for new acquisitions. Instead, the asking price was too high.

“If we can find something at the right price we’re still interested in adding to our portfolio,” he said. “In fact, we’re looking at a couple of things right now.”

An Industry Super Australia spokesman refused to disclose how much the campaign was costing, but said it was within the group’s typical yearly advertising spend of $12 million, or $2 for each of 6000 members.

Speaking at a separate industry event, the chief executives of numerous large funds also highlighted the value of lifting the super guarantee to 12 per cent.

You don’t even need to downsize to put more into super – you can trade up or not buy a new home.

Super traps and prospects for the new financial year Hostplus chief executive David Elia said it was “the only increase people are going to get” as businesses were not likely to pay wage rises during the economic downturn.

Rest Super chief Vicky Doyle said the increase in the SG rate had meant working-class Australians now had $500 billion in savings that they otherwise would not. “People would not have the savings and they would have extraordinary debt.”

Cbus chief executive David Atkin said Queenslanders had been accessing the super early-release scheme at a heavier rate that laid off workers in other states.

“By accessing their super they are robbing their futures to pay for now,” he said. “Given the buffeting that the system has gone through and the fact that we have seen so much money withdrawn from the system, they’re going to need an extra 2.5 per cent.”

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