Two older people in a kitchen cooking food

What should the next Federal Government do on retirement incomes? — Sydney

Australia’s retirement incomes system faces some big challenges. Grattan Institute’s Money in Retirement report showed that while most Australians can expect the same, or a higher, living standard in retirement as when working, retirees who rent are at growing risk of poverty.

Australian superannuation fees are some of the highest in the world – we spend more on fees each year than we do on our energy bills. The Productivity Commission has identified a long tail of underperforming super funds, and unintended multiple accounts drain thousands from our retirement balances. And while spending on pensions is low, the Commonwealth Government gives up about $35 billion a year – or 1.9 per cent of GDP – in superannuation tax breaks.

In this Forward Thinking event, Grattan Institute’s Brendan Coates and The Australian Financial Review’s Joanna Mather discussed what the winner of the May 18 federal election should do to fix superannuation, and the retirement incomes system more broadly.


Joanna Mather joined The Australian Financial Review in 2008. She spent four years in the newspaper’s Sydney bureau writing and editing the higher education pages before transferring to Canberra in 2012. While in Canberra Joanna reported on federal politics, tax, superannuation and industrial relations. She covered two federal elections before returning to Sydney at the beginning of 2017. In June 2018 she was appointed the AFR’s superannuation writer.

Brendan Coates is the Australian Perspectives Fellow at Grattan Institute. His research focuses on tax reform, economic and budget policy, retirement incomes and superannuation, housing, transport infrastructure and cities. Before Grattan, Brendan worked as a macro-financial economist with the World Bank in Indonesia and Latin America, and prior to that, he undertook a number of roles with the Australian Treasury. Brendan holds a Masters of International Development Economics from ANU and Bachelors of Commerce and Arts from the University of Melbourne.