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The committee was established in June 1991 with a broad remit on superannuation matters, setting a pattern of government consultation. An early bill referral saw the committee recommend significant amendments to the government’s proposed universal compulsory superannuation guarantee legislation, which passed into law in 1992.

The keys to the committee’s success were its continuity of membership and pioneering operating strategy. It saw only twenty members in its twelve years, with its two chairs, Senators Nick Sherry (1991–93) and John Watson (1993–2003), serving the longest—nine years and its entire duration respectively. Both are widely acknowledged as superannuation experts.

The committee’s blend of experience and enthusiasm lent itself to practices such as non-partisan consensus-based decision-making, industry and media engagement and releasing frequent specialist reports to ensure their timeliness.

The committee had a substantial impact over its lifetime, with many of its 276 recommendations accepted and brought into law. According to inaugural committee member Senator Cheryl Kernot, it had:

'… a really big influence on shaping policy of both Labor and coalition governments. It was instrumental in achieving some quite dramatic reforms, even right down to retirement income product design. But it also … played a vital role in public confidence and public education.'

Mr David Kerr, of AMP Superannuation, gives a practical demonstration to members of the Senate Select Committee on Superannuation during a site inspection of the company’s computer facilities in Sydney in 1992. From left are Senators Cheryl Kernot, John Watson, Nick Sherry [Chairm], Suzanne West and Bruce Childs.

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Papers on Parliament no. 45, August 2006