In the 1980s Australian unions pursued a retirement income strategy that centered on the inclusion of superannuation in agreements with employers. This strategy was encouraged by a Labor government concerned to reduce the dependence of retired voters on the old-age pension. The government backed up union campaigns by statutory requirements for workers and employers to contribute to superannuation. In many aspects this strategy resembled that of American unions from the late 1940s. As hopes of national public health system evaporated unions sought to include health insurance in collective employment contracts. In both cases unions gave up on the prospect of public pensions and public health insurance to pursue a privatized strategy. In the long-run however privatized pensions and health insurance may not be sustainable. Fewer and fewer American workers enjoy health insurance in Australia share market stagnation has alarmed many who had intended to rely on superannuation as a retirement vehicle. More significantly perhaps conservatives would mobilize against even the limited degree of working-class agency apparent in employer-provided health insurance or superannuation. Thus we see Australian conservatives mobilizing against industry superannuation funds in the interests of private superannuation providers. In the United States we see conservatives campaigning to increase employers’ control over the health insurance that they provide to workers, the recent controversy over the coverage of contraception in such plans is one example. American liberal Timothy Noah comments:
even after Obamacare takes full effect, the United States is still going to provide health insurance coverage through the very clumsy mechanism of employment. Not only is it none of my employer’s business whether I should be covered for contraception; it’s none of my employer’s business that I should be covered for anything at all. ..People working at all …[employers] should be offered the same amount of health insurance, and the entity doing the offering shouldn’t be their bosses. It should be–shhhhhh!–their government.
Australia has a single-payer heath insurance system but it does not have a single-payer superannuation scheme, instead it has a multitude of private funds. Here it resembles the United States.