Daniel McCulloch
(Australian Associated Press)

Australia’s superannuation industry believes the federal government is softening the ground to scrap a legislated rise in employer contributions due to begin next year.

The assistant minister for superannuation, Jane Hume, has stakeholders on edge after declaring she is “ambivalent” about raising the super guarantee from 9.5 per cent to 12 per cent over the next five years.

Industry Super Australia chairman Greg Combet, a former Labor minister and ACTU secretary, believes the government is laying the groundwork to dump the scheduled rises.

“It’s best for the government to just really state its position rather than pussy-footing around,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday.

“If that’s where they’re going then they should really say so.”

A growing group of coalition backbenchers are attempting to delay or dump the legislated rise, with some citing the coronavirus recession as a reason to pump the brakes.

Mr Combet is bracing for a “fair old free-for-all” in the Senate if the government tries to change course.

Senator Hume has warned the legislated super increase could flatten wages for five years but Mr Combet disputes the suggested link.

While there has been no super guarantee rise for the past six years, wage growth has also been sluggish over the period.

“There is not a direct correlation in these things,” Mr Combet said.

Senator Hume would not say whether the government was preparing to backflip on its commitment by attempting to delay the rise.

“The rises have already been legislated and undoing legislation, by its very nature, is a very, very difficult thing to do,” she told 2GB radio.

Even still, the minister expects business groups and backbenchers to continue banging the drum as the super guarantee date draws closer.

“I think we’re going to feel a considerable amount of pressure next year from businesses and potentially from employees or people that aren’t in work who want work,” she said.

“They might find that there are fewer jobs, or fewer opportunities for wage rises out there, because of a rise in the super guarantee.”