The foxes have already been let into the henhouse. Led by the nastiest fox of all, the thuggish, serial law-breaker CFMEU which has already slunk away with $12.5 million of superannuees’ nest eggs over the past decade, the union foxes have been quietly raiding superannuation savings ever since Bill Shorten as Employment Minister officially opened a ‘default’ gate especially for them. But the present expensive and dishonest ‘henhouse’ TV advertising campaign by Industry Super Australia on behalf of its 15 union-dominated industry superannuation fund affiliates makes no mention of this hidden diversion of mainly non-unionists’ cash into union coffers – and some of it to ALP election campaigns. The ISA ads are part of its push to prevent the Turnbull government from ending the near-monopoly granted by Labor to industry funds under ‘default’ agreements in awards; ISA portrays the government’s proposals as opening the door of the henhouse to the ‘foxes’ of the big banks – with the disgraceful inference that the banks will steal superannuees’ savings. The henhouse ad represents a new low in advertising ethics – if there is such a thing. And APRA revealed in a May Senate estimates committee that it had written to the boards of all 15 industry funds asking whether they were involved in funding the ad, wanting to know ‘what’s the purpose of it, how is it in the interests of members and how did you decide to make that expenditure’. And while not directly expressing an opinion on the ad, APRA had concerns about transparency in the use of super members’ money: ‘This is an area where there is room for the industry to lift its practices – and not just about advertising. Members would benefit from having more consistency and transparency on expenses in particular’. But not if the unions succeed in blocking reform, with another target of the anti-government, anti-bank henhouse campaign being a rejection of the call for the introduction of independent directors to protect the interests of the superannuees whose money is being managed by boards that are now entirely made up, in all but a couple of cases, of union and employer representatives. Yet 3.4 million, or more than two thirds of the five million superannuees in these union-controlled funds who have deliberately decided not to join a union, are ‘represented’ by officials of unions – to which they are required to pay millions of dollars in fees.
There is an urgent need for the transparency on expenses that APRA wants from the industry – particularly on the large payments by industry funds to unions both directly and indirectly through union-owned ‘service companies’ like Chifley Financial Services. The only reason there is any information at all on the greedy hand of the CFMEU in superannuees’ pockets is because the AEC publishes data on payments from the four industry superannuation funds involved with the CFMEU due to its affiliation with the Labor Party. And that tells only a part of the story of a union whose disgraceful relationship with its associated super funds (particularly Cbus, the $38 billion, 742,000-member industry fund with three of the seven union directors coming from the CFMEU) was revealed in the Heydon Royal Commission. It found that ‘The interests of the CFMEU are put ahead of those of Cbus and its members’, raising serious governance problems as both management and operating level were ‘infected by the separate private interests of the CFMEU and a deep-seated loyalty to those interests’ rather than to the best interests of the superannuees whose funds they were entrusted to manage. Other CFMEU-dominated funds include the much smaller $2.6 billion, 64,000 member First Super with five of its officials on the board and chaired by CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor, the $4 billion BUSSQ with three CFMEU directors and the coalmining-oriented Mine Wealth & Wellbeing which is 50 per cent CFMEU.
Two years ago, in this space and under the heading ‘How the AWU’s fingers are in the Super pie’, I wrote ‘Would you knowingly trust your financial future to the tender mercies of the AWU, Bill Shorten’s former union and one of the stars of the Royal Commission into union shonks?’. But if the AWU is not to be trusted with your superannuation nest egg, how much worse is the CFMEU?
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