Liberals’ war on super unites employers and unions
When employers join with unions to oppose government policy, you know the policy has to be on the nose.
Australia’s biggest employer organisation, the Australian Industry Group (AIG), sided with the union movement in opposing the Morrison government’s latest superannuation changes.
The government’s Your Future, Your Super bill was designed to weaken industry super funds – such as the health sector’s HESTA and Aware – and exert greater government control over them.
Industry funds are jointly managed by employer and union representatives, who work together to improve the retirement prospects of working Australians.
AIG chief executive, Innes Willox, joined ACTU president, Michele O’Neil, in writing a joint letter to Senate crossbenchers urging them not to pass the Your Future, Your Super bill.
In a separate statement, Willox said the bill was “disproportionate, ineffective and intrusive”, would “do more harm than good” and “leave more people in poor-performing funds for longer”.
Willox said the bill would “create new compliance burdens that would add new costs and risks, and would divert management and board attention away from improving retirement incomes of fund members.”
It would also “set a dangerous precedent” by giving the federal treasurer “arbitrary powers”, and would “add a new and unpredictable source of sovereign risk to the investment process”.
Community opposes government changes
Broad community opposition helped to persuade the crossbench and even some government MPs to successfully oppose aspects of the bill.
For example, the government was forced to remove a controversial power that would have allowed it to ban certain types of investments by superannuation funds.
The Morrison government claimed that “activist” industry funds were using their financial clout to “pursue political objectives at the expense of members’ interests”.
For example, some funds are ditching their investments in fossil fuels and looking at divesting from firms with poor environmental or industrial relations records.
However, industry funds routinely deliver far better returns for workers than the bank-owned retail super funds, which are politically close to the Liberal Party.
The rorts and rip-offs of retail super funds were exposed by the banking royal commission in 2018–2019.
Bank-owned funds were found to have charged fees to the dead, duped people into losing their life savings, and had broken the law thousands of times.