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Monday, 4 December 2017
Page: 9439


Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (11:07): I advise senators I'll be speaking only briefly in continuation of my remarks when we considered the Treasury Laws Amendment (Improving Accountability and Member Outcomes in Superannuation Measures No. 1) Bill 2017 and related bill a number of weeks ago. I just want to revisit an issue in light of some new research which has been released into this topic. It is well worth the time of all senators to carefully consider. When I spoke on this issue a few weeks ago, I was marvelling at the strange set of reasoning that the Labor Party had clearly gone through to arrive at their position to oppose these measures. They are, in my view, very reasonable measures, which include things such as requiring that there be a number of independent directors on the boards of industry superannuation funds, increasing the level of reporting standards, requiring that AGMs take place and giving APRA more powers to make sure that, effectively, the money that superannuants trust their superannuation funds to look after is carefully stewarded and spent wisely. That's a pretty reasonable set of amendments, in my view, and it is something that the Labor Party have been fighting tooth and nail for for some time in this place.

Why is it that the Labor Party, who would normally be in favour of these sorts of regulatory oversights and reasonable measures to ensure that people's financial investments are being carefully stewarded, are opposing them? It doesn't make sense. If this were a private bank, a private super fund or a commercial super fund, they'd be all for it, and yet, when it comes to industry super, all of a sudden they're in favour of less regulation, less oversight and less red tape. At the time, I thought it might have something to do with the close relationship that organisations like the Cbus super fund evidently have with the CFMEU, given the findings of the royal commission that the private information of Cbus superannuants is passed on to the CFMEU, in contravention of many laws. But there is more evidence of this close relationship that might possibly explain why the Labor Party is opposed. It comes in the form of a very excellent research paper, produced by my former colleagues and ongoing friends at the Institute of Public Affairs—in particular, Mr Simon Breheny and Mr Morgan Begg. It's entitled 'Rivers of gold: how the trade union movement is funded by industry super' and was released only last week. There are many interesting findings in the paper, but one which particularly stood out for me was: between the financial years 2013-14 and 2016-17 industry super funds paid a grand total of $18,438,516 to unions. That is an extraordinary sum of money. While we often hear in these debates that unions have the exact same status and control over industry super funds that employer organisations have, the equivalent amount to paid employer and industry groups was only $2,076,756—so a massive, massive weight in favour of unions.

Unions have received almost $20 million over a handful of years from Industry Super. That fact might possibly play on the minds of some senators in their decision-making on this bill. The ICAC broke down between the unions how much each received. The CFMEU received $2.8 million; United Voice received $2.3 million; and the ACTU received $2 million. It is important to mention these are payments made from industry super funds to unions in directors' fees only. These are the funds that are paid for the service of, presumably, union employees on the boards of industry super funds. They don't include all the other financial transactions between Industry Super and unions, including—as we know and as has been reported on previously—some interesting marketing arrangements between these organisations that seem, on the face of it, quite generous. It is a possible reason that the Labor Party is opposing these reforms today. I don't think it is a very good reason to oppose the reforms; I think they deserve the careful consideration and support of all senators. I would urge them to do so.