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Tuesday, 2 June 1987
Page: 3821

Mr TUCKEY(8.59) —The Occupational Superannuation Standards Bill, the Insurance and Superannuation Commissioner Bill and the Insurance and Superannuation Commissioner (Consequential Provisions) Bill are the Government's attempt to catch up with the trade union movement which, on this occasion, as on many others, has been leading the way as to where it wants the Government to go. We have a classic example of that in the past few days with the trade in one of our more important export commodities-namely, wheat and other grains-being held up by the intransigence of the trade union movement because members of the trade union movement think they know more about foreign policy than the Government.

I guess that would be a reasonable decision to come to because the Government does not seem to be getting very far with its foreign policy initiatives in connection with Fiji. Here was a trade union defying the Government and putting at great risk the exports of Australia, yet nobody seemed to be too worried about it. In fact, one of the vilest and most creepy-crawly Press releases has been put out by the Australian Wheat Board today on this subject. It has claimed victory in defeat. It has crawled to the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the maritime unions and the unions have eventually condescended-partly, I presume, because of the pressure that has been applied in this place-to send that grain to Fiji. Fiji, of course, was the least concerned about whether the wheat was sent because there are mountains of grain around the world and sellers are desperate for clients. But, had we lost that sale, future sales would have been lost and a $10m a year trade would have been lost to Australia when we so desperately need those sorts of sales to produce the dollars that will put wealth into Australian pockets.

More importantly, the trade unionists who were delaying that shipment are those who would profit most. The reality is that 47 per cent of the value of a tonne of grain at present goes in freight and handling and we know that members of trade unions get most of that.

But this legislation is an example of how the trade unions are also prepared to circumvent the rules put down by government. One of the great economic planks of the Labor Government in office-other than consensus, which was a major plank-was, of course, the accord. The accord was to be a long-standing industrial arrangement that would lead Australia to prosperity.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Blanchard) —Order! I would remind the honourable member that although this has been a wide ranging debate we are not discussing the accord; we are discussing the relevant Bills, which relate to superannuation.

Mr TUCKEY —With due respect, sir, the Bills we are discussing are creatures of the accord. They are here as the result of the Government making deals with trade unions.

Mr Hurford —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member for O'Connor is absolutely wrong in suggesting that the accord has anything to do with these Bills. These Bills, as you have suggested, are very much administrative ones relating to the administration of superannuation. Any suggestion that these Bills are of some value to the trade union movement is itself flawed. They are of value to trustees of superannuation funds.

Mr TUCKEY —You are not making a point of order; you are making a speech.

Mr Hurford —I am making a point of order and the honourable member has no right to interrupt me. I have made my point of order.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for O'Connor will desist from speaking until I have heard the Minister's point of order.

Mr Hurford —I say again to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the suggestions of the Opposition that these Bills arise out of the accord are fundamentally flawed. These are very narrow Bills about the administration of superannuation.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I accept the point of order of the Minister. I remind the honourable member for O'Connor that, as I said earlier, there has been a reasonably wide-ranging debate but I should like him to return to the Bills.

Mr TUCKEY —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. You have made the point that this is a wide-ranging debate and it would be quite unfair to me, as one of the last speakers, suddenly to be confined to these particular Bills because apparently the Minister now wants to deny the accord. It has become so tattered and fragmented that he does not want to know about it any more.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I ask the honourable member to return to the Bills.

Mr TUCKEY —One of the necessities, Mr Deputy Speaker-and I shall proceed with this and you can stop me if you think appropriate-of stating a case in this Parliament is to be able to put the historical circumstances surrounding the matter. We have some legislation that until recently was unnecessary. It was unnecessary because the Government did not need to control trade union superannuation schemes. Until then we had some other legislation that controlled the superannuation companies, co-operatives or whatever they were, and it was considered adequate. Suddenly, through union action-and, as I say, as a result of the accord; and I was really bringing in the accord only to demonstrate the growth and development of this arrangement-we need this legislation. We have had to tighten the rules. There were some gentlemen in Victoria who went out one day with the superannuation fund cheque book and they bought a house. That is why the Government has brought in these rules. It is absolutely fundamental to this legislation that it was trade union superannuation that created the need for it. The Treasurer (Mr Keating), for a start, suddenly was forced to rush out and state guidelines, and so he should.

Mr Hurford —Do you believe there should not be guidelines?

Mr TUCKEY —No, I do not. I believe it is absolutely necessary that we have guidelines because of some of the fellows who are signing the cheques. But the point I make on all of this is that I have been picked up because I bothered to mention the accord. I was about to say to you--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member is not reflecting on the Chair, of course.

Mr TUCKEY —No, I am not. In fact, I am reflecting on the Minister who took a point of order and I am entitled to come up with a point of view opposing his argument. The points I want to make are quite simple. We have this legislation because suddenly we have trade unionists controlling superannuation. We have a brand new set of rules. It is compulsory superannuation and, as such, the Government needs to protect the contributors a little more.

The protection is somewhat limited. A trade union can take a dollar a week out of $11 and now some of those contributions that were $11 or $12 have gone up to $24. They are compulsory contributions from employees who do not start work in the morning unless everybody on the job has a building union superannuation ticket or whatever other sort of ticket is necessary. They may even need a MUST ticket. I might read a little about the MUST ticket. It is a manufacturing unions superannuation trust ticket. The reality is that the Government has had to introduce this legislation so that it can get some idea where the money might be going. I repeat, and it was reported in the Press, that in the early days of this trade union superannuation two blokes went out shopping with the superannuation fund cheque book and they bought a house.

Mr Uren —A big house?

Mr TUCKEY —Does the Minister think that is a joke?

Mr Uren —I didn't say that; I said: `A big house?'.

Mr TUCKEY —Yes, a big house, and we know all about it. As a result of that, in time one of those trade unionists had to resign as a Minister in the Victorian Government. It is compulsory superannuation and there is the need for this legislation but it is time we became aware of the sort of correspondence that gets sent around the place. This letter has come to me with the compliments of a big mining company. A card is attached to it. The company received this letter, which says:

SUPERANNUATION-LETTER OF DEMAND You are hereby requested to sign (and if a registered company to seal) the Deed of Adherence to the MUST Scheme (Manufacturing Unions Superannuation Trust), a scheme approved by the Commissioner for Taxation under Section 23f of the Act.

This demand is consistent with the ACTU/Federal Government Agreement on wages, tax and superannuation which recognises that unions can commence bargaining-

one minute it is a demand and the next minute it is bargaining-

for the introduction of industry-wide superannuation schemes. Part of the Agreement is that the demand should be limited to a trade-off against national productivity growth and excepting special circumstances should not create a cost increase prior to 1st July, 1986. This means that by signing the Deed of Adherence with an effective date of 1st July, 1986 you will:-

1. Be covered by the `no extra claims' and `no double counting' undertakings given under the Wage Fixing Principles;

2. You will have discharged your obligations under the Accord in respect to the Productivity claim.

Quite obviously this trade union-and the letter has the ACTU stamp in the corner-believes it had something to do with the accord. The letter continues:

Please note that even if you are currently sponsoring superannuation arrangements for some or all of your employees you should sign up for MUST in addition to those existing arrangements. The minimum contribution required under MUST is $12.50 per week although the Scheme can accept greater amounts. Provision is made for voluntary contributions from employees.

In other words, they can be heavied into paying a bit more; and so on. That is what it is all about and that is why we now have this legislation in the Parliament to try to come to grips with the thousands of millions of dollars that, prospectively, will come into these schemes.

I want to say something about contributors. To a degree the proposal is now a fait accompli. Why is it that if a person is forced into a superannuation arrangement the trade union that has heavied him into it gets a commission? Commissions were paid to people who went out and sold something. They knocked on people's doors, went through proposals with people and went back to see them. Sometimes they put a lot of work into getting a person into a superannuation scheme. Nowadays, when a fella stands at the gate and says `Have you got your ticket?' and the reply is `What ticket?' he says `Your MUST ticket'. If a worker replies that he does not have such a ticket but then he owns his own truck he is told: `That does not matter, mate. Until you have one you don't get through the gate'. We know that that happens. Why does a person have to pay $1 a week to a trade union for the privilege of being forced into such a scheme? Surely if a proprietor, a businessman, an employer, has to pay--

Mr Cunningham —My blokes are quite happy.

Mr TUCKEY —If the honourable member for McMillan wants to put an advertisement in a newspaper to the effect that he supports the fact that every one of his constituents who is getting $11 or $24 a week from his employer has to go without $1 or $2 a week of that amount in terms of his end benefit, I will pay for it. I will pay for the advertisement if the honourable member is prepared to tell the people of his electorate that he supports the fact that $2 a week, which could add up to thousands of dollars by the time a person collects his benefit, is better in the hands of his trade union than in his pocket. I object to that principle. We have moved, in our amendments, to ensure that the Australian Taxation Commissioner has a right to stop that sort of bleeding off. If we are to give benefits to workers, for goodness sake let us give them to workers-not to trade union bureaucrats who are fresh out of university. It is a long time since we found many of them with a bit of grease under their fingernails. Some of those trade union bureaucrats have been thinking this thing through for a long time. A submission to the 1981 Australian Labor Party Special National Conference stated:

There are a number of issues raised by the extension of union involvement in Superannuation Schemes. Ultimately these questions include an examination of the investment strategies of those funds and their implications for industrial relations, employment and structural changes in the economy.

Conflicts may arise from those investment decisions. For example, investment in highly profitable areas will maximise the members' retirement benefits-

that sounds a pretty good idea-

but the social consequences of that investment may create a conflict. Obvious examples are investment in Uranium mining or in firms which operate in South Africa.

In other words, the rights of contributors to have the money for their retirement are to be subsumed in politics. The submission continued:

What we must recognise at this early stage of union involvement in the Superannuation issues is that control over the funds will provide unions and governments with considerable financial leverage. That leverage can be used to advance the cause of Socialism in Australia.

That is an exact extract from a submission put to the 1981 ALP Special National Conference. It gives honourable members some idea of how other people view this forced role, to the point that the rights of contributors are secondary to the philosophy of trustees. I have already complained that the legislation does insufficient to demand that any payment made by employers be sent to the fund manager without someone creaming some off on the side for whatever purpose. Such a procedure is unnecessary. First of all, an employer could send a cheque off to a fund manager as easily as he could send it to a trade union whereby it claims some commission which it does not earn, which is a cost to its members. Secondly, if trustees want to impose their philosophy on the investment decisions of the fund, they should be liable for it. The contributor should be protected to the point where he can sue if decisions are taken by the trustee that reduce the overall benefit that he receives at 55 years. No one on the Government benches seems to be speaking, but I would like a response from the Minister on those two points. Why is it that the legislation is deficient in guaranteeing those two fundamental facts?

I think it is a tragedy that it has taken us so long to get such a lousy scheme. I lay some of the blame on my predecessors. Quite obviously, people should have been able to invest in a scheme for their retirement. There are even better mechanisms than the scheme which exists today. I believe that it is totally inequitable that some wage earners can get $4,000 a year deductibility in certain circumstances to invest in superannuation, whereas a small businessman, a self-employed person, has a maximum limit of $1,500.

Mr Cunningham —I am looking forward to the release of your policy on this matter.

Mr TUCKEY —I am not defending the previous policy in this area. I think that it has been a long time since we came to grips with the issue. Unfortunately, this is just a development of the mess. Nobody has yet stood back and considered it in a global sense. It is about time that we did so. We must be careful that, in time, these arrangements which I call investment funded retirement schemes do not dominate our economy. We may have to ask ourselves whether people should have a wider scope to invest in their retirement. If they do not do so, we might have so much money in these funds that they become very embarrassing to government and distort the economy. Presently, I believe that is one of the major causes of the inflation-I know the score about foreign money-of our share market. I genuinely believe that, although the present situation is okay, in time we will be forced to consider alternatives-not a change but a mixture.

I am concerned for the rights of employees and contributors. I think that that is an honourable position to take. I make it very clear that in government I will be pushing very hard to ensure that trustees will be liable for the decisions they take and there will be no creaming off. If there is to be such a form of compulsory superannuation, I want the benefits to be in the hands of the person who could be considered-the contributor. The contributions that are made by employers are made on behalf of employees. It would have been a much simpler arrangement, I am sure, if in the first instance the money was paid and the workers were given truly portable schemes-a piece of paper in their hands. I do not think that a trade union needs to be the provider of portability. With local government I negotiated an arrangement for local government staff who also move from job to job. It is necessary for them to do so to gain promotion. We put together a suitable scheme for local government staff. We did not do it through their trade union. It struck me at the time that we should have made better provisions for them in terms of their salary and conditions and encouraged them to buy their own piece of paper-a 23fb style scheme-which they would take from job to job where the arrangements would be made. That was an alternative. Nobody thought enough of it in the past.

We now have a scheme of which I am suspicious. It has been conceived with good reasons in terms of the rights of employees and getting them some retirement benefit. I am disappointed that they chose 55 years as the age at which they can basically cash in the benefit. That suggests to me that they will spend it before they reach 65 years and then claim a government pension. That, of course, would be in direct conflict with what the Treasurer (Mr Keating) has said. He said that the scheme was a great idea because it would reduce taxpayers' contributions to the aged in the future. It will not happen that way. I have considerable doubts about the legislation. I have my doubts on behalf of the workers. I have not heard Government members express that concern in this debate, but no doubt they get their messages from trade unions.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Blanchard) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.