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Monday, 16 September 1985
Page: 607

Senator BOSWELL(10.21) —Tonight we are debating the Superannuation Legislation Amendment Bill 1985 which is, on the surface, a fairly insignificant Bill. However, when it is examined more closely we see that it has very serious connotations--

Senator Townley —Sinister.

Senator BOSWELL —Even sinister connotations. This Bill seeks to give effectively to the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Labor Party-its coalition partner-control of $2 billion of Federal public servants superannuation funds. It hands over the control of the Superannuation Fund Investment Trust to five members of the ACTU-the industrial wing of the ALP. It is a classic example of how things are now run in Australia. We have socialism by stealth and by raids on superannuation funds. This legislation, if passed, could allow raids on stock exchanges and attacks on the board rooms of Australia. Senator Richardson laughs. I wish he would put his name down to speak on the Bill, instead of sniping at people who want to make a worthy contribution.

The Superannuation Legislation Amendment Bill increases the membership of the Trust from three to five-two full time members and three part time members. The appointees are as follows: One full time member to be appointed by the Minister after consultation with the ACTU and the other full time members to be appointed directly by the ACTU. Of the three part time members, two will be directly appointed by the ACTU and the third by the ACTU and the Minister. Even without the Minister's appointees, the biggest superannuation fund in Australia will be in the hands of Trades Hall. The Bill requires no special investment skills to handle Australia's largest investment fund, a fund of over $2 billion, growing by $1m a week. How are the public servants represented? Surely at least one member of the Public Service Board should be placed on the Superannuation Fund Investment Trust? Thirty groups are represented in the Public Service, many of which are not affiliated with the ACTU or the ALP. Yet 300,000 public servants will have no one on the Trust to protect their interests.

The principal Act has been amended to remove investment guidelines. No longer will the Superannuation Fund Investment Trust have to balance its portfolio by investing 60 per cent of public servants funds in blue chip, Government-guaranteed investments. The ACTU will be able to invest in any scheme it wishes. The ACTU may have philosophical differences with investments in commerce and industry. It may have conflicts of interest. It may take the opportunity to invest in schemes that will give the ALP political advantage, schemes such as television, radio stations and newspapers. The investments made on behalf of the Commonwealth public servants by the ACTU-controlled Trust could well be made on political and philosophical criteria and not on sound commercial judgments. Many public servants are not aligned with or represented by the ACTU. Many do not support the ALP. They should demand that they control their own retirement investment fund and not hand over their lifetime retirement funds to the ACTU.

The Trust is not even required to have anyone on it with any qualifications for managing an investment trust. We have seen the tactics of the Labor Government on various agricultural boards, which have been shifted away from grower control by ministerial appointments. Now we see the largest superannuation fund in Australia being placed in the hands of the industrial wing of the Government. This move should concern every thinking Australian, particularly when it is viewed in the light of the comments of Mr Kelty, who said at an ACTU conference in February of this year:

We have to ensure that everyone gets superannuation with the rights to the funds in the hands of workers controlled by the unions.

That every worker should have superannuation will be an issue taken up by the ACTU and I think we will succeed.

We can see the game plan between the ACTU and its political wing being set up, with the ALP working to ensure that all superannuation, both private and public, will be controlled by the ALP and the ACTU. If Mr Kelty and the ACTU get their way, every worker in Australia will receive $11 a week in superannuation. The ACTU will control a trust increasing by $58.3m a week, or $3 billion a year. If one were to add this amount to the $2 billion that would go into the control of the ACTU if this Bill were to pass the Senate without amendment, it is not unlikely that the Labor States would also hand over their superannuation control to the ACTU and we would have a fund of $10 billion in the hands of, and controlled by, the ACTU. The ACTU's building unions superannuation scheme is spreading rapidly. It has dominated the building industry and is moving into the plumbing, transport and metal industries. If the ACTU scheme is allowed to spread throughout other industries, it will nationalise the life insurance industry and put many genuine life insurance representatives out of business.

An ACTU-controlled superannuation scheme would have many obnoxious characteristics: No competition allowed, union control of funds, the elimination and banning of the existing superannuation scheme, the railroading of all people into the scheme, even those vaguely involved in the industry, no flexibility, and little accountability. Again, we only have to look back to last Thursday week, when another deal was done between the ACTU and the Government. The Government agreed to support an ACTU claim for wage indexation of 3.8 per cent. Before the Budget we heard the Treasurer (Mr Keating) say that the financial strategy and the success of the Budget depended on discounting of the consumer price index to allow for the depreciation of the dollar. After one meeting with the ACTU the Government backed down, as it always does, allowed full indexation, and shot its Budget strategy to pieces. The most significant part of that ACTU agreement was the deal made last week-the trade-off between the ACTU and the Government on the productivity claim. It was said that a 3 per cent superannuation payment would be made by employers.

Mr Keating has stated that the Government will have consultation with employees and unions and issue guidelines covering vesting, preservation, contribution and control. If the legislation before the Senate tonight is any indication of what will happen, we certainly will have a nationalised superannuation scheme with all contributions being made by employers, whether they have the capacity to pay or not. It will be another redundancy case all over again, wrecking hundreds of businesses. Whilst we are not opposed to superannuation payments, we oppose a government-controlled superannuation scheme which states that one must pay whether or not one can pay. Such a scheme would have only one result. People would not be able to pay and a great many small businesses would be bankrupted.

Senator Robertson —Ha, ha!

Senator BOSWELL —Senator Robertson laughs. He has no concern for small business. I challenge the Minister for Education (Senator Ryan), who is at the table tonight, to deny that the superannuation deal, agreed to last Thursday week, will go the same way as Federal Public Service superannuation.

Debate interrupted.