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Wednesday, 27 November 1985
Page: 2368

Senator PARER(3.55) —The purpose of raising this matter of public importance is to alert the Australian public in general, and of course the people of South Australia in particular, who are now making up their minds whether they will return another Labor government or put in a Liberal government, to this insidious and devious plan by this Labor Government and the Australian Council of Trade Unions to hand economic control of Australia over to the ACTU and militant union leaders. We have just heard from Senator Siddons, and basically the principles he has espoused are our principles. However, the Australian Democrats seem to be extraordinarily naive because even though Senator Siddons's principles are correct, if he would like to look at the practice in this country he would find that it is just not working. There is already Australia-wide concern about the influence the unelected ACTU has on the Labor Government. If the plan, under the guise of national superannuation, goes ahead, control of Australia will be totally in the hands of the ACTU. We see this as a crude attempt to socialise a free country by stealth.

Let me say quite clearly that the Liberal Party has no dispute with genuine occupational superannuation which is employer and employee funded, the retirement benefits of which will mean in the years to come less government-provided old age pensions and so on. However, that is not what the schemes now being implemented are all about. It is estimated that the number of employees not covered is in the order of three million and because of the nature of the work of building workers and those in similar industries, which entails movement between jobs and different employers, it is not possible to introduce the type of scheme which promises a retirement benefit related to final average salary. The only scheme which can be introduced for workers who change employers is an accumulation or contribution-promised program. Under this type of scheme premiums are invested and the size of the benefit on retirement is simply a function of the performance of the investments made. The competence of the fund manager is therefore vital in ensuring that any investments are wise investments. It will be obvious that with a contribution-promised program there is no such thing as an actuarially sound or unsound fund. Poor investments only come to light when the benefit is paid.

It is important to outline the history of union superannuation funds. The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), when President of the ACTU, was closely involved with other Labor ACTU figures in developing the storemen and packers superannuation fund. It is not hard to guess who the other figures were-one Simon Crean and a Mr Landeryou. Out of that exercise, which commenced over 10 years ago, emerged a plan that, if implemented, would result in a huge amount of money going into union coffers and, more importantly, billions of dollars being placed in the hands of the ACTU and its affiliated unions. The interest of the individual employee was third on the list of priorities. The implementation of the handover of economic power to the ACTU is close and the ramifications for Australia are horrific. Every Australian who treasures his or her individual freedoms must be made aware of what is about to happen.

The union schemes that we know of to date include the building unions superannuation scheme, the allied unions superannuation scheme, the storemen and packers scheme, the metal unions superannuation scheme and the Transport Workers Union scheme. I am sure there are a few others. The background is important as it explains the proliferation of union schemes offered and the read agreement by the ACTU for national superannuation in lieu of productivity increase. The union schemes all have very similar characteristics. They involve only employer contributions; the trustee company is a company controlled by the unions; a management fee goes to that trustee company; industrial blackmail is being used to coerce employers and employees to join union funds; in the main competitive schemes are not acceptable; and trustees have no obligation whatsoever to explain their actions or lack of actions to anyone. If that pattern is followed in the national scheme to be introduced next year the long term effects in Australia will be terrifying. Any chance of our remaining a free country will be gone. Small and large businesses talk about what is being inflicted on them but rarely will they provide hard evidence because of fear of retribution. As all the schemes are the same or similar, I will use the building unions superannuation scheme to explain the structure of the schemes and methods of implementation. This is not the legitimate superannuation which existed until recently, the sole aim of which was to obtain the best return either on retirement or death for each and every employee.

In this matter of public importance we are alerting every Australian to the industrial blackmail and even threats of physical violence which have become accepted as the norm and which we have read about only in the worst days of gangster-ridden lawlessness which existed in the United States in the days of Jimmy Hoffa and his cronies. Around Australia protection rackets are going on. What is happening is no different from the hoods in black cars demanding money so that decent people can stay in business. These standover tactics must be exposed. They are the sorts of tactics engineered by Labor figures and implemented by hoodlums. I notice that Senator Black is smiling. He is one of the more moderate people from my State and I know that he does not support the things that he knows go on up there among some of the people who are trying to implement these schemes in Queensland.

The aim of the BUS scheme is to provide funds on retirement based on investment performance of contributions, portability and death cover. Apart from the fact that there are better schemes about in relation to the death benefit, there are many other aspects which cause concern. The contributions are to be made entirely by the employer, thus the sense of an individual contributing to his own retirement is absent. The trustee is BUS Pty Ltd-one can see the same pattern in all the others-and BUS Pty Ltd is a subsidiary of the unions. The trustee is not accountable to anyone. The language in the deed states that the trustee has absolute and uncontrolled discretion and is not bound to give any person any reason for or any explanation of its exercise, non-exercise or partial exercise of power. Already we see the ingredients of a totalitarian state or gangster-type method of operation.

The initial contribution by the employer is stipulated at $11 per employee per week, with $9 going into superannuation for investment, $1 to the underwriter for death cover and management fee and $1 per week per employee to BUS Pty Ltd. Part of the premium is a contribution to the union, an extra union due, if you like, paid for by the employer. The employee is being penalised by between $26 and $52 a year which should either be invested on his behalf or go to a death benefit instead of going to the union. Some may still say: `So what, we have seen worse things'. And so we have. However, the pattern is emerging. With the trade-off between the Australian Labor Party and the ACTU for productivity to be set off against employer contributions to superannuation, it is not difficult to calculate that the introduction of another three million people would mean that, on a conservative basis, $100m to $150m a year would go to the unions and they would have investment moneys of more than $3,000m a year in the hands of the ACTU.

As could be expected, some employees were already covered under existing schemes and other more competitive schemes appeared on the market. Naturally, it is not possible to compare investment performance until after the event, but other aspects can be compared. With proper shopping about, it is not difficult to find better schemes. If what we were looking at was freedom of choice, there would be no real cause for complaint. However, the crunch is that employees and employers do not have a choice. To support that claim I have here a letter which was written to the BUS scheme requesting exemption because the employer happened to have a scheme already through Legal and General which he thought was better. The reply came back:

I have to advise that the trustees have given due consideration to your request for exemption. Such request has been refused.

There we have it. Any talk about freedom of choice is an absolute nonsense. Those without existing schemes are precluded from considering competitive schemes even though they provide better returns. Failure to sign up with the union schemes has resulted in industrial bans, threats of bans and threats of physical violence. Having made comments like that, I find that it is usual for Labor senators who have been put here by the union movement to interject with comments like `Show us the proof of your allegations', `Put up or shut up', or words to that effect. That can often be hard to answer because of the real concern of people that if hard evidence is provided, their livelihood and physical well-being can be placed in jeopardy by an organised group of cheap hoodlums. However, there are some who have had enough and are so concerned about the back door takeover of this country that they are prepared to be counted. I have with me a list of 39 employers from one group in Queensland. These people have listed individual episodes in which they have been singled out for victimisation on the basis that if they did not join BUS they would be precluded from further work. Of course, many of them had no option if they wished to survive. I also have 11 statutory declarations from employers and employees who were forced by standover tactics to join the BUS scheme. They are all different but the thrust is much the same. I quote from one of them:

We had stoppages on the job. This is because we did not join the Building Unions Superannuation scheme, but had offered our employees superanuation with another life office. The members of the union were told to stop work and if they didn't they would never work in the industry again. The men never were allowed to vote on the stoppage. Due to these stoppages and threats of further harassment on future jobs, we have now signed the BUS scheme.

Is that what the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Willis) and Mr Greg Sword of the Federated Storemen and Packers Union of Australia call freedom of choice? I doubt it. I know that Australians do not call that freedom of choice.

These people have been viciously atttacked. They are not only big companies, they are small business people as well. They are the little people who have always been the backbone of Australia. If there were just a few bad apples in an otherwise good box of union officials, we could do something about it. Unfortunately this is not so. These people are simply a few players in what must be termed a conspiracy inspired by the ACTU. The ACTU is the organisation which stands to gain from the union superannuation because of the fee received and the power that investment moneys will provide. As I said before, those investment moneys could be in excess of $3,000m a year. This threat to the freedom of Australia has not just happened. It is a result of work by the ACTU and associates of the ACTU in the Labor Party carried out over 10 years, with the support of the man who was previously the President of the ACTU and is now Prime Minister of Australia.

I have made some serious charges today, backed up by facts and supported by statutory declarations in some cases. These charges must be answered. I look forward to hearing how Senator McKiernan and Senator Black will do this.