Opinion Pieces

Daily Telegraph 2 January 2020: You’d think it would be a simple decision to give all workers super choice in 2020.

Daily Telegraph 2 January 2020

A big test for the Labor Party in 2020 is whether they will vote for the Morrison Government’s new laws to ensure all workers can choose their own super fund.

You’d think it would be a simple decision to give all workers super choice in 2020. After all, your superannuation is your money. It doesn’t fall out of the sky. It is part of your salary and you’re trusting others to invest it wisely.

So you should be able to choose where it goes.  You should have a say in where it can earn you a competitive return.

But many workers are in underperforming funds because big unions and big business have used Enterprise Agreements to lock workers into funds which serve their purposes not yours.

That’s why the Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Senator Jane Hume introduced the Your Super Your Choice Bill into Parliament late in 2019.

This Bill will ensure Australians employed under enterprise bargaining agreements and workplace determinations have the right to choose their own super fund, including a self-managed super fund.

You thought your fund was looking after you, right? In many cases, you would be wrong.

A sample study undertaken by the Workplace Relations Policy Division in the Attorney-General’s Department shows there are hundreds of agreements that restrict super choice in some way to an underperforming fund.

Workers’ money is compelled to be invested in super, so you should be able to choose your fund manager if you want to.

Before you accuse me of union bashing let’s put some facts on the table with real examples.

In its September 2019 decision, the Fair Work Commission declined to approve Kmart’s agreement in part because it restricted the choice of super fund employees would have been entitled to under the General Retail Industry Award.

The FWC decided the lack of choice meant the terms of the agreement were “less beneficial” than the Award, therefore contributing to the FWC’s conclusion that employees were not “better off overall” being covered by the terms of the agreement than they would be if they were covered by the terms of the Award … in other words, it did not pass the “better off overall test” or “BOOT”.

Kmart, as well as two bargaining representatives (Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) and the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) appealed the decision.

But the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission rightly threw it out.

Kmart was forced to agree to provide an undertaking to ensure employees are provided a right to choose their preferred super fund.

These Enterprise Agreements are using a loophole in the 2005 choice of fund laws to take away workers’ rights.

Yet the unions alone cannot deliver a “closed shop”, they have to find an obliging employer to agree to the lurk. And there are many takers in transport, maritime and retail trading sectors.

The existence of “closed shops” demonstrates the old “IR Club” is still in business even as we enter 2020.

This 19th century approach delivers many losers.

If you have been forced to put your super in the Maritime Super Moderate Fund I am sorry but your life savings earned you a meager 4.3% annual return compared with the median industry return of 7%.

The Chant West Super Fund League Table placed it last out of 66.

And you probably didn’t know Maritime Super is chaired by Paddy Crumlin who also happens to be the national secretary of the Maritime Union… no conflict there!

And don’t think for a moment the Transport Workers Union with 90,000 members has set the bar any higher.

TWU Super growth rate was just 4.9%, again against a median return of 7%.

But while TWU Super members took home a low 4.9% on their super, their union rep, NSW Branch Secretary who sits on the board of trustees of the fund, Richard Olsen, took home a pay rise of 38% over two years.

Another union rep, National President and Vic/Tas Branch Secretary who also sits on the board of trustees of the fund, John Berger, charged the fund 50% of his $190,000 salary for five days of ‘consulting’ work.

The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption found Bergers’ generous salary package was funded by his union’s member superannuation contributions to TWU Super.

$93,000 for five days work.

And when questioned all he could say was: “Well, that’s the math.”

This is such a glaring conflict because workers are locked in to these funds because of federal laws.

The Your Super Your Choice Bill will ensure members can choose their own super fund, thereby shutting down the “closed shop” for good.

It bans clauses in enterprise agreements and workplace determinations that force members to direct the Super Guarantee contributions to a particular fund.

It’s your money. Your life savings. You should have a right to decide where it goes.

And with this Bill we will fight for workers’ rights.

- Andrew Bragg is a Liberal Senator for New South Wales

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