The Federal Government has sought to portray a direct link between industry superannuation funds, trade unions and the Australian Labor Party (ALP), pointing to $53 million in payments from industry funds to unions and $65 million from unions to the ALP.
In a series of questions and answers in the Senate this week, the Government has sought to attack both the industry funds and the leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, in his capacity as an official of the Australian Workers’ Union and AustralianSuper.
Employment minister, Senator Michaelia Cash led the way in the Senate by claiming that, over the last 10 years, “$53 million has been paid by industry super funds to unions. Over the same 10 years, unions have paid around $65 million to the ALP”.
In doing so, Cash suggested the payments might represent a breach of the sole purpose test which requires super funds to invest only in the best interests of their members.
“We need to ensure, as parliamentarians, that the people presiding over these savings are acting solely in the interests of the hardworking members and not in the interests of union officials, political candidates or anyone else—especially when you are wearing all three of those hats,” Cash said. “This is the retirement savings of hardworking Australians.”
The minister said the Government had introduced legislation to amend the Fair Work Act to ban corrupting benefits paid by employers to unions and union officials noting that the legislation also required disclosure of all benefits flowing to employer groups, unions and businesses under workplace deals.
“What this will do is end the secrecy in these payments. If a payment is a legitimate payment then let us make sure every single Australian—but in particular those affected by the payment, the hardworking members of employer groups or unions—knows why these payments are being made,” she said.