Saturday, 2 December 2017

Banking Royal Commission or Anti-Union Witch-Hunt?

In my last post I wrote that I was skeptical about the Turnbull royal commission on banking and I thought I was being a sophisticated, savvy bloke. Nothing can surprise me, I thought.

God, I was mistaken. In reality, I was being awfully naive.

You see, in Oz by law workers contribute a fraction of their stagnating wages/salaries into "superannuation funds": a retirement fund. There are some 500 such funds. They can be classified in different ways (including self-managed super funds, popular of late), but one such taxonomy involves two kinds: if they are run by a private financial institution (aka bank) on behalf of the account holders, they are called "retail, wholesale, corporate and/or master", otherwise, they are "industry" (i.e. they are run by an employer association or union: non-bank).

Curiously, non-profit industry super funds tend to outperform their for-profit corporate competition (management fees are costly, surprise, surprise):

(For the rest of the report)

Now, it turns out, Turnbull decided to target those non-banks into his bosses' ordered banking royal commission. And he sent Peter Dutton, police minister and responsible for the overseas asylum concentration camps, to make the announcement:

"But there's also another element to it – that is, to have a look at some aspects within the industry super funds which have union members and whatnot on the board.
"I think people lose a lot of their super through fees and through donations and all sorts of support for unions. So I think it's a good opportunity in that sense to have a look at the detail and people can put all of that information forward and we can see the recommendations from the commission."
If the idea was to learn why industry super funds outperform their cronies' super funds, wouldn't it be easier to ask what they do? Or maybe the idea is to help a bunch of losers?


A couple of years back the Coalition launched an anti-union witch hunt (its latest, so far) in the shape of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. It harassed trade unionists for a little less than two years, at the end of which the Commission claimed to have found widespread and deep seated misconduct and referred some 40 persons and/or organisations to the police and state and federal directors of Public Prosecutions.

The outcome of all that mobilisation?

To the best of my knowledge, some 5/6 people were indicted. After indictment, charges were dropped before or during trial or, when the trial concluded, the accused were found not-guilty in all cases, except one. Two years to get one conviction. So much for widespread and deep seated misconduct.


And then Brad DeLong wishes that the government were the executive of the bourgeoisie. Because, you know, he knows a lot about what he talks about. Give me a break.


I'll leave Australian readers with this letter by the ACTU's Ged Kearney

Dear Friend,

Tell Malcolm Turnbull this royal commission must not be used to attack workers' retirement savings.

After two years of ruling it out, Malcolm Turnbull yesterday backflipped and announced a royal commission into the big banks.

It seemed the Prime Minister had finally buckled to overwhelming community pressure for a banking royal commission. That he had finally done the right thing.

But no. Before too long, it became quite clear that this royal commission is tainted.

Firstly, the Prime Minister consulted the banks, but not the banks victims.

Then we discovered that they are going to use the Royal Commission as a witch hunt to attack workers' retirement savings. It's a shameless, breath-taking and nakedly political act.

Industry super is hugely successful. That's why the weak Prime Minister and his divided government hate it.

That's why they have legislation before the Parliament to give big banks access to workers' retirement savings.

Can you sign the petition to tell Turnbull to keep the big banks out of super? We will deliver it to the Senators who have the power to block the bills, and show them there's thousands of people who want scandal-free super.

This is so outrageous.

The Turnbull government is dangerously obsessed. All their attacks on working people are to give more power to the big banks.

But we can stop them. Sign the petition now and we will ensure your voice is heard.

Australia's big four banks have a shocking record of bad advice, bad investments, customer rip-offs and facilitating money laundering. We won't stop until we get the big banks out of our super funds.

Industry super isn't broken and doesn't need fixing. It's the big banks that are broken - that's why we needed a real banking royal commission.

Sign the petition now.

Ged Kearney

ACTU President

- Australian Unions
- L4 365 Queen St, Melbourne, Victoria 3000, Australia

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