Transcripts

Interview with Graeme Goodings on Five AA Radio

TRANSCRIPT
Interview with Graeme Goodings on Five AA Radio

16 March 2022

Subjects: Superannuation donations to unions

E&OE…

Graeme Goodings
The origin of funding major parties has always been an area of concern. With calls for more transparency, it may come as a surprise that a major source of campaign funding is the superannuation industry. So how much are super funds pouring into the major parties? Joining me now is New South Wales Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg. Senator, what is your concern?

Senator Bragg
Well, Graham, the most important thing about super is it's designed for workers not to pay for political campaigns. And I'm very concerned that in this election campaign, people's retirement savings is going to be paying for the advertising.

Graeme Goodings
So what are the mechanics of it? How does the money that people put into super, some of it at least, end up paying for a political campaign?

Senator Bragg
Well, the way it works is that the super funds do deals and have agreements with the unions which are affiliated with the Labor Party, and then the money is paid from the super fund into the trade union and then ultimately into the ALP. And the latest electoral commission figures show that in the last year, $12.9 million has been paid from super funds to unions.

Graeme Goodings
And there's no control over this?

Senator Bragg
Well, we have passed new legislation in Canberra which requires super funds to stop wasting money, and spending it on nefarious purposes and political purposes. And that law needs to be enforced by the superannuation regulator APRA. And my expectation is that they will do a better job.

Graeme Goodings
Do you think most people paying into a super are aware of this?

Senator Bragg
Certainly not. And I think the failure to disclose these payments in annual reports and on super fund website shows super funds themselves. They're ashamed of the payment, and the only way the payments have been collated has been through manual spread sheeting of the data that's on the AEC, or the Electoral Commission, website and it's an exhaustive manual process. The super funds don't want people to know that.

Graeme Goodings
When we look at the super funds, there is a connection. Wayne Swan is the head of CBUS.

Senator Bragg
Wayne Swan is the President of the Labor Party and he's also the head of CBUS. And they've made the biggest single donation in the past year, which is $6 million. So $6 million from the CBUS fund has been paid to the CFMEU, which is one of the most militant unions in the country. So that is an extraordinary conflict of interest for Mr swan to be the head of the Labor Party and the head of the super fund making the biggest donation.

Graeme Goodings
Is this a long term thing that's been going on a long time.

Senator Bragg
It's been growing very, very quietly. And this year, $12.9 million is a big jump from the last year, which was $11 million flat. So it is quickly picking up. And without APRA, the super regulator doing its job and reining in these payments, they will only balloon further. And ultimately, what you'll see is the super funds will become the biggest political donors in the country.

Graeme Goodings
What would you like to see happen?

Senator Bragg
Well I want to see our laws enforced. I want to see the super regulator stop these payments because I don't think they can be justified to be in the member's best interest. And of course all of this is on top of the mass advertising, sometimes political advertising, that the super funds undertake. So this is just payments directly to the union and I think it's wrong. Equally I think it's bad to see super money disappear into the banks or into the employee groups. My view is that super should be there for the workers and this is one of the many reasons why I favour handing it over to the Future Fund to manage.

Graeme Goodings
This money that flows through to the unions, is it just affect the federal level of politics or is it trickled down to the state level as well?

Senator Bragg
We only see the declarations that are made through the Australian electoral Commission which is federal. I'm not sure what sort of contributions they're making at the state level.

Graeme Goodings
So where to from here? You've voiced your concerns. What reaction have you had?

Senator Bragg
Well I mean we need to pursue this with APRA which is a super regulator and see what they're going to do. So I'll be writing to APRA to explain the latest data analysis and seeking their explanation on how they are going to enforce our new laws.

Graeme Goodings
Andrew Bragg. Thanks for your time today.

Senator Bragg
Thanks Graeme. Good to talk to you.

[ENDS]

Media contact:

Charlotte Mortlock 0401 392 624

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