The construction and transport unions will take a joint resolution to “turf banks out of superannuation” to the ALP national conference next month, heaping pressure on Bill Shorten to adopt a radical response to revelations at the banking inquiry.
The CFMEU and Transport Workers Union are calling for legal and structural change to lock for-profit companies out of the $2.7 trillion super system.
Writing in Wednesday’s The Australian Financial Review, CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor and TWU national secretary Michael Kaine argue the “big banks have no useful role to play in our super sector”.
“For the sake of all Australians we should stop pussyfooting around and take the action necessary to remove them.”
A spokesman for shadow treasurer Chris Bowen declined to respond to the opinion piece but Mr Bowen has previously said he is “not interested in advantaging one sector of super over the other”.
The alliance between the two left and right unions suggests broader union support, which would give the resolution a good chance of approval in circumstances where the Labor Right has a slim majority of the 397 voting delegates.
“Our unions are forging an alliance at the coming ALP national conference to remove shareholder interests from superannuation entirely,” the opinion piece says.
“Our cross factional alliance will push for ALP national policy to amend superannuation law. This would bring legal effect to a basic principle: in superannuation, you must have only one over-riding interest, the member.”
The unions declined to expand on the precise wording of the resolution or specific legal changes.
‘Conflict is irreconcilable’
Typically the union movement has worked with the parliamentary party on industrial relations issues but the potentially contentious resolution could pit the two against each other just months ahead of an election.
ALP sources said that if the resolution is passed by the ALP conference, it would simply be a matter of time before a Shorten government was forced to implement it.
Former TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon, who has the No. 1 spot on Labor’s NSW senate ticket, will push the idea from inside the parliamentary wing of the ALP. “The retail funds have no place in superannuation,” he told the Financial Review in early October.
ACTU assistant secretary Scott Connolly made similar comments about eliminating banks from super to the Financial Review in October.
“The conflict is irreconcilable,” he said.
Union sources said some unions saw the Hayne royal commission as an opportunity to turn the tables on retail funds after years of attacks on industry funds.
Super funds owned by the banks and AMP have been battered by the royal commission and findings of underperformance by the Productivity Commission.
Mission to expand benefits to all
“The big banks have to be turfed out of superannuation altogether, and it’s the duty of industry funds to make the case,” the opinion piece says.
“The Hayne royal commission has confirmed the advantages of industry funds beyond all doubt and the temptation for the sector might be to bask in our victory. We must resist it.
“The mission of industry funds, which deliver all profits back to members, is greater than just out-competing retail funds. Our mission is to expand the benefit we provide to all Australians, and we’re nowhere near close to accomplishing it.”
Industry Super Australia says it has no plans to re-run its anti-bank fox and henhouse advertisements.
The CFMEU and TWU are understood to be among the funds that financed the ads as part of the “banks aren’t super” campaign.
“The banks and their fellow travellers will always salivate over the $2.7 trillion in Australian retirement savings,” the opinion piece says.
“The ‘fox and henhouse’ adverts were spot on. The next campaign should be a fox hunt.”