Superannuation and conflicts of interest

Crikey Founder Stephen Mayne writes: Re. “Mayne gets it wrong on who should be on super fund boards” (yesterday). Isn’t it interesting seeing who is lining up against governance reforms at industry funds?

ALP warrior Geoff Lake should know that I’ve long campaigned against entrenched long serving directors, especially where there has been poor performance, such as with the circa $500 million cash call Victorian councils received from Vision Super three years ago. My fundamental criticism of Vision Super relates to the Australian Services Union (ASU) and the inherent conflict of interest it has managing defined benefit superannuation liabilities at the same time as trying to maximise local government wage claims.  You just can’t do both when one directly undermines the other.

Lake’s lively missive yesterday also fails to disclose that he is pocketing $70,000 a year from his Vision Super board seat as one of two representatives of the Municipal Association of Victoria. He wouldn’t be getting this much as deputy chair without the voting support of the four ASU directors and broader support from Labor councillors in Victoria. At City of Melbourne, we have a policy that councillors appointed to board seats return any fees paid to council. This is just one of many governance issues at the MAV which Lake, as a former President and the longest serving director, needs to sort out following this damning report by the Victorian Auditor General earlier this year.

Surely, it is now apparent for all to see after Bill Shorten’s evidence to the Royal Commission that there are just too many dubious side deals between employers and unions. Cash payments from companies to unions are illegal in many countries and this needs to happen in Australia as well. Allowing the two camps to get cosy inside industry super fund board rooms without a single independent director to keep them honest and help manage the conflicts is now clearly untenable from a governance point of view. Here’s hoping the Greens can see the logic of this and support a sensible reform to inject independent chairs and a mandated one-third minority of independent directors into every industry fund board room.

Modern Greek mythology

John Richardson writes: Re. “Five things everyone misunderstands about the Greek debt crisis” (yesterday). While Richard Denniss and Cam Amos are right to identify the shortcomings of Greece’s political and economic systems as a significant source of that country’s current crisis, the sad but unavoidable truth is that no amount of immediate voluntary reform will solve her problems given that the five year program of crushing austerity imposed by creditors has failed to deliver meaningful change.

In the face of this bleak reality, ordinary Greeks would doubtless feel that the place that they find themselves in is a function of the scheming of the usual cabal of dishonest politicians, banksters and industrialists who created and operated the very system that has impoverished them. Looking at the larger picture, many of them would also doubtless think it more than a bit ironic that their biggest, richest and least forgiving creditor, Germany, has the worst record of any nation when it comes to meeting its debt obligations.

Whilst Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel lectures Greece about the “moral importance” of repaying its debts, she conveniently and hypocritically ignores the fact that Germany has never repaid its external debts; neither after the First or Second World Wars.There are more than a few morality plays about Greece showing at the moment.

Why can’t we have both?

Peter Matters writes: Re. “Letting kids get raped on Nauru will not, in fact, help solve climate change“. Not only has current governance degenerated into a caricature of democracy, but the electorate has woken up and is looking for a leadership which has earned their respect and whom they can therefore trust to hoist our poor country back to the 21st century. Thus, the current political horsetrading and bickering; the old “has-beens” brainwashing the people via a tsunami of gutter press journalism; and to shock jocks appealing to intolerance and prejudice assuming the people to be stupid and gullible is simply out of date. Equally outdated are platitudes like “progressives”, “conservatives”, “left”, “right”, etc., because they simply describe not opinions but views based on outdated hang-ups. At this crucial time, the people will expect politicians capable of detached, objective opinions and the courage to put them into practice and we, the people, will accept to be warned, that there will be difficult times ahead requiring sacrifices — and different mindsets — by all of us.

The asylum seeker disaster is actually quite easy to resolve, as long as we understand the stupidity as well as denial of the past of Howard’s and Murdoch’s “Australia has a right to decide whom we accept on our shores”. If we increase the number of asylum seekers accepted to something like 40,000-50,000 per annum (which is still a quite moderate percentage of the yearly intake), we send the people smuggling gangsters and their lethal boats packing, because asylum seekers will be prepared to wait in Indonesia (or wherever) a little longer in the expectation that they will be processed with sympathy and the knowledge that they will be received with kindness in the most multinational land on the planet. The many billions saved by dismantling the odious current arrangement will go a long way of paying for the greater numbers welcomed. Seeing that technology has reduced the size of the planet to that of a village and humankind to the size of a tribe, it should not be too difficult to understand that “All People Are My Brothers And Sisters.”

Liverpool Plains

Adam Rope writes: Re. “Where are the Liverpool Plains again?” (Wednesday). Thank you to Chris Davis for pointing out my geographical inaccuracies. Having driven through them on numerous occasions, on my way to the Darling Downs, I really should know the location of the Liverpool Plains. I still think the description “north-west of Newcastle” is a bit generic. Walgett and Lightning Ridge also fit that depiction.

What’s a decimal point or two between friends?

George Lewin writes: Re. “Sluggish jobs data emerges from the statistical mess” (yesterday). Love your newsletter and where you stand politically. Please don’t let the replacement of decimal points with commas — as occurred throughout today’s story on unemployment numbers from Glenn Dyer and Bernard Keane — let you down, even if in a tiny way. Despite our population being incredibly swollen by illegal maritime arrivals (pardon my sarcasm) we are still a way short of 11,768 million with a job in this vast brown land. That’s almost double the population of the planet. Replace all the commas with decimal points and the story starts to make sense. Keep up the good work and keep trying to awaken our slumbering countrymen. I’m starting to get seriously embarrassed — as an ex-pat living in Thailand —  to admit to my nationality.