Back when it was forced to call a royal commission into the banks late last year, the government came up with a smart idea: if the banks were going to have to suffer, industry super funds would share the pain. It was "direct smack at Labor" a government source anonymously admitted. Peter Dutton was more blunt, saying it was good that the royal commission would "look at some aspects within the industry super funds which have union members and whatnot on the board", because "people lose a lot of their super through fees and through donations and all sorts of support for unions".
But like pretty much every smart idea this government comes up with, it turned out to be half-smart, as events of the last week demonstrated. The superannuation phase of the royal commission hearings has seen industry super funds sail through with minimal questioning. Rather than a parade of "venal union officials", as Tony Abbott so falsely described the employer- and union-appointed directors of super funds, the hearings last week were dominated by executives of NAB and IOOF, and further revelations of account holders being charged for no service, dead people being charged and fund owners trying to evade the need to repay them.