industry super

From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours…

Super war veteran puts down her guns, wants others to follow. It’s always amusing when someone bungs on a blue and then, after getting a whipping, piously calls for peace. So it is today with Jane Hume, holder of the business-card-busting title “assistant minister for superannuation, financial services and financial technology”, who gave an interview to Nine papers about super. “I would like to see a laying down of arms in the culture war — particularly between industry and retail sectors,” she said. The biggest prosecutor of the “culture war” on super is of course Hume’s own Liberal Party, which has relentlessly attacked industry super for 20 years.

Of course, for Hume herself, it’s not a culture war but a holy war — she has repeatedly attacked industry super funds for being part of an “unholy alliance” and “unholy trinity” with the ALP and unions, and now says increases in the superannuation guarantee are “immoral”. With the banking royal commission sending thousands of customers and tens of billions of dollars in funds fleeing to industry super, now Hume wants peace in our time? Well, if you ask Scott Morrison, not bloody likely.

Even as Hume was talking to Nine, Morrison was continuing the demonisation of industry super in his “economic reform” speech in Perth, saying “the unions — through their money from member’s indentured fees and union super funds … run Labor.” So apparently industry super, which is half run by employer organisations, are “union super funds”. Not much laying down of arms going on there, Jane.

Morrison v the CFMMEU. John Setka is probably the Coalition’s favourite unionist right now. The never ending scandal surrounding the Victorian CFMMEU boss has given the Morrison government another excuse to try and pass their perennial bête noire: legislation which could make it easier to deregister a union.

The government is desperate to pass the laws, because currently, their ability to deregister a union they don’t like is well-restricted.

If the government wanted to deregister the CFMMEU now, it would have to apply to the Federal Court for an order, for things like holding an unlawful strike or breaching an award or enterprise agreement, or apply for deregistration on technical grounds by application to the Fair Work Commission. The CFMMEU’s alleged thuggery and John Setka’s behaviour are simply not enough to get the union cancelled. Morrison’s new laws would seek to dramatically expand the grounds for deregistration to include illegal activity, corrupt conduct, or incurring various civil penalties.

If deregistered, the union would lose certain bargaining privileges, as well as the all-important right to enter work sites. 

Construction of a fact. Sticking with construction, Crikey has been fact-checking government claims about productivity and costs in the construction sector and has for years found they’re bullshit. Now Christian Porter has joined in, claiming that because of the CFMMEU, construction costs were 30% higher here than in the United States.

We pointed out in 2017 that construction costs had been found to be falling in Australia, and a 2017 McKinsey report showed Australian construction was an “outperformer” on productivity. More, this is a repetition of a claim that Crikey first demolished all the way back in 2012, when we detailed the nonsensical basis for the Business Council’s claim that construction costs were 30% more expensive here than in Texas.

But wouldn’t it be good if someone could just settle the matter once and for all with an authoritative, independent index of construction costs around the world so we could compare? Well, step forward European engineering consultancy Arcadis, which has exactly that. And what does its 2019 index show? The most expensive Australian city for construction costs, Sydney, is ranked 34th in the world for construction costs. That’s below nine US cities, including the two most expensive cities in the world, New York and San Francisco. The next most expensive Australian city is Brisbane, which doesn’t even make the world’s top 50 most expensive cities for construction. 

We’ll be waiting for Porter to correct the record.

Everything is like Venezuela. It’s a real tragedy that the situation in Venezuela is frequently treated and reported on less as a humanitarian crisis and more a way to own the left. Nowhere was that more clearly on display than in the pages of The Australian yesterday, where two of the paper’s favourite columnists spat out hot takes on the South American nation, a favourite topic of the conservative commentariat.

First, Chris Kenny chided the ABC’s Zoe Daniel for not using the word socialism in her reporting on Venezuela. Presumably, the ABC ought to ditch their in-depth coverage of the situation for snarky gotcha pieces. The ABC eventually included the dreaded “s” word following complaints from the IPA’s Matthew Lesh. Never one to be outdone, former ABC chair Maurice Newman argued that Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and treasurer Jackie Trad were leading the state on the road to Caracas, because both have debt and natural resources. He also attacked Palaszczuk for opposing Adani (Queensland’s government gave the mine its final approvals last week).

Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to [email protected]use our guaranteed anonymous form or other ways to leak to us securely.