We know that Liberal MP Tim Wilson has form in using the House of Reps economics committee as a partisan weapon — it was the platform for an industry-funded scare campaign against Labor’s policy to end the franking credit rort. Now it’s the turn of industry super funds.
The Turnbull government, as part of its efforts to stave off a royal commission into its bank donors, got the economics committee to hold a permanent inquiry into the banks, with regular appearances by CEOs. That inquiry lapsed with the election, so in August, the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg wrote to Wilson renewing the reference and expanding it to cover the implementation of the reforms of the Hayne royal commission.
Sounds legit, right? Except in expanding the terms of reference to cover the royal commission, Frydenberg opened the way for the committee to call “other major relevant financial institutions” and look at financial services more broadly.
As you’ll recall from the royal commission, industry super funds emerged with a clean bill of health — unlike retail super funds, which were exposed as a colossal scam. But Wilson isn’t interested in pursuing retail super funds. Instead, he demanded that industry super funds provide his committee with information about their operations. The funds dutifully complied.
That material was then promptly handed to News Corp journalists to prepare hatchet jobs on industry funds. Here’s the Herald-Sun, on hospitality spending, and here’s The Australian, on the use of tax havens (News Corp, of course, never uses tax havens…). It was also given to the Financial Review, which gleefully revealed the salary of Brett Himbury, boss of the industry fund-owned IFM.
All the articles included self-promoting quotes from Wilson himself. And in all cases the journalists pretended that the information had fallen off the back of a truck.
And funnily enough, Wilson hasn’t put the material he asked for on the committee website so we can see the extent to which it’s been taken out of context, cherrypicked or been misrepresented.
Your taxpayer dollars hard at work.