The Labor member for Whitlam in New South Wales, Stephen Jones is morphing into the chief lobbyist for the super funds.
Rather than working for his constituents on the NSW South Coast and Illawarra, Jones has shown that he is more interested in running an agenda for industry super.
In the past few weeks, he has made it clear in two ways.
He has included a link from his website to the Industry Super website and he has publicly involved himself in a super fund’s executive recruitment process.
Firstly, on the website link, Jones posted a tweet on 7 July saying that “your super and your retirement will always be better off under Labor.”
This hilarious statement from the same party that proposed a retiree tax at the last election is just one part of Jones’ brainless policy agenda.
This tweet carried a link to a Labor Party petition where readers are told that “Scott Morrision and the Liberals are planning to cut your super”.
Again, this is a bit rich given the Super Guarantee actually went up to 10 per cent on 1 July and the federal budget in May contained a slew of measures designed to help people put more into super.
But let’s not kid ourselves, this isn’t a real petition, it’s a petition for Jones’ data gathering purposes so he can send out emails to people with his lies about super and Medicare being cut.
The most egregious part of this tweet though is the link on the Labor Party website which takes us to the “Industry Super” website.
The link is called “you can find out here just how much the Liberals’ super cut will cost you”.
Upon clicking through to the Industry Super website, we find the logos of 15 different super funds which we are invited to invest in. Amazing!
Why would an elected official send constituents to a commercial website?
We must assume that it is Jones’ desire to formalise the link between Labor politicians, the unions and the super funds.
After all, the super funds are on track to send $30m to the unions and the Labor Party by 2030 according to electoral commission data.
But this has always been kept rather quiet. We only know about this figure through poring over spreadsheets and data pulled manually from the AEC website.
The unions are required to lodge returns with the AEC if they are affiliated with the Labor Party. That is the only reason that we have these figures.
The super funds do not disclose their payments to unions in annual reports or on their websites.
This is bad enough, but at least it happens through multiple parties.
Mr Jones is using taxpayer entitlements to send constituents through to a commercial super fund website run by “Industry Super”. He should remove this link from the website.
Secondly, Jones is getting involved in the executive appointments of these same funds which is risky and odd.
On 13 July, Jones released a statement entitled “congratulations to Ian Silk”. This two-page media release which said lovely things about AustralianSuper’s retiring boss Ian Silk.
Jones the legislator then goes on to make a personal statement in support of the new CEO Paul Schroder.
Jones said “Paul has long worked alongside Ian and members can be assured he will continue to put their interests above all.”
That is a serious endorsement which Jones backed up by saying “as a former National Secretary of the Financial Services Union, I have confidence Paul will continue to deliver for members”.
Can you imagine a Liberal Minister putting out a statement when there was a new CEO at a listed company like ANZ Bank or Telstra? It wouldn’t happen.
Meanwhile, Jones continues to be a prolific contributor to the New Daily which has been propped up by the super funds to the tune of $30 million.
The New Daily is a newspaper owned by super lobbyists but paid for by you, the superannuation members.
AustralianSuper is presently under investigation from the prudential regulator APRA on its plan to give away members’ personal details to the New Daily.
This did not get a mention in Jones’ two-page statement.
The investigation is important. If APRA allows AustralianSuper to give away two million personal records of members to lobbyists running a news agency, the floodgates will open.
Super funds would be able to give away member data to tobacco companies or casinos.
But ultimately the key question remains, does Jones want to be the member for Whitlam or an employee of the super funds?
He can’t be both. Surely he can’t take the taxpayers’ wage whilst being a staffer for the super funds.
Unless he can solve this confusion, we should have a by-election in Whitlam.
Andrew Bragg is a Liberal Senator for New South Wales.
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