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This article from The Fair Go (a group sponsored by the Liberal Party of Australia) claims that Australian unions will get $AU22 million per year from superannuation.

IF THIS RATE OF GROWTH CONTINUES OVER THE NEXT TEN YEARS, INDUSTRY FUNDS WILL BE PAYING UNIONS $22 MILLION A YEAR BY 2027.

It does not clearly explain how or really show they are.

Is the claim true?

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    Some context for non-Australian readers: The Australian government encourages citizens to save for their retirement (and take pressure off the welfare system) by compulsory and optional contributions into their "super" - a superannuation investment fund, which gets lower taxes on earnings. Warning these funds might become subject to high fees from financial institutions, trade union established 'industry funds' for their members, promoting lower fees because there is less profit-taking from shareholders. – Oddthinking Jul 28 '17 at 7:48
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    The Liberal Party of Australia is confusingly named. It is the main conservative party in Australia - it is large part of a coalition that is currently in government. Generally, they are politically at loggerheads with the trade unions. Here, they use a proxy to accuse the trade unions to be taking advantage of their members by securing large profits from the members' super-annuation funds that the unions run. – Oddthinking Jul 28 '17 at 7:50
  • Maybe the edits should have made the question about the 8 million on the graph for 2017, it sounds more like that's the part being questioned. Projections like this are guesswork, then an answer might look into the AEC reporting they talked about. (Also 8 million a year isn't much if 13 million people have industry super) – daniel Jul 28 '17 at 8:00
  • abc.net.au/news/2017-02-01/… might be were they fun-gineer some of the 8 million figure from – daniel Jul 28 '17 at 8:40
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    The claim on the article is 22 mil so I'd prefer to stay with that. Details like the 8 mils may become part of an answer – user1605665 Jul 28 '17 at 8:42
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No, the article does NOT say that unions "will" be getting $22M as a fact. Quoting from the main article blurb (whatever you call those large-font quotes in middle of the article that are most important points):

IF THIS RATE OF GROWTH CONTINUES OVER THE NEXT TEN YEARS, INDUSTRY FUNDS WILL BE PAYING UNIONS $22 MILLION A YEAR BY 2027.

So, what the article claims is that the growth projection, if things remain unchanged, is $22M. Whether their projection analysis is accurate is a separate question (I wasn't able to find any independent analysis, and doing the analysis myself is off topic for Skeptics - you may want to ask on Finance or Economics or Statistics SE - it looks legit enough approximation to me to at least be in the right ballpark).


As far as the claim you didn't ask about (whether the money was paid) the original source of the claim is "Board fees for unionists cost industry super funds $5.4m" article by Elizabeth Colman in The Australian newspaper, though due to paywall, I read the article's re-print here:

Unions have reaped $5.4 million from industry super funds over the past two years by giving high-ranking officials spots on governance boards, in a practice slammed as “undesirable” by one of the ­nation’s leading financial experts.

The ACTU, Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, Australian Workers Union and the Maritime Union of Australia were among those paid by Australia’s biggest industry super funds through non-executive directorships for prominent officials, fund records revealed.

Construction industry fund CBUS delivered the biggest payday of $927,940 to the CFMEU, the AMWU manufacturing workers union, the CEPU communications union and the ACTU in 2014-15.

Coalition plans to bolster independence on the boards of industry super funds were defeated this month after an ACTU campaign swayed key crossbenchers ahead of a Senate vote.

But The Australian’s analysis of fund records shows CBUS paid the ACTU $106,909 from members’ funds for president Ged Kearney to attend board meetings. The ­nation’s biggest super fund, Australian Super, paid $800,000 to five unions, including $136,487 to the ACTU for Dave Oliver’s spot on the board.

CBUS also paid $205,779 to the CFMEU for construction union national secretary Dave Noonan to attend board meetings over the past two years.

The source of data seems to be annual reports, the article has a table sourced from CBUS annual report

enter image description here

  • Are unions actually getting this money at all. – user1605665 Jul 28 '17 at 21:17
  • @user1605665 - according to the article I cited (which cites actual reports from the supers themselves), YES – user5341 Jul 30 '17 at 20:04
  • 22 million dollars?! Why would the unions get 8 million dollars of super money? I mean 5.4 million dollars is outrageous! – daniel Jul 30 '17 at 21:50
  • Is this money going to the unions, or to the people who are also officers of the union? – DJClayworth Jul 30 '17 at 22:41
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    This comment trail is not the place for political discussion or even to ponder the Merritt of union officials on superannuation boards. If you want discussion on those topics head to chat or ask an appropriate questions on the politics SE site. Comments are for clarification – user1605665 Aug 1 '17 at 22:52
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No the $22m figure is not true, for several reasons. And whatever the figure is, it would be entirely normal practice.

The simplest and most obvious reason is that the extrapolation in the article is entirely bogus. There is no explanation of how the supposed growth was calculated, but it looks suspiciously like it was done by projecting a line through the current year from a recent extreme low point, i.e giving the maximum possible growth slope. The slope clearly ignores several recent years in which payments to Union officials declined. The $22m figure is pure speculation and exaggeration.

Second the payments do not actually go to unions at all, but to union officials who also serve on the boards of the funds. Payment for such services are absolutely normal, and it would be unusual if they did not occur. There are similar payments to non-union officials. There are some newspaper articles that characterize the payments as "to unions" but it is not clear on what basis

Thirdly, and in response to the suggestion that having union officials on the board of a pension fund is somehow inherently underhanded, the funds mentioned (Cbus, Super Australian) are in fact founded, owned and operated on behalf of the unions in question. Having representation​ of the unions on the board is not only normal but expected, just like you would expect that a pension fund for employees of a company would have a representative of the company on the board.

  • You seem to be relying on references provided by @user5341's answer. Can you include them here too? – Oddthinking Aug 2 '17 at 13:30

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