AustralianSuper’s James Coyle encourages workers to claim $18 billion in lost super.
Remember the part time job you had straight out of uni working in retail or the local pub – the one where your super went straight from your pay packet to an unknown super fund?
Years later, over numerous address changes and a few jobs later, that super is still lying dormant and waiting to be claimed. In fact. almost $19 billion of super is “lost”. That is, no activity has been recorded on it for five years or more and mail has been returned. That’s almost 40 per cent more than 2009
The increase may have something to do with the casualisation of the workforce — where people have numerous short term jobs and therefore super funds.
Either way, some people really have found a secret fortune. With the help of AustralianSuper, one worker was successfully reunited with almost $250,000 – another found 11 lost super accounts worth over $35,000.
Late last year industry fund, AustralianSuper, launched a campaign to help people find their lost super. And an online tool to make it easier to the 5.8 million lost super accounts.
“If you find lost super you’re better off in two ways – you boost your super savings and you save on multiple sets of fees,” says James Coyle from AustralianSuper. “This can make a bigger difference when you retire.”
AustralianSuper has found:
- Since November last year AustralianSuper has helped members find and transfer over $50 million of their lost super with an average amount over $7,200.
- The average age of people finding lost super is 45 with almost twice as many men finding lost super as women.
On average, people have more than one fund lying dormant being whittled away by administration fees. Although people have been encouraged to roll over for years it has always seemed too hard – especially when facing resistance from the dormant fund who can charge excessive fees for the privilege.
Now the ATO has made it simpler by establishing a website to allow people to search for themselves, using a few simple personal details (TFN, family and given names and date of birth). Check out SuperSeeker here.
James Coyle says Australians appear to be resistant to claiming all this money that belongs to them
“There is a perception being that it is difficult,’ Coyle says. “It is actually a simple three step process”
In any event, workers will be forced to consolidate their small super funds come 2014 when new government legislation comes into being. Small super accounts.with less than $1,000 in them and that have been inactive for five years or more, will be transferred into a worker’s active account.
The problem with “lost super” also highlights the disconnect the public has with its superannuation earnings – until the age of 40. This is the average age when people start to examine where their hard earned cash has gone but unfortunately, they may discover it is all too late in terms of planning for a financially sound retirement. It also raises some interesting questions about our complacency when it comes to monitoring our super.
Miriam Lyons from the Centre for Policy Development describes the UK political shake up which is finding support here.
In the UK, the phrase “Big Society” is a household term — a catch phrase for the current transformation of British society as public services are cut and replaced by private enterprise, voluntary and community services.
It’s presented as a progressive, inclusive philosophy — who doesn’t want a big society with contributions from all sectors of society?
But its critics describe it as a grab bag of ideas melded together as an excuse to cut down public spending and a state’s responsibilities.
British PM David Cameron used the theory to “redefine the role of the state as a provider of public services.” On a practical level that has meant more than £80 billion in cuts to public spending; the dismantling of the NHS and up to 700,000 job cuts to the public service.
In the UK, the winners have seen large corporations such as Serco and A4e which have received the bulk of the outsourced work which was previously done by the public service.
But in Australia we’ve heard little of it. While the Opposition has signaled massive cuts to the public service if it were elected, a debate about the role of the state in Australia society is non-existent.
Miriam Lyons of the Centre for Policy Development (CPD), says that could be about to change. In its paper on “Big Society” CPD explores what it could mean for Australia. Read it here.
In the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron embraced it as a political philosophy first championed by Philip Blond, a theologian, lecturer and founder of the conservative think tank ResPublica. He was also Cameron’s adviser before the 2010 election.
Lyons says Australians can learn a lot from the negative impacts of ‘Big Society’ in the UK
“We’ve already seen some aspects of the ‘Big Society’ agenda here, with governments that want to outsource and privatise everything that moves”, says Lyons. “The extreme and rapid dismantling of the state in the UK shows us what we might expect if we continue down this path.”
Read about what the media and others are saying about a Big Society.
The whole debate raises some interesting questions about how publicly unpopular theories can be successfully framed to garner support.
For example, John Howard’s ‘voluntary student unionism’ sounded like a positive policy because most people are opposed to things that are compulsory. By removing its fund base, Howard rapidly killed off student activism in Australia.
On the other hand, Greenpeace made huge inroads in their campaign on genetic engineering by introducing the notion (and language) of ‘genetic pollution’. When industry began to use the same expression, Greenpeace’s influence was clear.
You can read more about reframing issues here.
Equally, Friends of the Earth have successfully reframed the marvels of nanotechnology by framing these emerging sciences as ‘Frankenstein-esque’ and ‘letting the genie out of the bottle’.
Take a look also at the re-framing of the recent ALP tussle for leadership here.
As Labor attempts to re-unite after its very public family spat there is one more piece of dirty linen that needs to be aired – the self-imposed strait-jacket that is the government’s pledge to bring the budget into surplus by 2012.
Listening to both the victor and the vanquished shift the focus to, ermm, moving forward after yesterday’s spill, there was a list of good works that the government insisted it will pursue with renewed vigour: at the top of the list disability reform, education funding, health reform.
Labor does have a strong set of progressive policy positions ready to roll – the Productivity Commission report into a National Disability Insurance Scheme will revolutionise the delivery of services to society’s most vulnerable; the Gonski review sets out a radical reshaping of schools funding that will shift resources to the public system, the Productivity Commission has also produced a major report into improving services of aging Australians.
All of these are potentially great Labor reforms that speak to Labor values; they will all set up key sectors for the decades to come and they will all benefit big slices of the electorate.
But they also come with significant price tags – NDIS $6 billion per year; Gonski $5 billion, with $%1.5 billion from he feds) and the less-known Aged Care reforms a further $6 billion.
With Labor tied to a 2010 election promise, reinforced last year, to bring the Budget back to surplus – regardless of external economic conditions – by 2012-13, all these initiatives are likely to be left in the starting blocks. Worthy reports gathering dust.
Walking away from the surplus would clearly be a big call for the Government – it would play out in the tabloids as another lie; and as the PM has learnt to her chagrin despite their low level of trust in politicians, the punters will pounce on a lie.
But in insisting it will deliver a budget surplus, no matter how wafer-thin, the Gillard Government is sucking up to the wrong crowd.
Give voters a choice between concrete improvements in key policy issues and delivering a surplus to the books and you get a very clear answer, as this week’s Essential Report shows.
Q. The Gonski report recommends a $5 billion increase in education funding with $1.5 billion of this additional funding coming from the Federal Government and the rest from the State Governments. If the Federal Government provides this additional funding it may mean they will not be able to return the budget to surplus next year.
Do you think it is more important to provide this additional funding for schools or more important to return a budget surplus?
|More important to provide additional funding to schools||
|More important to return a budget surplus||
This is not just a matter of flaky lefties walking away from self-imposed fiscal confines; indeed Coalition voters are nearly as keen as Labor voters for funds to be released to institute the Gonski reforms.
These findings back more general questions on the budget deficit we asked last November where 69 per cent of respondents favoured delaying a return to surplus if it meant cutting services or raising taxes.
‘Returning the Budget to Surplus’ has become one of those bumper sticker policies that hamstring governments. Like ‘Turning Back the Boats’ it is not only impossible to deliver, it creates a series of knock-on effects that compound the problem.
Worse for Labor, it keeps the economic debate in the abstract frame, the natural territory for conservative governments, rather than placing the economy in its proper context – the forum for improving the lives of ordinary people.
Could they win the argument? Australia’s current debt to GDP ratio is under 10 per cent – many developed OECD nations have levels ten times that rate; so actually explaining why Australia has set itself this target at a time of falling revenues could shift the conversation.
Indeed, not even Tony Abbott is tying himself to a 2012-13 surplus, so while he would cry ‘liar, liar’ he would not do so from a position of fiscal purity.
Of course, walking away from the surplus guarantee would inflict more pain on a government whose leader already suffers credibility deficit issues. But it might just be that delivering the goods on reform in education, disability and aged care is a better way to establish credibility with the electorate than delivering a wafer-thin surplus as a sop to the business pundits and tabloid press.
After all the hurt and tears for leadership status quo, surely a shift that opened the way for the next wave of social reforms for the young, the aged and the disabled would be a porky worth wearing.
ACTU President Ged Kearney gives the low down on the ACTU’s secure work inquiry.
There was a time when you had a job for life. The same one or two employers for 30 plus years. You had entitlements, the occasional pay rise, a chance for promotion and, if nothing else, security.
In the 21st century all that has changed. Gen Y workers like flexibility, choosing casual or part time work over the anchor that is a full time job. Other workers want to balance career and family life and are pleased to have the option of casual or contract work, with higher rates but without entitlements.
Casual workers now make up almost one quarter of Australian employees – one of the highest rates in the OECD. And contract work is steadily rising in all kinds of industries.
But what happens when you are working in an ongoing role but with no prospect of becoming a permanent worker? When banks are reluctant to lend to you and long term planning for a future becomes uncertain?
These are some of many aspects which the ACTU’s national inquiry is examining through its hearings into insecure work. Chaired by former deputy PM Brian Howe and comprising members from the highest level of labour law, academia and the union movement, the national hearings are examining the economic and social implications of insecure or fixed term employment as well as suggesting future policy directions.
You can find out more about the inquiry here.
“Workers have told us that insecure work makes it harder for them to manage the household finances, to spend time with their family and friends, and to plan for the future,” said ACTU president Ged Kearney.
“ The job of our new inquiry is to shine a light on the plight of insecure workers in Australia, and work out what government, employers and unions should be doing to help them.”
Ged asks here on the Punch – “are you feeling insecure?”
Approaching its task the panel is very much aware of the importance of flexible or non-standard work practices to both employers and employees. On the one hand, Australia must continue to maximise its economic productivity yet there are still issues of fairness and responsibility to be taken into account.
Employers argue that many workers actually want casual work arrangements. But the ACTU says that there must be security — such as avenues for challenging unfair dismissal and long-term casuals being given the right to convert to permanent work after a set period of time.
Casual workers are telling the ACTU their stories of insecure work, highlighting the need for these sorts of protections.
The dynamism of the modern labour market presents very significant challenges for people who much more frequently change their work status – moving between jobs, between education or caring and work, from unemployment to employment or from employment to retirement.
Disturbingly, one submission gave evidence about the link between casual workers and homelessness.
With 500 submissions received — 450 of which came from individual workers — the inquiry will prepare a report to present to the Federal Government by April. The first hearings were held in Brisbane on February 13.
Property Council of Australia CEO Peter Verwer looks at the challenges of planning long-term within a short-term political cycle
Despite the postcard pics and tourism ads, Australia is overwhelmingly an urban nation.
Three quarters of us live in cities and more than 80 per cent of our GDP is generated within their boundaries. We love our cities but we are also frustrated by them. We curse our transport congestion, high rental costs, long hospital waiting lists, lack of child care places and aged care facilities. As the population grows and ages, our cities are carrying the majority of the burden.
So will that ever change?
The Property Council of Australia believes it’s time to stop the ad hoc approach to building our cities and come up with a long term strategy which is inclusive of the community and agreed to by all tiers of government on all sides.
The ultimate problem is the short term decision making by governments with three or four year terms when what every city needs is bi-partisan commitment to 20 year plans.
The PCA joined with a number of industry groups in 2010 to call for a national approach to urban developments and have been working to see this realised ever since. You can read their joint statement here.
Despite dozens of reports, inquiries and academic studies, governments in Australia have dropped the ball when it comes to urban policy. Pressured by interest groups and pressured by community polling, decisions are made without much forethought.
An example of this is the NSW Government’s decision to open up rural areas for urban expansion — against all the advice from urban policy experts.
Peter Verwer, CEO of the PCA, believes now is the time to make urban policy the next revolution to save our cities.
“ We need to better understand that cities and productivity are indivisible,” he says.
“Well designed and managed cities can help Australia grow faster while maintaining a low rate of inflation.”
The Sydney Morning Herald’s Ross Gittins recently wrote on why cities are important on a social, financial and evolutionary basis.
That’s why the Property Council – representing those who build and manage the big projects – wants the Federal Government to recognise the importance of our cities by linking funding to a state’s commitment to these long-term plans.
The PCA believes Australia needs to work out what infrastructure we will need, and how we will pay for it.
“We need our residential areas to be connected to services and jobs, says Peter Verwer. “And we can’t forget that our cities are places to live – not just a collection of buildings and roads. Reforming the way our cities work will not only improve the quality of life of the people who live in them – it will boost productivity, stimulate jobs growth, and increase our prosperity.”
Social Business Australia’s Melina Morrison on the International Year of the Co-Op.
For some of us, the concept of a co-operative brings back memories of the university bar or shop. A farmers market on a weekend or a small winery may also spring to mind.
But co-ops are a booming business. In Australia last year, co-operative businesses generated some $15 billion in turnover and across the globe the top 300 co-ops turned over $1.6 trillion, equivalent to the economy of Canada.
It’s a little known fact but banks and listed companies are actually legally required to maximise benefits for shareholders — a legal obligation to think of the bottom line only.
Coops are another model altogether. You may not realise it but some of the largest companies in Australia and internationally are based on the co-op model – companies like Rabobank, Sunkist, KPMG and Associated Press. The difference is, all these companies are set up to serve a purpose beyond simply making a profit by adopting so-called Co-Op Capitalism.
So how do co-ops gauge success? And as the global economy faces stresses what role could co-ops play in stabilising economies?
Answering those questions is Melina Morrison from Social Business Australia.
“We are the businesses that deliver services and products through a socially responsible business structure,” says Morrison.
“ In 2012, co-operatives, credit unions, mutuals and member owned businesses will be putting the building blocks in place to grow the sector.”
Now, a growing global movement towards cooperatives may offer an appealing alternative.
Listen to Dame Pauline Green talking about the scale and scope of co-operative businesses on The Drum.
Co-ops are making growth happen by making 2012 the “UN International Year of Co-operatives” which will bring co-operatives across the globe together to campaign for a ‘better’ business model.
The drive for profits has never been clearer than with recent actions by the big four banks to increase interest rates independently of the Reserve Bank board’s decision to keep the cash rate on hold. ANZ and Westpac also announced job cuts and taking jobs offshore to cut costs while slashing jobs and increasing home loan rates.
But if your bank happens to be a customer owned financial institution, the experience is vastly different.
Bankmecu, a co-operative bank, did not put up its rates. Find out about their business model here.
These financial institutions run their business on a co-operative model, putting profit back into the business to protect employees and to serve their customers.
EMC Director Peter Lewis on framing the economic debate
Home Ground Advantage
Long-time American pollster Vic Fingerhut has been advising progressive politicians since the 1960s and he has a reassuring message - it’s OK to stand up for what you believe in – and it might even win you elections.
That such a message should be a revelation is a sad indication of where left of centre politics has gone in Australia – but it may also be reassuring that in this we are not alone.
Over more than three decades Fingerhut, who has been advising EMC since the 2007 federal election campaign – has been researching campaigns for unions and progressive parties in the USA, Canada, Britain and Germany – polling people on their perceptions of issues and the differences between major parties
And what he has discovered is a sort of immutable truth – there are some issues that belong to the Right and others that belong to the Left and it’s not about policy either. It’s about language and the way you frame an issue.
As a general rule where the issue is about managing the economy or handling terrorism or keeping taxes low, Republicans and conservatives have a marked advantage, with more than two thirds of voters perceiving they are superior on the issue.
But bring people into the equation, particularly working people, and the numbers swing around. By merely adding the words ‘for working people’ to the question ‘who is better at managing the economy?’, Democrats pick up 30 percentage points.
Likewise change the proposition ‘keeping taxes down’ to ‘fighting for fairer taxes for working people’ and the issue goes from being a negative for the left to a positive.
It’s early days, but the trends seem to translate into Australian politics as well. And if they do they add a new dimension to the ‘accepted wisdom’ that Labor needs to be stronger on the economy.
As Fingerhut observes, merely going out and engaging in an economic argument – even when you have better arguments than your conservative opponents – does nothing more than shift the debate onto their turf.
In other words, becoming a daily commentator on the current account deficit, employment figures and interest rates might get media, but if you do not draw the connection between economic indicators and people’s lives you are not advancing your cause.
At the moment the Labor Government is stuck in the least advantageous ‘economic management’ frame – by signing up to a budget surplus they have taken a conscious decision to fight on the Opposition’s turf.
A better place to be would be on the jobs front – not just the decade-low unemployment figures – but a narrative that actually translates government activity to job creation.
While conservative commentators hate it – support for industries like manufacturing are big vote-winners, when linked to a coherent government plan to support industries in the long-term as the impact of a rising Australian dollar sheets home.
Better still focus industrial relations – a key indicator of the way an economy operates for, in Vic’s words, regular working people – and the innate recognition that given the chance, the Liberals would bring back some form of WorkChoices.
So let’s put Vic’s theory to the test.
On the simple question who is better at managing the economy? Labor is getting smashed – although there are large number of uncommitted, proof that the Liberals are under-performing on their home turf.
Q. Which party do you trust most to manage the Australian economy, Labor or the Liberals?
But give the question the Vic treatment – admittedly around the performance of the Treasurers – and Labor enjoys a 19 per cent point turnaround.
Q. Who would you trust most to manage economy in the interests of workers and families …
This sort of analysis is we in the trade call ‘framing’, talking about your policies and political brand in the most advantageous way; reinforcing what people think about you, not trying to make them change their minds.
As you can see bringing working people into the economic frame is no magic bullet, especially for this government, but it does shift nearly one in five voters, which when you are in the fight for your very survival is nothing to be taken lightly.
UNICEF’s Tim O’Connor talks about the 80c nut paste which is saving kids’ lives in East Africa
When it comes to donating money to charity, donors wonder how far their dollar really goes, especially when the amount given is just a couple of bucks in a tin can. Well in the crisis that is East Africa, $1 goes a long way — in fact 80c is the going rate to almost instantly save a child’s life.
That’s all due to a little bar called Plumpy Nut.
Read here about how Plumpy Nut is saving children’s lives.
When starving children finally reach one of the many UNICEF centres in the region, their level of malnutrition is quickly tested via an elastic wristband to determine their level of need. Those with malnutrition are immediately given the Plumpy Nut — a peanut paste which is packed with protein, needs no preparation and is eagerly devoured by children. Just three packets a day for six weeks will bring a starving child from the brink of death to normal nutritive health.
And, the aptly named Plumpy Bar has public appeal too, says Tim O’Connor of UNICEF, making it easier for small donors to feel their dollar makes a difference. And that’s where the media steps in.
“The Daily Telegraph ran an online campaign on the Plumpy Nut bar and a link below which raised $60k in two hours,” he said.
It just goes to show how crucial the media is in raising awareness. “We had already been running a campaign on East Africa and were getting nowhere until the international media flew in,” said O’Connor. “We raised $4m in two and a half months.”
Yet the dilemma between raising awareness and exploiting the needy is another problem UNICEF battles to overcome. Tim O’Connor discusses how depictions of the ‘beneficiaries’ of aid have changed over the years here.
Once the media goes home, it is the aid agencies left to continue the hard work.
“In Somalia they are much better now but we still have 350,000 kids who will die unless they get basic nutrition and that means aid dollars,” said O’Connor.
UNICEF’s current focus is on education and putting 67 million children into schools and encouraging them to stay there. It’s an entrenched and silent problem which doesn’t receive the same attention as an international disaster but which has crucial ongoing ramifications for developing countries.
“Last year there were 290 disasters compared with 110 in 1990,” said O’Connor. “Unfortunately, they take the focus off the silent problems which we battle on a daily basis.”
CFMEU National President Tony Maher explains why BHP is no longer the “big Australian”.
BHP had its humble beginnings in Broken Hill when it opened a silver and lead mine and floated it on the fledgling stock exchange in 1885. Since then it’s become the world’s biggest mining company (and the world’s third biggest company outright) venturing into iron ore, copper, steel manufacturing and more. It employs 40,000 people in 25 countries — so is it still the iconic “big Australian”?
Well it still has its HQ in Melbourne but since it merged with mining company Billiton in 2001 it has dual listings and has a major arm in the UK.
It’s had its fair share of economic and social controversies too – not least of them, the Ok Tedi environmental disaster in PNG. You can read more about this at BHP Billiton Watch.
And as far as contributing to the Australian economy, BHP Billiton has opposed many of the tax proposals which would have helped – crying poor over the mining tax despite and labelling a carbon price on carbon as a “dead weight cost”
This despite the billions of dollars in profits made every year.
Now BHP is at the centre of another controversy: 3,500 workers from seven mines off work for a week, with a hit to BHP of about $150 million.
The CFMEU wants BHP to provide extra fatigue breaks for employees working 12-hour shifts on consecutive nights. The union is also insisting that the job of safety deputies and open cut inspectors remain as union member jobs and not be done by BHP appointed staff. The CFMEU points to BHP’s previous record on mining disasters at Appin and Moura which show the company can’t be trusted to look after safety on its own.
You can listen to an interview with the CFMEU’s Stephen Smyth about the decision to take action here.
The dispute has been running for over a year now, with miners’ families taking their case to BHP’s AGM last year to raise concerns about safety issues for their husbands.
National President of the CFMEU Tony Maher says it’s time BHP put some of its massive profits back into the mining community. Last year, BHP made a record $23 billion profit.
“BHP can afford to do the right thing by its Bowen Basin workers,” said Maher.
Kloppers has warned that miners’ jobs are at risk and has blamed the Fair Work act for complicating negotiations between the union and management.
But Tony Maher says BHP has an obligation to workers’ safety. “Last year, BHP made a record $23 billion profit. These workers are taking a stand for safe, secure jobs – BHP can afford to do the right thing,” he said.
Media Super’s Gerard Noonan talks about Gina Rinehart’s Fairfax ambitions
As circulations plummet and advertising dollars with them, Australia’s richest person and mining magnate Gina Rinehart last week shelled out close to $200 million for a 15 per cent stake in the company and a potential seat on the board.
EMC director Peter Lewis talks about the “disapproval” ratings of the country’s leaders
It’s time to rename some of our key poll indicators. There is no longer a place for ‘Approval Ratings’ in Australian politics because there is so little approval to rate.
Instead we can say that both leaders are enjoying majority levels of disapproval and working hard to secure a vital edge in the category, carefully managing their public appearances and media profile to raise their stats.
As this week’s Essential Report shows, these figures are the result of more than 18 months focussed activity that has seen both leaders’ disapproval soar while their approval ratings have been carefully contained. Comments »
Two Party Preferred: 17 June 2013
In this week's report:
19 Sep 2012
Lewis and Woods talk through this week’s polling numbers: voting intention, leader attributes, drug laws in Australia, and more…
12 Sep 2012
Ken Morrison says our cities need to be transformed for our ageing population – and it’s not solely about nursing homes.
11 Sep 2012
Tim Ayres wishes Clive Palmer and other mining giants would give local manufacturers a go instead of heading overseas.
11 Sep 2012
Nadine Flood questions whether governments take our science and other publicly funded breakthroughs for granted.