A rising Coalition star has called for an end to unions’ tax-free status, describing the merged CFMMEU as financial titan with earnings big enough to outstrip many major Australian companies.
Queensland Liberal-National senator Amanda Stoker will use her maiden speech to Parliament this week to advocate for changes to the not-for-profit concessions given to unions, slamming redundancy funds, income protection insurance and portable sick leave schemes as unfair lucrative secondary revenue streams earning cash off the back of workers.
In an opinion piece for The Australian Financial Review, Senator Stoker argues union representatives were conflicted in enterprise bargaining negotiations while Australia’s compulsory superannuation system had seen some 2 million workers left with no choice but to contribute to a union-backed savings fund.
The solicitor and former associate for High Court Justice Ian Callinan replaced former attorney-general George Brandis in the Senate in March and will give her maiden speech to Parliament on Wednesday.
She has pushed for an end to the tax-free status for unions within the LNP Queensland division and will raise the issue in an upcoming Coalition party room meeting in Canberra.
“Unions’ tax-free status doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It adds up to a distinct advantage over businesses seeking to start or acquire a business in sectors which unions now operate, namely commercial real estate, insurance and other financial products.
“If unions want to moonlight as insurance brokers, investors and entrepreneurs, it’s time to level the playing field. That means changing the rules so trade unions pay tax on income received from commercial ventures,” she said.
The comments come as the federal government considers the Productivity Commission’s interim report on reforms to the $2.6 trillion retirement savings scheme. The Coalition wants the power of unions over Labor to be a key issue in the next federal election.
Senator Stoker denied the concerns were part of an anti-union agenda.
“I don’t see it as payback but if it resulted in the levelling of what is already a very unfair playing field, then that wouldn’t be a bad thing,” she said.
“This is ultimately about something much bigger than short-term political interest. It is about making sure the workers who need union membership are getting what they’re sold, that they’re getting unbiased, unconflicted representation. They’re not getting that at the moment.”
She argues union bosses wanted the status quo maintained.
“I’m constantly told by teachers, nurses and other workers that they’re frustrated because they want to be a member of a representative organisation which gives them protection but they’ve only got one union they can go to.
“It’s a monopoly situation and that monopoly uses the enterprise bargaining process to organise kick backs for themselves and they also are raising sums of money that allow them to make huge political donations that don’t always accord with the interest and the beliefs of members. Because it’s a monopoly system they’ve got nowhere else to go,” she said.
Source: The Australian Financial Review, by Tom McIlroy