Aussie Super prompts more Bragg ire over New Daily
Industry fund-owned ‘The New Daily’ is once again in political hot water after a controversial deal with AustralianSuper to auto-subscribe 800,000 of the fund’s members to the publication.
‘The New Daily’ has become a bee in the bonnet for a number of Liberal backbenchers, most notably NSW Senator Andrew Bragg, who has characterised the publication as a “propaganda” outlet evangelising on behalf of its industry fund overlords.
Bragg cut his teeth as a lobbyist for the Financial Services Council and in that role previously advocated for a rise in the superannuation guarantee before changing tack with his election and appointment to the Liberal backbench.
His ongoing campaign against ‘The New Daily’ is a Rorschach blot for observers who are split on whether it’s the latest in a series of political beat-ups or is motivated by legitimate concern over the proper use of member funds and APRA’s light touch enforcement of the sole purpose test.
Bragg’s previous victories over ‘The New Daily’ include the ABC ending a $60,000 per annum commercial arrangement with the publication, although the ABC indicated that this was done to expand its audience rather than out of fear that Bragg would introduce legislation banning the arrangement, as he’d threatened to do.
It may be a minor skirmish in the super wars, but one that’s become bloodier with the news that AustralianSuper subscribed around 800,000 members to the publication, prompting accusations from Bragg that the fund had breached their right to privacy.
“On the giant data giveaway, what evidence is supplied to convince APRA that giving away members’ data for free to a third party is in members’ best interests? Bragg wrote on his website.
“‘The New Daily’ is already free, and members have chosen not to sign up so why is this happening?”
In response, APRA deputy chair Helen Rowell said in a letter seen by this masthead, that the regulator was making inquiries about the matter outside the scope of its recently announced expenditure review of funds.
That expenditure review is partly aimed at how super funds determine advertising spend is in members’ best interests, with APRA expecting that the analysis supporting those decisions is “probably not as robust as it needs to be”.
While APRA has already approved the ownership structure of ‘The New Daily’, it will likely want to understand the rationale behind AustralianSuper subscribing its members to it and see the analysis supporting the decision.
Ian Silk the AustralianSuper chief executive, has previously indicated that he believes ‘The New Daily’ is important for helping to improve the financial literacy of the fund’s members, although it is unclear how it ascertained that subscribing members to it was in their best interests.
Another reason for the publication’s backing is for funds to be able to send a general news bulletin to members with their compliments on a daily basis as a part of a communications and brand enhancement program.
“’The New Daily’ provides many thousands of fund members with information about personal finance and superannuation,” an AustralianSuper spokesperson told ‘Investor Strategy News’ last week.
It is understood that APRA’s investigation is ongoing. But regardless of its conclusion, it’s unlikely that the furore over ‘The New Daily’ will go away anytime soon.
On background, some industry heavyweights have questioned whether the controversial investment veto power was included in the earlier draft of the Your Future Your Super Bill, passed by the lower house on June 2, in order to effectively ban ‘The New Daily’ and prevent similar situations arising in the future.
Given that power was withdrawn from the Bill under a deal between the Liberal and National Party members, Bragg could find himself engaged in bloody combat with ‘The New Daily’ for years to come – an outcome which will at least continue to lift his profile.