UniSuper has the following connections to the Australian Government’s “detention network.” This does not rule other links. There is information below that would be useful to anyone wanting to ask questions about where their retirement funds are invested and how – and those looking to draft motions for their union branch.
If you need further clarification, contact via @xBorderOps or email: maschine.research [at] gmail.com
In summary, the information below suggests that a preoccupation with “exposure” is misleading and is in no way a substitute for, or the same thing as, divestment from the financial networks that sustain mandatory detention.
The National Tertiary Education Union’s General Secretary is on the Board of UniSuper, as is a representative from the Community & Public Sector Union.
The NTEU, its branches and its members have taken a consistently strong position within and beyond the ACTU regarding detention camps. So have the CPSU. In light of this, the following information is offered so that greater transparency can be sought regarding the use of compulsorily-acquired retirement funds, and a closer fit achieved between fund members’ views and fund investments.
1. UniSuper have advised some fund members that they have a “small exposure” to the issue of mandatory detention through investments in Transfield and Serco, and that they provide alternative options. They have not given details beyond this, which is unfortunate.
What “exposure” refers to is a percentage, or proportional figure of the funds’ overall investments. It does not tell you how much UniSuper actually has invested in those companies, nor does it explain the precise character of any other financial agreements. In other words, “exposure” is a question relating to the risk management strategies of the fund as a whole, rather than a question about whether or not the fund should be supporting or profiting from mandatory detention.
The risk management strategies of superannuation funds (or any other entity) should not be conflated with a member’s or Board’s decision to divest from mandatory detention. The fund can offset its “exposure” by making it proportionally “smaller” than other investments—without making it small or even smaller. In any case, this still does not provide a full picture of the ways in which that risk is structured in particular financial arrangements (see note 3 below).
2. Moreover, in addition to the abovementioned investments in Transfield and Serco, UniSuper has a substantial stake in the micro-cap investment company Acorn Capital Ltd, which is a listed in ASX documents as a substantial shareholder in the Decmil Group (DCG). Micro-cap stocks are high risk and highly volatile.
Decmil are currently listed as holding contracts with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection:
- Project Management for Manus Island — 18-Jun-2013 to 30-Jun-2014 — $10,317,828.40 and
- Managing Contractor for Manus Island — 18-Jun-2013 to 30-Jun-2014 — $150,832,171.60;
- in addition to a previous contract that ended 30-Jan-2014, of $36,945,708.36.
As far as we know, UniSuper have not advised its fund members’ as to the current status of the above investments.
3. There have also been disclosable (therefore significant) financial securities arrangements between Transfield, the National Australia Bank (NAB), and at least five Superannuation Funds: United Super, Telstra Super, UniSuper, Care Super. The transfer dates of the securities is listed as February 4 2014 to March 4 2014.
The NAB and its associated entities (MLC Investments Ltd, MLC Wealth Management Ltd, Antares Capital Partners Ltd) at present hold 6.421% of shares in Transfield Services Ltd. This is a substantial shareholding as per ASX definitions, giving them the equivalent of 32,905,059 votes in Transfield Services Ltd.
Leaving aside the information on the NAB’s links to Transfield, the above information points to complex securities contracts in which various forms of debt and collateral are bundled together and then sold on to investors in the form of a bond or similar financial contract. Securitisation involves the pooling and collateralisation of high risk investments. In the above, the listed Superannuation Funds are named as ‘borrowers,’ which means they serve as the collateral part of the bundled securities. This is another reason why an easily delineated quantum of “exposure” can tend to be meaningless, particularly where securitisation is involved.