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Senator questions industry fund media venture

A Coalition senator has asked ASIC to investigate whether the investment of industry superannuation funds in a new online media venture contravenes trustee obligations.

Addressing a scheduled hearing of the Senate Economics Legislation Committee in Canberra yesterday, at which ASIC leadership appeared, NSW Nationals senator John Williams implored the corporate regulator to look into a new media venture, The New Daily, and its connection to industry super funds.

According to the online newswire’s website, the project is “backed by members of the Industry Super Funds network, including AustralianSuper, Cbus and Industry Super Holdings”.

Speaking to ifa following the committee session yesterday, Senator Williams said the investment may not be in the best interests of super members.

“This venture, I question what return this might have for members in terms of dividends,” Senator Williams said. “I wonder whether it may have a political agenda; there could well be a connection [to trade unions] which is why ASIC needs to look into it.”

Describing the service as a “competing newspaper with an agenda” rather than a service for fund members, Mr Williams said it was the corporate regulator’s role to assess the case in light of trustee obligations”.

“I believe ASIC deserves time to look at where superannuation members’ money is being invested and how a maximum return is going to be given to members,” he said, indicating he will be pursuing the matter with ASIC in the Senate Estimates hearings in early 2014.

In response to questions raised at the hearing, ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft said it is incumbent upon superannuation trustees to “justify their investment in line with their return obligations” to members.