The chair of the House economics committee has grilled an industry fund holding company over its investment in a controversial news website.
Liberal MPs questioned executives from Industry Super Holdings (ISH) over its links to The New Daily, a news website owned by Industry Super Australia that has been the subject of controversy over its editorial independence and the fact that it was funded using members’ savings.
ISH said that it did not provide The New Daily with revenue, but provided capital “as required” – a statement that was greeted with disbelief from MP Tim Wilson.
“I’m looking forward to the rant from the deputy chair about how outrageous it is that we’ve called this body before this committee when they can’t provide even basic information about revenue that’s provided from Australia’s compulsory retirement savings to media entities that are then used to push a political agenda,” Mr Wilson said.
ISH company secretary Joshua Lim declined to say how many times ISH had provided capital to The New Daily, saying the information could be prejudicial and that the matter was confidential. Later in the hearings, Mr Lim defended ISA’s ownership of The New Daily as integral to keeping its members informed, despite the fact that it was a loss-making investment, and denying that it or the industry funds had control over the publication’s contents.
“There are many companies out there that are currently making a loss, but they are valuable and can be sold for millions … It’s a valuable service, we look at it from that perspective and we also look at it from a financial perspective,” Mr Lim said.
ISH was also criticised for its governance structure and its refusal to disclose to the standing committee how much cash it held or how much it received in dividends – something that ISH said was a “confidential matter”, but which some members of the committee took exception to.
“Australians’ compulsory superannuation savings are held by a number of entities under ISH, which refuses to provide any information about the basis of how much it holds and how much it receives,” Mr Wilson said.
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