The broody hen sitting on a huge pile of our money
After Peter Costello conducted a fire sale of our assets while stashing away surpluses from the mining boom, he put aside over $60 billion of our money to establish the Future Fund. This has now grown to $130 billion.
We are told the purpose of this fund is to pay for “unfunded Commonwealth superannuation liabilities.”
As all employers, including the government, are required to pay the superannuation guarantee into their employees’ super funds, how can there be an unfunded liability? There is a continuous stream of income into superannuation funds.
As a sovereign currency issuing nation, it is impossible for us to be unable to meet this obligation.
Along with the Future Fund, Costello’s crowd are responsible for investing the DisabilityCare Australia Fund, the Medical Research Future Fund, the Building Australia Fund and the Education Investment Fund – a further $18 billion.
So what are they doing with this $148 billion?
The following are the returns achieved in 2015-16 and the current balance as at March 31, 2017:
FUTURE FUND 4.8% A$129.6bn
MEDICAL RESEARCH FUTURE FUND 2.1% A$4.6bn
DISABILITYCARE AUSTRALIA FUND 2.5% A$6.2bn
BUILDING AUSTRALIA FUND 2.5% A$3.8bn
EDUCATION INVESTMENT FUND 2.6% A$3.8bn
Not only are the returns woeful, the expenses for running this fund are exorbitant.
In the year ended 30 June 2016, expenses for wages, management fees, performance bonuses, brokerage fees and the like were over $288 million, down from $316 million in 2015.
The Australian reported that three Future Fund employees earned salaries ranging from $1.058m to $1.235m last year, while more than $10m was paid out in performance bonuses to Future Fund staff in 2015-16.
“All permanently employed staff at the Agency at the reporting date are eligible to receive an entitlement to a performance related payment as approved by the Board. Employees who receive an entitlement may elect to have the entitlement converted to cash and paid to them. Alternatively, they may defer part or all of the payment for an initial two year period and receive a commitment from the Agency to pay them a future amount which will be dependent on the performance of the Fund over this two year period.”
As the majority of fund investments are in other countries, they also paid $62 million in tax to foreign governments in 2015-16. In 2015 they lost $2.7 billion on foreign currency exchanges.
As at June 30, 2016, 21.7% of the funds assets were held in cash.
In the budget it was revealed that the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund the government promised would find a cure for cancer won’t deliver the $1 billion promised for medical research by 2020 because of poor earnings.
Research Australia says while the government has banked $4.6 billion in health savings in the scheme it has so far released just $125 million in research funding.
Also in the budget was the government commitment to delay drawing down from the Future Fund until at least 2027 rather than 2020 as originally legislated allowing it to build to a projected $300 billion by 2027-28.
Whilst Peter Costello sits on this huge pile of money like a broody hen, the total face value of CGS on issue (gross debt) is projected to rise from $537 billion in 2017-18 to $725 billion by 2027-28. The Government’s total interest payments in 2017-18 are estimated to be $16.6 billion rising to over $20 billion in 2020-21.
Surely this money could be better invested.
House prices in Sydney grew by 19% and in Melbourne by 16% over the year ending March 2017. Couldn’t we use several billion to buy or build some affordable housing? The government would benefit from income tax returns from those employed in construction, maintenance and management. The Future Fund would benefit from rents and capital gains. The citizens would benefit from having somewhere affordable to live with the security of long term leases and regulated prices.
The dollar return on investment in education, health and research is way beyond the paltry returns the funds are currently achieving.
Instead of investing overseas, losing money on foreign exchange rates and paying tax to other governments (they are exempt from tax here), they could be building Australian infrastructure like the High Speed Rail and an NBN that actually works. They could be the ones to invest in our air and sea ports and electricity grids. They could have bought the Kidman farm rather than giving it to the Chinese via Gina. Instead of paying hundreds of millions to middlemen brokers, they could be investing in profitable assets.
Speaking at the Australian Shareholders Association Conference in Melbourne on Tuesday, Peter Costello welcomed the Turnbull government’s decision to lower the funds’ targets in line with a low-return investment environment.
Rather than accepting this misappropriation and mismanagement of our money, we should be putting it to work to benefit current and future generations.
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“Speaking at the Australian Shareholders Association Conference in Melbourne on Tuesday, Peter Costello welcomed the Turnbull government’s decision to lower the funds’ targets in line with a low-return investment environment.”
Indeed! For this crook, only a tumbril is appropriate.
My Super fund has been returning in excess of whatever these crooks with their salaries and bonuses are achieving. And that is when it is invested in a “sustainable” option. Peter Costello refused to rule out investing in fossil fuels by the future fund. Yet, the return is dismal.
As for the entire logic (or lack thereof) of “saving” our own sovereign currency, we have discussed this before and detailed discussion is available in Bill Mitchell’s blogs. This entire exercise of “funds” invested for “the future” is a scam designed to prop up the financial services industry and pay huge salaries and bonuses to the denizens of this “industry”, as pointed out by you. Peter Costello himself is the recipient of this govt. largess courtesy of Kevin Rudd. Other countries that have these funds do so because they have huge trade surpluses in foreign currency, which they then invest overseas to hedge their bets. Australia is probably the only country that has been taken in by this neoliberal scam, which pays the top end of town very well indeed – all at the expense of the ordinary citizen missing out on well-funded education, health, welfare and infrastructure.
The reason there can be an unfunded liability in the federal employee superfund is because it is a defined benefit plan. Your pension or lump sum is determined by a formula calculated from your salary level, number of years worked and any supplemental contributions. There are also disability and survivors benefits. Your super amount at retirement is independent of the fund’s performance. If it does well, the government keeps the profit and if it does poorly the government makes up the difference.
Thanks for that explanation John which is no doubt correct. The issue is more about do we need to have a huge pile of money just sitting there to be able to pay the annual liability. There is no need for this. It is an unnecessary waste of resources. The government will always be able to meet its obligation and we could be investing in things that benefit all Australians rather than fund managers and stockbrokers. .
Interesting set of figures that caused me to do some calculations re my super fund. These are the net returns AFTER my pension was paid.
2012/2013 4.7% – 2013/2014 9.1% – 2014/2015 7.2% – 2015/2016 1.7% – 2016/2017 4.9% (to date).
The figures (returns) move about a bit. I’m in a ‘balanced’ fund. Current the allocations are: (they are within a range and they also move around a bit.)
Cash 11.5% (0-25%); Fixed Interest 23.5% (5-35%); Real Estate 7.9% (0-20%); Equities 36.9% (25-55%); Infrastructure 12.6% (0-20%); Commodities 1.6% (0-20%); and Alternative Assets 6% (0-25%)
Given the performance of the Future Fund based on 2015/16, the returns look a little weak @4.8% but it was not a good year. Would like to see their returns over the extended period.
The Government’s superannuation liability is estimated to be around $175 billion at 30 June 2017 and approximately $271 billion at 30 June 2050.
For civilian employees, the major defined benefit schemes are the Commonwealth Sector Superannuation Scheme (CSS) and the Public Sector Superannuation Scheme (PSS). These schemes were closed to new members in 1990 and 2005 respectively. The Public Sector Superannuation accumulation plan (PSSap) was introduced on 1 July 2005 and provides fully funded accumulation benefits for new civilian employees from that date.
For military personnel, the defined benefit schemes are the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme (DFRDB), the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Scheme (DFRB) and the Military Superannuation and Benefits Scheme (MSBS). Following the closure of the MSBS on 30 June 2016, all defined benefit military schemes are now closed to new members. A new military superannuation accumulation scheme, ADF Super, commenced on 1 July 2016.
FUTURE FUND PERFORMANCE 2015/2016
CUMULATIVE RETURN %
Return 2015/2016 4.8%
Return since inception 7.7% pa
Earnings 2015/2016 $5.6 bn
Earnings since inception $62.3 bn
FUTURE FUND ASSET ALLOCATION AT 30 JUNE 2016
6% Australian equities
15% Developed market equities
7% Emerging market equities
10% Private equity
7% Infrastructure and timberland
12% Debt securities
14% Alternative assets
May 2006 to 30 June 2016 7.7% pa
Ten years to 30 June 2016 7.7% pa
Seven years to 30 June 2016 10.7% pa
Five years to 30 June 2016 10.2% pa
Three years to 30 June 2016 11.4% pa
2015/16 financial year 4.8% pa
Future Fund returns Period to 31 March 2017
From May 2006 7.7
Ten years 7.8
Seven years 9.8
Five years 11.0
Three years 9.9
One year 10.5
Financial year to date 5.6
It’s no longer “our” money.
When he was Treasurer, Costello deliberately failed to set aside traditional periodic payments for Commonwealth Super for several Budgets to make his bottom line look better and finally had to sell Telstra to bail out the Fund’s escalated liabilities.
Now the Fund exists only to guarantee the ongoing pensions of not only the diminishing number of CSS-entitled Public Servants but also retired politicians like himself. A bonus is that Costello is able to further line his own pockets at the same time from the same source.
It’s a pity that less concern was shown for other pensioners.
Re investment in infrastructure. There’s some new proposals floating around. The ex-head of the NSW Treasury Percy Allan has a break- through proposal for funding governments’ capital borrowing.
Interesting – given it’s coming from an ex Treasury official.
Then there’s Gruen:
More detail here:
The Future Fund is held in the tax dodge country the Caymen Island and pays no tax in Australia. Investment funds in the Caymean can average 21% returns. Turnbull’s own investments in Cayman Island funds returns about 21%, which only if he brings into Australia rather than roll over into the fund or another fund in the Caymans, must he pay tax on. Referred to as ‘in the hand taxation’. Costello’s performance is poor by any measure particularly since the fund is held in a tax haven.
Slush slush slush!
Australia has unlimited dollars – it issues the damn things – but it has finite resources: institutional, built, natural and human resources. Allowing those resources to be degraded, stunted, discarded, not even brought into being, all because of a delusionary need to have a virtual piggy bank full of dollars that we can never run out of is the real theft of our future, the real intergenerational equity crime, the real fiscal problem, the real budget disrepair. When will the confusion between currency users and curency issuers end? When will economic group think catch up with reality?
From an accounting point of view isn’t the Future Fund government debt?
The Future Funds are listed as assets. Public sector employee superannuation entitlements relating to past and present civilian employees and military personnel are a financial liability on the Government’s balance sheet but it is only the defined benefit schemes that are unfunded and those schemes have been curtailed.
About one quarter of our superannuation savings are taken in fees which is currently about $25 billion a year. Rates of return are almost universally less than the average rate of growth of the share market indices so the belief that fund manager ‘experts’ are wisely and successfully selecting the best places to invest has proven to be groundless.
The biggest fees are charged by the super funds owned by the big banks with ANZ being the worst. The industry super funds are the best but even here the incomes of managers are very generous.
In addition the superannuation contribution tax concessions that disproportionately benefit the most wealthy will soon cost the federal government more than the aged pension.
The super funds generally show little concern for issues like global warming, ethical corporate behaviour and employee welfare and clearly care most for capital growth and profits and so are drivers of more and more corporate greed.
The sovereign wealth fund, just like the entire superannuation industry, is a rort for the biggest parasite of all – the financial services sector and for a well connected few like Peter Costello and makes no sense for a sovereign currency issuing nation that can easily afford to pay a generous aged pension for all and could alternatively just utilise managed investment funds and direct share investments to provide extra retirement savings for those with surplus income.
It’s time to go after the biggest leaners in our economy and to stop persecuting the innocent unemployed, disadvantaged and refugees.
Really good comment Alan Luchetti.
Kaye, the financial assets belonging to the Future Fund may well be registered on the asset side, but the money used to purchase those assets may well be on the liability side. Every time the government spends, issues money for whatever purpose incurres a liability. Debt. That is how accounting works. Your term deposit is your banks liabiliary.
The Future Fund is not the government. It issues its own financial statements taking into account its purchases. It isn’t issuing money – it is investing OUR money. The disability fund comes from the extra 0.5% medicare levy that Labor introduced. The Future Fund came mainly from the sale of Telstra. The Medical Research Fund came from canning the national partnership on hospitals and from cuts made to the health portfolio.
The money to purchase the financial assets held by the Future Fund must have come from somewhere. Whoever paid for it has recorded a liability. I’m tipping the government. Every asset has a corresponding liability. Do you agree? As for the our money business, well, private sector assets are government liabilities. D’accord?
Since when have we been a sovereign currency issuing nation? The reserve bank, as all cenral banks, are a private entity,
Would you have a link to support that claim?
Perhaps there’s a link for that as well?
No wonder Trump was elected.
“The money to purchase the financial assets held by the Future Fund must have come from somewhere. Whoever paid for it has recorded a liability.”
Contributions from the Budget surpluses of 2005/06, 2006/07 and proceeds from the privatisation of Telstra saw a total of $60.5 billion put into the Future Fund. Since then it has received no government contributions. I mentioned the source of other nation building funds before eg the increased medicare levy.
“The reserve bank, as all central banks, are a private entity,”
The Bank is a body corporate wholly owned by the Commonwealth of Australia.
Spot on! And they make no secret of it. As for:
I have a motor vehicle, superannuation account, money in the bank, a house and the like.
To my way of thinking they are ‘assets’ – without liabilities. Perhaps you might explain where my error lies?
I am sorry but I do not understand how the government actually makes contributions to anything at all. They distribute our taxes. They invest money from the sale of our assets. The “government” is a middleman that costs us a shitload without actually producing anything tangible or value-adding in any way.
The (federal) government does not distribute our taxes. Taxes curb spending power, taxes remove currency from circulation. The “consolidated revenue” is a myth, there is no giant (electronic) vault, check here:
I’m happy to be wrong, after all that’s how one learns. One of the things I have learnt is accountants grasp heterodox macroeconomics a lot easier than economists. Why? Because endogenous money is mostly accounting: double entry accounting. One person’s spending is another person’s income, one person’s deficit is another person’s surplus. One person’s debt is another person’s asset. That is how money works, it is pretty uncontraversial. Someone like me happy to call it a fact. The accounting doesn’t change if a bank or a government is a participant in the exchange. Government deficit = non government surplus, government debt = non government asset. To the last cent. Any government spending (MINUS) is recorded on the liability side of the ledger. The recipient, the non government entity, is recording the asset (PLUS).
As I put it earlier: the financial assets on the FF’s balance sheet have been purchased by government money. It does not matter wether we think it is the proceeds of tax receipts or asset sales. The point is that as soon as the government has transferred those numbers across to the FF, it has registered as an ASSET for the FF and a LIABILTY for the government. Government liability is government debt. Bonds issued by the government (which are term deposits) are liabilities, just as money lent to a bank (term deposit) is the depositor’s asset and therefore the bank’s liability. Some accountant please tell me that the money used to purchase the financial assets, like Telstra shares, held by the FF is not government debt.
“Some accountant please tell me that the money used to purchase the financial assets, like Telstra shares, held by the FF is not government debt.”
That statement makes me go cross-eyed trying to understand it.
The government had a great idea to get us all to buy shares in something we already owned – Telstra. Somehow that worked to raise significant capital for the government which they then parked in a fund to make the budget bottom line look better under the guise of “needing” to save to fund public servants’ retirement.
The FF did not purchase Telstra shares. On 5 May 2006, A$18 billion, derived from government surpluses as well as income from the sale of a third of Telstra in its ongoing privatisation, was deposited into the fund. On 28 February 2007, the government transferred the Commonwealth’s remaining 17% stake in Telstra, valued at A$8.9 billion, into the Fund.
“The FF did not purchase Telstra shares.”
Bill’s blog confirms what I said.
“How did the Government ever get away with persuading us to buy shares in something we all already owned?
…on February 28, 2007, the Federal Government deposited 2.1 billion Telstra shares worth $A8.96 into the Future Fund which represented the final public ownership in the telecom (equivalent to around 17 per cent ownership of the company).
After November 20, 2008, the Future Fund was no longer required to hold the 2.1 billion shares in escrow and they were free to trade them. “
sections 81 to 83 of the Constitution refer to the consolidated revenue fund (crf). to spend money the gov must pass money bills in parliament to appropriate the money from the crf. if parliament does not authorise the appropriation then the money cant be spent. the question is not whether the crf is a myth but how money accumulates in the crf in the first place. the crf is the gov account at the RBA. Taxes and revenue from the sale of bonds are some ways that money can accumulate in crf but can treasury or the department of finance also just insert digits in the crf to create more money? that seems to be the question here. it seems to me that any money created in the crf and spent must inevitably arive back at a bank and then the RBA for settlement. if the gov registers digits in the crf the RBA must print up and hold notes and bills that are in its judgement and experience sufficient enough to facilitate the likely level of settlement arising from transactions involving the money generated and spent by the gov. It is myth and misconception to say money is destroyed by taxation. although cash notes and bills may be destroyed their value continues and new notes and bills are merely printed to represent the same value as the old notes and bills. the notes and bills and coins etc are merely ‘representations’ of value but have no inherent value themselves. they are made valuable because they can be exchanged for bills notes coins etc of the same value as those notes and bills removed because they are legal tender – by law. they are valuable only by laws making them legal tender not because they have any inherent value.its the law making them.legal tender that acrues value to notes bills and coins not some inherent value in those representations.
consolidated revenue is not a myth. it may not have its own vault but it is essentially the gov account at the reserve bank. the consolidated revenue fund evolved in common law to prevent the monarch from having money printed at its decree for frivolous purposes and to preserve tax revenues for spending on legitimate purposes rather than on the fancies of decadent monarchs. it is primarliy a legal construct devised to safeguard and protect national funds from indulgent sovereigns.
the future fund sold the shares in telstra it obtained from.the gov to singtel.
whether the gov can create and distribute more money than it raises in taxation and from sale of bonds etc is a political issue as no matter how much money treasury inserts into the gov account at the RBA (the crf) spending that money is dependant upon the consent of.parliament in passing appropriation bills. that is, unless the constitition is amended to allow spending without the consent of parliament and i dont fancy the odds of that.
“As a sovereign currency issuing nation, it is impossible for us to be unable to meet this obligation.” Rubbish!
“Here’s the thing about the attempts by central banks to circumvent the workings of the actual economy by simply printing up money: It is doomed to fail. It always does; one cannot simply ‘print up’ prosperity. Printing up money merely creates the illusion of free wealth for those with first access to it. In reality, what happens is that it secretly transfers the wealth from everyone else to those lucky few.”
“The world’s central banks, especially the Fed, have done an enormous amount of damage.”
“You have to be quite delusional to think that debt can be compound at twice the rate of income forever.”
“Those of us living in reality find this mindset puerile and insulting. And, of course, dangerously reckless. And it’s also maddening to hear the media cheerleaders for Wall Street selling us this bunk as if it were somehow sensible. It is not.”
“We can also deduce that because economic growth is tightly linked to energy consumption, lower amounts of usable energy flowing through an economy will cause that economy to stall out as well.”
“combining what we know about high levels of debt and flattening energy returns energy there’s really no more room for confusion about why GDP growth is, and will remain, anemic”
“We have to ask: How many years does it take to finally admit that there’s something seriously wrong with our hopeful story line that robust growth is going to save our debt-ridden bacon?”
what proof does this KaBoomner offer to verify the claim that energy causes growth? Seems to me it could be the other way round . That is, that energy consumption (and demand for energy) is a product of production and growth and other economic activities. Furthermore, energy can be used more efficiently so more can be done with less. In that instance, less or the same amount of energy would be consumed to produce the same or more economic goods and services. Also locally on site energy such as roof top solar could be being sourced that does not register in KaBoomers stats. Not convinced by this logic of the dependency upon growth with energy consumption
but the rest of the article is insightful and worth a read.
[what proof does this KaBoomner offer to verify the claim that energy causes growth? Seems to me it could be the other way round]
If electricity was free, how much would you use? it works both ways – non-high cost energy enables growth in some areas, but growth overall drives more energy use.
Kaye ‘The Future Fund is not the government’. Yes it is. It is a statutory body or instrument set up by the gov. It’s management is vested in the board who are defined as ‘guardians’ and the board has discretions in its investment decisions but must act in the interests of the Commonwealth and in accordance with the purposes of the money it manages. These duties are not dissimilar to trustee of a trust. In this case the beneficiary of the trust is the Commonwealth. so the Board has a degree of independence in its decision making which may make it appear as a non government entity but i is certainly part of gov. see Future Fund Act 2006.
jimhaz. I agree its mostly a reciprocal relationship
‘Some accountant please tell me that the money used to purchase the financial assets, like Telstra shares, held by the FF is not government debt’. no government entity paid anything for the Telstra shares held and sold by the FF. The gov merely placed the shares in escrow with the FF and then allowed FF to sell them and keep control of the money on behalf of the gov. There was no liability for the shares given to FF for the gov as it lost nothing and gained nothing at the time (except dividends from Telstra which would have been a loss of revenue not required to be recorded on any balance sheet). The money in the FF is a government asset but it is merely being held on trust for the gov to be used for future purpose. Technically its an asset. When money is eventually drawn from the FF by the gov to pay down the super liabilities it is intended for it will be recorded as an asset setting off the super liability it pays off. Nevertheless it is still a gov asset only its use has been deferred.
An interesting issue would be whether Costello’s management of the fund and the growth he has achieved would match up against the dividends the gov would have obtained over the period since the time the Telstra shares were sold to the present had it retained the shares directly so that dividends could have been paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund for ongoing use or debt reduction or to negate the need to incur debt. That would be the best measure of Costello’s success or otherwise. maybe this should also be offset by the amount of debt the gov has incurred due to forgoing the benefits any surpluses the gov deposited into the fund.
in 2009 the FF sold 684.4 mill Telstra shares.at $3.47. The shares are currently valued at $4.44.This equates to a loss of 93 cents per share or about $680 mill or of approx 30% In another words if the FF had held the shares and sold them today it could have obtained an additional third of the value it received for them. Their value has increased by 30%. This is way above what Costello has achievement . Dividends forgone since that sale total $2.17 per share or approximately $1,4 bill. The dividends are approximately 2/3 rds the value of the price obtained for the shares at the sale.This is a loss of 66% against the asset unless it is set off by increased values on assets purchased or held by the fund with the revenue earned from the sale. Tax forgone is another loss that I cant estimate. All in all though it seems the sale of the telstra shares by Costello’s FF has been negative result as the growth in share price and dividends that could have been obtained are greater than what he has achieved and the government would have been better off keeping the shares rather than giving them to FF and allowing it to sell them. Result FAIL! Yet another example of the dumbass economic management of the LNP.