Wouldn’t it be nice to look at our national political leadership and embrace them all as useful role models in life for their ethical and principled behaviour, good values and respect for the planet.

The recent revelations about Federal politicians and their travel and expenses have to be a new low.  There’s not much to admire in a group of people regarding travel expenses as an unregulated bucket of cash from which the most dubious of claims can be met, no questions asked, and if you’ve “misunderstood” the blatantly clear guidelines, instead of being charged with fraud, you can pay it back.

Attending weddings, flying from Perth to inspect your investment property in Cairns, extravagant bookshelves and, in the Prime Minister’s case, a string of social and sporting events all allowed inappropriate claims to be made and paid. Strenuous denials of having done anything wrong but then monies paid back as if that means that the claimant didn’t do the wrong thing in the first place. Absolution for past sins, as the PM might put it, but instead he would rather describe it as confusion or imprecision in the guidelines.

If you are going to pick up some aspect of a politician’s behaviour and use it at work, don’t use this example. If you fiddle your travel expenses or claim reimbursement of expenses that don’t come with a bull’s roar of being business-related, a Council won’t let you claim ignorance or confusion and they won’t accept that offering to pay it back, clears the slate.

From 2005 to 2010, 56 politicians found themselves having to pay back 136 expenses wrongly claimed.

They get away with it because we don’t expect much of them but your employer expects much more of you. That’s not really how it should be, when you think of it, because if it Federal Parliament is full of dodgy politicians fiddling their expenses, that is pretty dispiriting.

And even the PM, fresh from his successful election campaign about restoring trust in government was a major offender. He repaid $9397.42 while promoting his book Battlelines and has steadfastly denied wrongly claiming the expenses, even though he repaid them. Sprung by the ABC TV program The Drum in 2010 Mr Abbott denied any wrongdoing and any wrongful claiming of travel expenses but when the finance department found the expense claim was “incorrect”, the money was repaid.

“What, me worry?” won’t work if you get sprung doing this at work. Don’t do it, if the guidelines are unclear, get it cleared beforehand. 

Here we go again. The current Local Government State Award was made in 2010 to operate until 1 July 2014. This doesn’t prevent the parties to the Award, LGNSW and the three unions, from negotiating early in expectation that they can be agreement reached to operate from 1 July and discussions will begin in November.

The State Award was originally made late in 1991 to operate from 1992 and each time it has been replaced with a new Award, the new Award has been made by agreement. Sometimes there are a couple of issues that are hard or impossible to reach agreement on towards the end of negotiations where the assistance of the Industrial Relations Commission is requested – like last time when the employers would not agree to a leave reserved provision to allow us to pursue some form of an allowance for the implications of accreditation by the BPB, when implications became clear. On that occasion the Commission recommended that the leave reserved provision be inserted and this was agreed.

Clearly both the employers and the unions for the last two decades have accepted that the basic Award needs little more than a spring clean and tidy up, some clarification of any confusing wording, adjustments to clauses which have been the subject of disputes during the life of the Award and where better clarity would help and where particular industrial standards have been set by industrial tribunals which need to find their way into the Award.

The Committee of Management will be developing a log of claims for us to press in the negotiations leading up to 1 July 2014. We invite suggestions about how the Award should change. What are the areas of the Award that you think need to change?

Clearly we will be defending the good clauses from the 2010 Award (like the prohibition of term contracts and the protections on the leaseback cars, for example) but here is an opportunity to send us your ideas.

The Committee of Management next meets on 7 November. If you have any suggestions about what should be included in our log of claims, email them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  by Friday 1 November.

This is the heading from Investor Strategy on Monday breaking the news to the finance and superannuation industry that I had announced my resignation as a director on the LGS Board after 16 years. Over that time LGS has become Australia’s foremost sustainable superannuation fund, the winner of many accolades for responsible investment and the top ranked international fund in the Asset Owners Disclosure Project in 2010 for its responsible management of carbon risk and alternative investment.

16 years is quite enough and the Committee of Management is more than happy to see me back working full-time on union business. More time for Fairfield, and others.

As one of the three union shareholders, depa is able to nominate a director and the Committee of Management resolved to appoint Joanne Davison, a highly respected finance professional with an interest in doing more about sustainable and responsible investment, as my successor. Joanne will continue to advocate strongly for member interests on the Board and LGS’ sustainable values and initiatives.

Self-effacing as I am, I won’t browbeat you about the achievements over that period of time but I am proud to have written the report to the Board in 2000 that meant LGS was the first superannuation fund in Australia to resolve never to own tobacco shares. When asked why LGS had done it, the Chief Investment Officer of the time responded that it had been done “to appease a zealot on the Board.” Happy to be a zealot to make changes for the better.

That’s ancient history now but from it developed a broader approach to responsible investment and innumerable awards and acknowledgement, including:

  • SuperRatings Infinity Awards 2010 and 2011
  • Money Magazine Best Green Super Fund 2011 and 2012
  • NSW Government Green Globe Awards 2011 and in 2012 the Energy Award and Climate Change Leadership Award
  • Sustainable Super fund of the Year Award 2010 - Ethical Investor
  • Asset Owners Disclosure Project 2009 and 2010 ranked number one in Australia
  • Asset Owners Disclosure Project 2012 ranked Number 1 in the world of 300 pension/superannuation funds
  • Numerous property awards including a Property Council of Australia Award 2012 for the best sustainable development of an existing building in Sydney's Sussex Street
  • 40% reduction in energy use since 2009 across the entire property portfolio, a property in North Sydney is operating with Trigeneration and Leichardt's Market Place has reduced its energy by 50% since 2009

The full article from Investor Strategy News and the unedited announcement is here. While the news has been broadcast in other publications, no-one else was willing to publish the unedited version.

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