Cbus remembers Tom McDonald

Cbus Super has paid tribute to Tom McDonald, a pioneer of the superannuation fund who passed away at the weekend.

Cbus Super chair and former Treasurer, Wayne Swan said Tom McDonald left a unique legacy of nation changing economic reform.

“Tom’s leadership was key to the creation of the universal superannuation system Australians enjoy today.

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“He leaves a $3.4 trillion legacy, spread across the retirement accounts of millions of Australian workers.

“Australians enjoying secure retirements owe a big debt to Tom’s industrial leadership.

“Very few in public life have made such a lasting contribution to the social and economic fabric of our nation.”

McDonald was central to the creation of Cbus 38 years ago and was actively involved in the Building Workers Industrial Union (BWIU) from the start of his apprenticeship on the Sydney docks in 1944. In 1984 when McDonald was the Federal Secretary of the BWIU, he paved the way for the first national superannuation scheme.

The campaigns of the building unions and their members with the ACTU in the early 1980s led to the creation of an industry based occupational superannuation scheme for building workers, and enabled the creation of a legislated universal super system in 1992 by the Keating Government.

The building unions’ fund, the prototype of industry super funds, was initially called BUSS (which merged with an allied fund AUST in 1994 to become Cbus). McDonald was a founding trustee director of BUSS. Within six months, BUSS had 800 employers and 30,000 members.

He spoke passionately to Cbus staff in 2019, at the age of 93, about his determination to see construction workers retire in comfort and dignity, where he said: “I have often thought what would Australia be like if the trade union and labour movement had been defeated in their attempts to achieve universal superannuation.

“Millions of Australians, some now retired, some now in the workforce, and some who will in the future be in the workforce, would not have a decent retirement income.”

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