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Workers are losing billions in unpaid super. Check if you’re one of them



Three million workers lose an average of $1700 a year in unpaid superannuation, according to a new report by Industry Super Australia.

ISA said this could leave workers with up to $60,000 less at retirement and that employers tipped $5 billion less into workers’ super than they should have done in 2018-2019.

Over the past six years, the average annual amount of unpaid super has been at least $4.5 billion.

ISA’s report shows young workers, low-income earners and people working in construction, transport, trades, hospitality and accommodation are most likely to be underpaid super.

The report found “dodgy” bosses have exploited lax enforcement and loose laws that allow them to pay super quarterly rather than paying it at the same time as wages.

ISA chief executive Bernie Dean said the government should fix the problem by introducing laws that require employers to pay super and wages simultaneously.

“Most employers are doing the right thing, but they are being undercut by competitors who are getting away with daylight robbery,” he said.

“Paying super with wages is the only way to get workers their money and level the playing field for business.”

ISA said receiving super payments at a different time to their wages makes it difficult for workers to keep track of their money, allowing payments to fall through the cracks.

How to check if you’ve been underpaid super

The simplest way to check whether your employer has paid your super is to contact your super fund or check your super account online.

Your super fund should be able to provide you with up-to-date information on all payments made to your account.

Most funds will allow you to log into your account and check your balance.

You can also check your balance through the ATO by following these steps:

  • Go to my.gov.au
  • Log in, or create an account
  • Link your myGov account to the ATO’s online service
  • Select ‘Super’
  • Check how much you have been paid against what has been promised in your payslips.

This will show you details of all your super accounts, including any you have lost or forgotten about.

It will also allow you to find any super being held on your behalf.

From this point, you can consolidate your super by moving it all into a single fund.

Doing this is free, allows you to pick the best super fund for your needs, and makes it easier to keep track of your super balance.

For more tips on how to consolidate your super, check out Moneysmart, run by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

If you’ve recently opened a new super account, it could take up to six months to appear on myGov.

For more guidance on how to search for lost super, visit the ATO website.

What you can do if you’ve been underpaid

If you believe your employer has not paid your super, has been underpaying you, has paid late, or has paid to an incorrect super fund, you can talk to your employer and ask them to resolve the issue.

If the issue continues, you can make a report to the ATO using its online tool.

To file an unpaid super inquiry with the ATO, you will need to provide:

  • Your personal details (including your tax file number)
  • The period of your inquiry
  • Your employer’s details (including their Australian business number).

Note: The ATO can only investigate an accusation of unpaid super for a certain period once the employer’s due date for lodgement has passed.

The New Daily is owned by Industry Super Holdings





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US officials query spike in contaminated Australian meat



US food safety officials have blocked a rising number of meat shipments from Australia since 2019 due to faecal contamination, straining trade relations between the two countries, according to documents reviewed by Reuters.

Labour and food safety groups attribute the problem to an Australian system that increasingly allows companies to inspect their own meat, replacing government inspectors.

Similar efforts to privatise inspections are under way in other major meat-producing countries including the United States.

Ten shipments of meat from Australia, America’s second biggest foreign meat supplier, were refused by the US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) because of contamination with faeces or other digestive matter in 2020, up from one in 2019 and four in 2018, according to internal data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) included within the documents.

Canada and New Zealand, two other large suppliers of meat to the United States, each only had one rejected shipment for contamination with faecal or other digestive matter in 2020, the internal data show.

Mexico, another major supplier, had none.

Another three shipments of Australian meat were rejected for the same reason during the first two months of 2021, compared to one from New Zealand and none from Canada or Mexico, the data show.

More recent figures were not included in the documents reviewed by Reuters, and the USDA declined to provide them when asked.

The companies that exported the rejected Australian shipments include JBS Australia, Thomas Foods, Fletcher International Exports, Australian Lamb Co., and V&V Walsh.

Reuters was able to identify the firms by cross-referencing the internal data detailing the date and reasons for the rejections with publicly available USDA data detailing dates and company names but excluding the reasons for the rejections.

None of the companies responded to requests for comment.

Eating meat contaminated with faeces or other digestive material can result in deadly illness caused by E. coli and other pathogens.

Because US food safety inspectors only physically examine or test a subset of imported meat, the rejections suggest that other contaminated shipments may have made it through the US border, according to food industry experts.

FSIS downplayed the rejections data in a statement to Reuters, saying its import inspection process “provides confidence in the safety of product from Australia that enters into U.S. commerce.”

The US food inspection agency added that just 0.6 per cent of the Australian meat that it physically examined in 2020 was rejected. It did not provide a figure for what fraction of all imports was examined.

Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment (DAWE) told Reuters in a statement that “Australian non-compliances remain very low – both relative to Australia’s total volume of meat and meat products exported, and when compared to competitor trading partners.”

Critics of company-run inspections say the system can result in more contaminated meat because plant workers often aren’t as experienced as government inspectors and may also feel pressure from their employers to prioritise speed over safety.

The Australian Meat Industry Council, a trade association, did not respond to a request to comment.

Brooke Muscat, deputy national president at Australia’s Community and Public Sector Union, which represents government inspectors and opposes the semi-privatised system, says government inspection jobs have fallen by half.

She anticipates that Australian meatpackers will have replaced almost all federal inspectors with company employees by the end of 2022.

“As they’ve announced more outsourcing of meat inspection, we’re saying what you’re going to see is increasing rejections in the US,” Muscat says.

“And it’s coming to fruition.”

-Reuters





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Australians squeezed by higher prices on petrol, furniture and electronics



Australians are being squeezed by rising prices on petrol, furniture and cars as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the global economy.

Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday shows that annual underlying inflation rose to 2.1 per cent in the September quarter – the highest level in six years.

Petrol prices broke records and disruptions to international supply chains drove up costs for businesses, making many consumer goods more expensive to buy.

The sharp rise surprised many economists and has left them arguing over whether the higher prices will stick around, or fade away over the next year.

Workers feeling the pinch

Furniture prices are 14.1 per cent higher today than before the pandemic, increasing 3.8 per cent over the September quarter alone.

Higher demand for home renovations and home office equipment during lockdown has combined with port delays and raw material shortages to push up prices.

Vehicle prices are up 9.5 per cent on pre-COVID levels, due to the global shortage of computer chips.

And petrol prices are up 7.3 per cent over the September quarter alone, as energy shortages in Europe and Asia push up global oil prices.

As for housing, quarterly rents rose 0.2 per cent nationally, with steep rises in Perth (2.8 per cent), Hobart (2.8 per cent) and Darwin (1.8 per cent) offset by falls in Sydney (-0.5 per cent) and Melbourne (-0.3 per cent).

But in good news for household budgets, fruit prices fell 8.3 per cent in the September quarter, thanks to good growing conditions for berries.

Clothing also became 5.5 per cent cheaper due to winter discounting.

And annual headline inflation, which has been unstable due to changes in childcare subsidies, fell from 3.8 per cent to 3 per cent.

Supply chain issues offset mega trend

Economists said the higher prices for consumer electronics, furniture,  appliances and motor vehicles are unusual.

Normally, advances in technology make these goods cheaper each year, allowing people to upgrade to new models without paying more.

It’s the mega trend that’s helped Australians fill their houses with smarter gadgets, bigger TVs and more luxurious lounges over the past two decades.

But BIS Oxford chief economist Sarah Hunter said COVID-19 has offset this trend because demand has surged during lockdown and pandemic health restrictions have made it harder to transport goods.

“These rises partially reverse the decades-long trend of quality improvements and price declines over time,” Dr Hunter said.

Shortages in key inputs like computer chips and timber have worsened the impact, with even the world’s richest man, Elon Musk, feeling the pain.

The ABS highlighted this on Wednesday, noting prices for durable goods have soared in the past 18 months, as the above graph demonstrates.

RBA: Transitory or persistent?

Looking forward, economists are now debating how long these higher prices will stick around, as the global economy rebounds from the pandemic.

Underlying inflation has now risen to the Reserve Bank’s target range almost two years faster than expected, but economists don’t expect the bank to lift interest rates unless these higher prices stick around.

That’s because the RBA has said it will only increase interest rates when inflation has been sustained in its 2 to 3 per cent range for some time.

And the latest inflation is not the type the RBA would prefer to see.

It’s known as cost-push inflation, whereby higher business costs force suppliers to increase prices, lowering consumers’ purchasing power.

The RBA would prefer higher wages to drive inflation by pushing up the demand for goods and services, because this improves living standards.

There are still no signs of higher wages growth and Dr Hunter said the RBA is unlikely to raise rates in response to cost-push inflation because it thinks the supply chain issues causing it will eventually be resolved.

“[The] impact will fade over time as conditions normalise,” she said.

“The board will focus much more on domestic trends, and they will be closely watching the recoveries in Sydney and Melbourne.”

But other economists are less sure higher prices will fade away.

Indeed APAC economist Callam Pickering said “no one really knows” if price rises caused by supply chain issues pushing up business costs will continue over the medium term or begin to subside some time next year.

“These supply chain issues will be with us for six months or so,” he said.

“After that, I would expect it to diminish in some capacity, but we don’t know what will happen to overall demand for goods globally.”

CommSec chief economist Craig James said the COVID shock is still “complicating the inflation outlook” in a note published on Wednesday.

“We won’t get clearer readings for a few more months yet,” he said.

“The debate about whether inflation is just ‘transitory’ or it has more ‘persistent’ qualities will rage for a little longer.”

Mr James said the central focus of the debate is wages growth, with the potential for higher inflation to become sustained if bosses hand out pay rises to reflect cost-of-living pressures from the cost-push inflation.

Labour shortages in some sectors may also push up wages, he said.

“There is limited evidence of upward pressure on wages, although workers are harder to find in construction and hospitality,” he said.





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