Tom McDonald on Garry Weaven's Retirement

Tom McDonald remembers the dreamers of the Union Movement in his speech given 4 December 2018 on the occasion of Gary Weaven's retirement

It's an honour to speak on such a special occasion.

In 1983 when I first met Garry, universal superannuation was regarded as an impossible dream.

Only a handful of union leaders believed it was achievable.

The dreamers included Bill Kelty, Simon Crean, Laurie Carmichael and Garry Weaven and later Paul Keating.

They knew that their dream could not be achieved by government legislation because four previous attempts failed.

They knew the high court had ruled that superannuation was not an award matter.

They knew it would not be achieved by enterprise bargaining because two thirds of the workforce were not unionised.

They were aware that the economy was in a crisis of stagflation.

The employers, except for a few, were in opposition – some for ideological reasons, others wanted to preserve the status quo and some believed that the building industry scheme would end in a major administrative and financial disaster.

History told the dreamers that superannuation had to be won first where the trade union movement had strong bargaining power .

Once this happened it would open the door to award superannuation and later universal superannuation by legislation by a labor government.

And that is what happened.

The building industry was the breakthrough industry.

Garry Weaven was given  the responsibility to work with the biding unions and make it happen.  That’s when I joined the struggle and became a dreamer.

Great challenges had to be overcome.

Retail superannuation schemes could not work in the building industry because they were designed to only benefit long term employees.

A new model of superannuation was needed.

It had to be based on work-life portability, full vesting rights and it had to be an accumulative benefits scheme.

And it had to be managed by a board of trustees who came from and understood the building industry .

Early on colonial mutual and its subsidiary Jaques Martin and its CEO Sandy Grant came on board. Sandy from day one was a true believer.

The building industry scheme now called Cbus was born on 1 July 1984.

Soon after some key employers came on board and appointed trustees.

By December ’84 eight hundred major employers had signed up and thirty thousand building workers enrolled into the scheme.

Garry Weaven was never a lone ranger.  He was always on the lookout for people who had potential and commitment to the cause.  And when he found them he nurtured  and promoted them.

Women like Mavis Robertson, Fiona Reynolds and Helen Hewett became CEOs.

Garry was at his best in a crisis. And there were many.

Garry was a positive, analytical, decisive, creative thinker and strategic planner. 

Garry – you and other trade union leaders inspired millions of Australian workers to take action that led to the creation of one of the best superannuation systems in the world.

The support of the Hawke/Keating Labor government was very important as was the role played by the leaders of industry superannuation schemes.

Garry, you dared to dream and to think big.

You have been a great leader and achiever over 35 years and I wish you a happy life in retirement.


















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