Vale Simon Crean

By Penny Pryor

As tributes flow for Simon Crean, who passed away tragically at age 74 in Europe last weekend, his work at the Australian Council of Trade Unions in the 1980s in establishing a compulsory superannuation system must also be remembered.

Crean is, rightly, being commended for his many achievements as opposition leader - such as opposing the invasion of Iraq - and in various cabinet roles including Minister of Trade, where he focussed on removing trade barriers.

But back in the 1980s as deputy president of the ACTU from 1981 to 1985 and then president from 1985 to 1990 he was also involved in the many discussions around the Prices and Incomes Accord which eventually involved a commitment by the union movement to divert 3 per cent of a worker's pay rise into superannuation.

"The unions, which I was part of, developed a strategy that if we can't win it (a national superannuation scheme) legitimately through the political process we will pursue it industrially," Crean told author Christine St Anne when she interviewed him for her book A Super History: How Australia's $1 trillion superannuation industry was made in 2012 when he was Minister of Arts.

"Bill [Kelty] and I, along with Bob [Hawke] and Paul [Keating] evolved this thing. We believed in it and we were prepared to fight for it. And like anything you want in life you have to be prepared to fight for it," Crean told St Anne.

Crean was proud of his involvement in one of  "the most intergenerational policy change[s] in this country's history, that is compulsory superannuation".