A clue lies in the creation of MTAA Super in 1989, and the relationship it’s had from the start with the MTAA. It’s as unusual as the asset allocation. When Michael Delaney was headhunted to form a national umbrella lobby group for state motor trader associations in 1988, it was one of his first major jobs outside Parliament House (which coincidentally was transferring from the Old to the New at that time). One of the first students accepted into Melbourne’s LaTrobe University, where he achieved a Bachelor of Arts, Delaney had fetched up in Canberra around 1970 as a public service trainee earmarked for big things. He was soon into the thick of it as a private secretary to Gough Whitlam, just 23 years old when the Labor leader was elected Prime Minister in 1972.

Delaney was among a handful of those present at morning briefings to Whitlam on days when Parliament sat, sharing the ear of the Prime Minister with the likes of the Prime Minister’s Department secretary. In fact Delaney was drawn into another comparison with Kevin Rudd in late 2008, when his relative youth (and others) among Whitlam’s closest advisers was recalled upon the ascent of Alister Jordan, then 29, to become the current Prime Minister’s chief of staff. After the tumult of the Whitlam years, Delaney then surfaced during the second term of Bob Hawke as the first chief-of- staff for the Minister of Trade, John Dawkins. This period was notable for an early sign that Delaney is not averse to litigation, issuing a defamation writ to Fairfax over its coverage of a Dawkins spat with Australia’s Milan-based trade commissioner of the time. Delaney’s value as an administrator was also on show.

He had left Dawkins’ office to run the Government’s National Campaign Against Drug Abuse, but was re-engaged by the then Education Minister in late 1987, with a specific eye to the next Federal election. The next year, the country’s motor trader interests (spearheaded by George Altomonte of Sydney’s luxury Alto Group) decided to form the MTAA, to replace a fragmented group of bodies which dated back to the early 1900s and lacked a strong voice in Canberra. Delaney was headhunted as the inaugural executive director, and as he recalled to News Limited last year, was “almost immediately asked to establish a national motor trades super fund”. Award superannuation was just two years old at this stage, although Delaney would have been well aware of the concept.

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