We mustn't allow this recession to increase inequality - Speech, House of Representatives

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 2 SEPTEMBER 2020

In March my constituent Chris Endrey found himself jobless. As he put it:

The financial distress of this period has pressed into other areas of my life, with deleterious impacts on my health; a loss of housing security; the loss of higher order capacities, which evaporate in the face of such baseline pressures… I'm so desperate to end my hours of infinite couch surfing ,writing stupid letters and instead channel my energies and talents into something of use to our rumbling society.

Chris Endrey is among the one million Australians out of work. Another 400,000 will lose their jobs before Christmas.

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Morrison Government failing on moral leadership - Transcript, ABC Adelaide Mornings

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
RADIO INTERVIEW
ABC ADELAIDE MORNINGS
WEDNESDAY, 2 SEPTEMBER 2020

SUBJECT: JobKeeper payments.

DAVID BEVAN, HOST: Andrew Leigh is making headlines. He’s the Labor MP for the ACT seat of Fenner. He's making headlines because he had a good look at the JobKeeper scheme, and he says ‘you know what? I'm not happy with where some of this money is ending up’. Andrew Leigh, good morning to you.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, David. Great to be with you.

BEVAN: What's the problem?

LEIGH: Most firms did absolutely the right thing when the downturn hit. They received government subsidies if they’d had a big drop in revenue, and they used them to support jobs. But there's a small number of firms that appear to have done the wrong thing - paying out substantial bonuses to executives, paying out significant dividends, which in some cases have ended up lining the pockets of billionaires. The thing about JobKeeper is it was designed to support the jobs of battlers, not to benefit billionaires. It's there in order to reduce inequality, but some firms seem to be using it to increase inequality.

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JobKeeper not designed for padding profits - Transcript, 6PR Perth Live

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
RADIO INTERVIEW
6PR PERTH LIVE
TUESDAY, 1 SEPTEMBER 2020
 
SUBJECT: JobKeeper payments.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good afternoon, Olly. Great to be with you and your listeners.

OLIVER PETERSON, HOST: You have named and shamed some businesses which appear to be rorting the JobKeeper scheme.

LEIGH: JobKeeper was designed in order to keep battlers in work, not keep billionaires in champagne. What I've been concerned about is the small number of firms that seem to be using taxpayer subsidies in order to pad profits, and to pay executive salaries and dividends.

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Firms have social obligation with JobKeeper - Transcript, The Project

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

TV INTERVIEW

THE PROJECT

TUESDAY, 1 SEPTEMBER 2020

Subject: JobKeeper.

CARRIE BICKMORE: Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury Andrew Leigh isn't a fan of JobKeeper as it is, and he joins us now. Andrew, executive salaries are quite complex. A lot of them earn the bulk of their pay through bonuses. It is a bit simplistic to say that they should just go without?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: JobKeeper was designed as a program to keep battlers in work, not to top up the salaries of millionaires and billionaires. Firms ought to recognise they have a social obligation to spend this money on looking after their workforce.

BENJAMIN LAW: That said, Andrew, if a company has landed themselves in serious trouble and has since turned that around, shouldn't they be entitled to enjoy the benefits of that success?

LEIGH: This is taxpayer money we’re talking about. It was given to firms for one specific purpose: to make sure that the unemployment rate didn't skyrocket as much as it would otherwise have done. I don't remember any member of parliament standing up when we were debating JobKeeper and saying, ‘this will be great because it will be used to pad profits and pay highly paid CEOs even more.' Indeed, you’ve seen a New Zealand company Mainfreight saying, ‘we don't deserve this money‘, and giving it back to the New Zealand taxpayer. If only we had a few Aussie firms that took that approach.

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Nobody likes running deficits, but right now creating jobs is priority number one - Op Ed, The Canberra Times

NOBODY LIKES RUNNING DEFICITS, BUT RIGHT NOW CREATING JOBS IS PRIORITY NUMBER ONE

The Canberra Times, 2 September 2020

‘The first duty of all Governments in the present period of stress is to relieve, as far as possible, the hardships and needs of persons who are willing to work but cannot find employment.’

The year was 1930, and the Canberra Times editorial reflected the anguish of the Great Depression. Around the world, unemployment spiked, and millions of lives were blighted by joblessness.

Nine decades on, the world is suffering the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Yet economic policymakers have a considerable advantage over their predecessors. It wasn’t until 1936 that John Maynard Keynes published The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, advising governments to spend in order to support demand. Keynesian economics did not become mainstream until decades later.

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JobKeeper designed for battlers, not billionaires - Transcript, ABC North Queensland Drive

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
RADIO INTERVIEW
ABC NORTH QUEENSLAND DRIVE
TUESDAY, 1 SEPTEMBER 2020

SUBJECT: JobKeeper payments.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: JobKeeper was designed for battlers, not billionaires. It was designed to keep people in work during the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Wage subsidy schemes like this have worked well around the world, and most firms have done the right thing. But there's a small number of firms who have taken the taxpayer handouts and used them to fund bonuses for executives. I think that fundamentally breaks the social contract between firms and the rest of the community. 

ADAM STEPHEN, HOST: How did you work out that some of the companies that had taken JobKeeper subsidies, wage subsidies for their workforce, had subsequently either paid out executive bonuses or given dividends to shareholders? 

LEIGH: Yeah, it's interesting question. If you're an unlisted company, no one knows whether or not you’re getting JobKeeper. But if you're a listed firm, then ASIC’s asked people to disclose to the share market the amount of JobKeeper they're receiving. So as we're now in the annual reporting season, a range of firms are reporting that they received taxpayer handouts and that they’ve paid executive bonuses.

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Need all hands to the wheel to address unemployment - Transcript, 5AA Mornings

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
RADIO INTERVIEW
5AA MORNINGS
TUESDAY, 1 SEPTEMBER 2020

SUBJECTS: JobKeeper payments; unemployment; Scott Morrison playing ‘whack a premier’.

LEON BYNER, HOST: This is a story that really needed to be out there because, as you know, the recession - and we've got one – has hit a lot of people hard. But a scheme that was designed to reduce inequality and help people out, according to my next guest, has been misused by a small number of firms who are channelling executive bonuses. Now, I would have thought that this ought to be illegal, but they've named - I'll give you some examples. Star casino. They got $64 million in JobKeeper and gave their CEO an equity bonus of $800,000. SeaLink received $8 million in JobKeeper, and gave the CEO a $500,000 bonus. Now look, there's a whole raft of companies that have done this. So let's talk to a bloke who is an expert in economics, but he speaks plain English, which is always a good thing. The Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and Charities, Dr Andrew Leigh. Andrew, good morning. How can this happen?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: G’day, Leon. Great to be with you. Saying that I think economics and talk English is the kindest compliment!

This is one of those instances in which firms have done the wrong thing. Not most firms, but a few firms. The fact is, if you're putting your hand out for taxpayer support, which is absolutely the right the right thing to do in order to keep people in work, then you can’t then turn around and use that money to subsidise people in the executive suites. People already on seven figure salaries shouldn't have their salaries topped up using taxpayer handouts. It's as simple as that.

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JobKeeper needs to reduce inequality, not increase it - Speech, House of Representatives

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 1 SEPTEMBER 2020

When the coronavirus recession hit, most firms recognised there's a social contract: get a wage subsidy from the taxpayer and do right for workers. But some companies didn't understood that JobKeeper was designed to keep people in work, not pad corporate profits.

Half the shares in Australia are owned by the top fifth of the population, so converting JobKeeper into 'DividendKeeper' takes a program designed to reduce inequality and uses it to increase inequality.

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PM playing 'whack a premier' to distract voters - Transcript, 2CC Canberra Breakfast

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
RADIO INTERVIEW
2CC CANBERRA BREAKFAST
TUESDAY, 1 SEPTEMBER 2020

SUBJECTS: JobKeeper and JobSeeker; foreign affairs and Australia’s national interest; China; Scott Morrison playing ‘whack a premier’ to pass the buck on aged care; charities facing perfect storm of falling donations and increased demand.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: Joining us, as they will. on a Tuesday is our political panel. The Labor Member for Fenner and Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and Charities Andrew Leigh joins us for the first time. G’day, Andrew.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: G’day, Stephen.

CENATIEMPO: And Zed Seselja, the ACT Liberal Senator and Assistant Minister for Finance, Charities and Electoral Matters. You guys are actually head to head in more than one way today.

ZED SESELJA, LIBERAL SENATOR: Good morning, Stephen. Morning. Andrew. How are you?

LEIGH: Wonderfully well. Yes, it's a nice coincidence to have two people concerned about charities from the ACT, isn’t it Stephen?

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Executive salaries shouldn't be subsidised by taxpayers - Speech, House of Representatives

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 31 AUGUST 2020

Recessions hit the poor hardest, which is why Australia followed many countries around the world in implementing a wage subsidy scheme.

But a scheme designed to reduce inequality is being misused by a small number of firms, who are channelling it to executive bonuses.

Accent Group received $13 million in JobKeeper and gave CEO Daniel Agostinelli a $1.2 million bonus.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | Andrew.Leigh.MP@aph.gov.au | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.