ABC NEWS BREAKFAST
TUESDAY, 12 OCTOBER 2021
SUBJECTS: JobKeeper; IBAC
MADELEINE MORRIS, FINANCE PRESENTER: Federal Treasury has released a comprehensive analysis of JobKeeper, and the big headline is that $27 billion went to companies that either didn't meet the required 30 per cent loss of turnover or actually made money in its first six months.
Andrew Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury. He joins us now from Canberra. Andrew Leigh, thanks for joining us. You've been very across JobKeeper since its implementation. Now that we have these final numbers, what does it tell you about the program?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Madeleine, you never want to entirely trust someone who's marking their own homework, but even on these numbers it shows that JobKeeper - a program that Labor called for, that was designed to save jobs - ended up delivering huge dividends to firms that had rising revenues. Firms such as Louis Vuitton, which got $6 million from the Australian taxpayer, much of which ended up in the pockets of their French billionaire owner. Firms such as OPSM, that got $58 million from the Australian taxpayer, a good lick of which ended up in the pockets of their Italian billionaire owner.
A program that should have been saving the jobs of battlers ended up lining the pockets of billionaires: billions of dollars going to firms whose revenues were rising. The $27 billion you mentioned is just in the first six months of the scheme, and it's just a portion of that. More than half of the money was going out the door to firms that didn't meet the forecast downturn test.
MORRIS: Those particular examples that you give there, very few people would deny that they are egregious examples, but Treasury does continue to say it was effective in maintaining employment and supporting the economy. Those are both true, aren't they?
LEIGH: Labor celebrates every single job that was saved, and it's clear that JobKeeper did save some jobs. But 700,000 jobs that JobKeeper saved, according to the Treasury numbers, you need to take the total amount of money, divide it by those 700,000, and when you do that, you end up with a per-job per-year cost of almost $200,000. Not many of your viewers would be earning $200,000, so if you're saving jobs at a cost of $200,000 per job year, then it's fairly clear you've mismanaged the program.
MORRIS: As you say, Labor did support this, so this is on you, too, isn't it?
LEIGH: We gave Josh Frydenberg extraordinary latitude to make sure that he got this program right. We wanted JobKeeper to succeed. We knew it was important.
Instead, this Treasurer has presided over a program that saw, according to his own department's estimates, $14 billion go to firms whose revenues are going up rather than down. That means that for every Australian household, they gave $1,400 of their money to firms with rising revenues. That's an absolute scandal.
MORRIS: What can you do about it now?
LEIGH: We need greater transparency. What's extraordinary about this government is they've been fighting transparency. Other countries Britain, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, had public registers listing all the recipients, but when Labor has called for big firms to be publicly listed, Josh Frydenberg's thrown the secrecy curtain over that. I think it's entirely appropriate that we know where Australian tax dollars went.
MORRIS: Just on something else, Andrew Leigh, given what Anthony Byrne has revealed in Victoria, is it tenable that he now maintains his position in the Labor Party and as an MP? Does he need to go, too?
LEIGH: Madeleine, I've been entirely focused on getting my head around this JobKeeper report yesterday, so I'll leave it to-
MORRIS: -It's an easy question, though. It's an easy question to answer. Given what he has said about the rorts, should he go?
LEIGH: It's an important question. I'm just telling you that my focus yesterday was entirely on getting my head around this JobKeeper report and what it means for the country.
MORRIS: OK, Andrew Leigh, thanks very much for joining us.
LEIGH: Thanks so much.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra