SUBJECT: JobKeeper being misused as BonusKeeper and DividendKeeper.
ROBBIE BUCK, HOST: Well, this is an interesting one. We’ve been hearing about JobKeeper coming to an end at the end of this month and some of the industries that are really concerned - the tourism industry, for example, and plenty of people in the arts as well who are concerned about what's going to happen there. But then on the other side of it, there are growing calls for some of the companies that have received millions of dollars in the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme to hand back some of those dollars after hitting very high - sometimes record - income over the last 12 months.
WENDY HARMER, HOST: Some of them got a good chunk of change. I mean, Qantas -they got the 459 million. Another company called AP Eagers, 130 million. And with no real understanding, I don't think, or guarantees of where the money's actually gone.
BUCK: Yeah. We’ve been told that an investigation will be conducted into the federal government's $100 billion scheme, amid concerns that some of the money that was supposed to be used to retain staff was diverted to pay dividends and bonuses. Companies like Harvey Norman and Athlete's Foot owner Accent Group have refused to pay back the money to the government, despite having bumper seasons. Andrew Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Treasury Minister and requested the investigation last year, and he joins us from Canberra. Morning, Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Morning, Robbie. Great to be with you.Read more
SUBJECTS: JobKeeper being misused as BonusKeeper and DividendKeeper; allegations of sexual assault against a cabinet minister.
MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: Now, we are going to be joined very shortly by the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury Andrew Leigh, who is calling on the companies - many companies - who have accepted JobKeeper payments and have gone on to make pretty big profits to return them. Especially those companies that have made big bonuses, delivered big bonuses to their executives. Andrew Leigh joins us now from Canberra. Good morning to you.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Morning, Michael. Great to be with you.
ROWLAND: So how extensive would you like this review of JobKeeper to be, and what sort of companies are you talking about?
LEIGH: JobKeeper was meant to save the jobs of battlers, not to allow billionaires to buy another yacht. But the fact is that there's many firms which have enjoyed their biggest profit year ever in 2020, despite receiving JobKeeper. Good luck to them, but they shouldn't be receiving taxpayer handouts if they've been that profitable. And many of these firms, contrary to tax office advice, paid executive bonuses. I’m thinking of firms like Premier Investments, which runs Just Jeans and Smiggle, that paid a $2.5 million bonus to its CEO - more than most of your viewers will learn in an entire career. They also paid out a significant dividend, a large chunk of which went to their billionaire shareholder, Solomon Lew. They simply don't need taxpayer handouts, and they should give the money back.Read more
2SM WITH MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 2 MARCH 2021
SUBJECTS: Companies refusing to repay JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits; Proposed JobSeeker increase; the Aged Care Royal Commission report; allegations of sexual assault against a cabinet minister.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Let's introduce a warrior.
[‘The Warrior’ plays]
PAUL: We’ve got a water warrior, Helen Dalton. We’ve got a corruption warrior in Jodi McKay. But we’re going to anoint a brand new one today. Andrew Leigh, good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: G’day, Marcus. Terrific to be joining the ranks of your warriors.
PAUL: Alright. You are our #JobKeeperWarrior. How much Australian taxpayer dollars have you clawed back?
LEIGH: Well, we've gone past the $100 million mark, Marcus. We had healthcare company Healius handing back their JobKeeper last week and even the ports operator Qube handing back half of the JobKeeper that they didn't need. But we also had a week in which we saw the luxury car dealer AP Eagers report a profit of over $100 million, after receiving $130 million of JobKeeper. And we saw Harvey Norman turn up an extraordinary profit - $600 million - and still refuse to repay their JobKeeper. So a few firms have done the right thing, Marcus, but there's plenty out there that have gotten massive profits off the back of taxpayer subsidies and ought to hand back corporate welfare that they didn’t need.Read more
TIME TO ENGAGE CHARITY GROUPS TO SPREAD THE RIGHT MESSAGE
The Daily Telegraph, 26 February 2021
When it comes to vaccination, the Morrison Government has been more gab than jab. Despite the Prime Minister promising that Australians would be ‘at the front of the queue’, almost 200 million people globally had been vaccinated by the time the first Australians received their shots. In Israel, around half the population has received a vaccination. In Britain, it’s around one-third. In the United States, it’s more than one in ten. If vaccination was an Olympic sport, the medal winners would be running laps around Australia.
Yet now that the vaccine rollout has finally started, the challenge is to ensure high uptake across the community. According to a survey conducted by the federal health department, 64 percent of Australians will ‘definitely’ get a COVID vaccine, while 9 percent will ‘definitely not’ get vaccinated. That leaves 27 percent of the population who are unsure of whether or not they will get vaccinated.Read more
2SM WITH MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 23 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: $100 million in JobKeeper payments returned to the taxpayer by companies reporting huge profits; Growing pressure on Harvey Norman to return JobKeeper payments; the Coalition’s NBN cover-up; JobSeeker.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: [audio from Parliament] Last March, retail billionaire Gerry Harvey told 60 Minutes that COVID was “pretty much nothing to get scared of.” He went on to boast that sales of his freezers were up 300 per cent. Since then, more than 2 million people have lost their lives, and Harvey Norman has experienced a once-in-a-lifetime retail bonanza. Its dividends last year totalled $300 million, more than $100 million of which went to Mr Harvey. This Friday, it is expected to announce a six-month profit around half a billion dollars. Yet Harvey Norman head office and its franchisees have benefited from millions of dollars of taxpayer support through the JobKeeper program. And it’s not the only profitable firm to do so. Recently, Crown Perth, Empired, Janison, MaxiTrans, hedge fund K2 and investment bank Moelis have announced JobKeeper-fuelled profits. Some profitable firms have repaid. CIMIC’s recent announcement takes the total repayment past $100 million. These ethical firms realise that JobKeeper was designed to keep battlers in work, not help billionaires buy their next racehorse. Gerry Harvey once said donating to charity was "helping a whole heap of no-hopers to survive for no good reason". He claims he’s changed. Well, Friday is his chance to prove it. Mr Harvey says his sales have been “going crazy”. So it’s crazy to think that he needs a taxpayer funded handout. Pay it back, Gerry.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Well, well said. Andrew Leigh MP joins us on the program. Hey, mate.
LEIGH: G’day, Marcus. How are you?
PAUL: Well, thank you. What's the likelihood that Gerry Harvey will repay these millions of dollars in JobKeeper payments?Read more
ABC CANBERRA MORNINGS
MONDAY, 22 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: The Morrison Government’s latest front in the war on charities; Brittany Higgins, and the right of every woman to feel safe and be safe in the workplace; Vaccine rollout program.
ADAM SHIRLEY, HOST: Draft legislation that oversees the workings of charities has caused some criticism within the sector. The draft legislation includes a provision that the commissioner, currently Gary Johns, could revoke charity status of an organisation if he reasonably believed it was, quote, ‘more likely than not that the entity will not comply with a governance standard’. So does that mean that the commissioner can, on suspicion, revoke the charity status of a charity? Andrew Leigh is federal Member for Fenner, Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and is one of those with significant concerns of what this draft legislation could mean if it's passed. Andrew Leigh, good morning to you.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Adam. Great to be with you.
SHIRLEY: How legitimate is it for the commissioner to have oversight and the right to revoke charity status if a charity is not following the law?
LEIGH: It’s certainly vital that a charity that breaks the law gets deregistered, and that's what current law says. So a charity that engages in or promotes activities that are unlawful or contrary to public policy can be deregistered. But this proposed law does something entirely different. It says that if the charity commissioner anticipates a breach, then he can revoke the charity status of that organisation. Just imagine what outcry there’d be in the business community if suddenly we said that ASIC, the corporate watchdog, could deregister companies simply because it anticipated that those companies were going to break the law. Business leaders would be rightly outraged.Read more
5AA MORNINGS WITH LEON BYNER
THURSDAY, 17 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Billionaires benefiting from JobKeeper.
LEON BYNER, HOST: I want to talk about JobKeeper because the situation is, I always understood, that if you were eligible as a business for JobKeeper, your turnover had to be down about 30 per cent or more in order to get it. But things have moved on somewhat and we now see that according to reports from our next guest, who is a gifted economist, at least 11 billionaires last year received dividends totalling tens of millions of dollars from companies that received JobKeeper subsidies designed to keep workers employed. Now my question is if that is true, how did those companies manage to qualify for JobKeeper when clearly their turnover wasn't down 30 per cent? So let's see if we can get some answers on this and talk to the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury, Dr Andrew Leigh. Andrew, can you answer that?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: G’day, Leon. Great to be with you. The JobKeeper program allowed you to claim based on either an actual downturn or a forecast downturn. So we don't know whether companies claimed because they told the tax office they were going to be worse off, or because they actually had a couple of months where they were worse off. But we do know that there's plenty of companies that claimed JobKeeper who had their best ever profit year in 2020. That includes Premier Investments – which owns Smiggle, Just Jeans and Portmans – which did so well it could afford to pay a CEO a $2.5 million bonus. A bonus that was financed by your listeners through the JobKeeper program. We've seen many other billionaires benefiting because they own shares in companies that received JobKeeper, but then paid out significant dividends to their owners.Read more
2SM WITH MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 16 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits; the Morrison Government’s secrecy over JobKeeper data; the economic cost of the Morrison Government’s delayed vaccine rollout; Parliamentary Friends of Cycling; the right of every woman to feel safe and be safe in the workplace.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Andrew Leigh MP has been keeping track of JobKeeper, the payments made to big corporations. He's done some brilliant work in this area, where we've seen tens of millions of dollars clawed back, put back into our public coffers from businesses that have otherwise posted a profit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Andrew is on the program again, as he is each and every Tuesday. Hello, mate.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Top of the morning to you, Marcus. A lot brighter in Canberra than it is in Sydney today, I’m afraid.
PAUL: Yeah well, it sounds like it - although there is a dark cloud hovering over Canberra, given this story, and I'll get to that in a moment with you, I’ll get your comments in regards to young Brittany Higgins. But first let's go to JobKeeper. Where are we? You've got a motion in Parliament?Read more
2SM WITH MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 9 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits; Nick Scali; Scott Morrison’s love of spin over substance.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Andrew Leigh. Good morning to you, Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: G’day, Marcus. Great to be with you.
PAUL: You too. Tell me, how good is Australia when multinationals and big business that have made a fair bit of money over the last financial year, first half of the financial year, some of them thought ‘we’re going to be fair here, we’re gonna repay taxpayers the JobKeeper payments that we've received’. Nick Scali has finally come on board, thanks to you, Andrew. Well done.
LEIGH: It's good to see Nick Scali handing $3.6 million back to the taxpayer, Marcus. Let’s not forget though that they did receive about twice that, and so I'm really hoping Nick Scali will bask in such positive warm approval from the Australian public today that they'll decide to pay back the other half.
PAUL: Alright. So is there still, what, another 3.5 missing or something is, is there?
LEIGH: They paid back $3.6. million and there’s $3.9 million they received for the first half of last year. There's no such thing as half a conscience, Marcus, and I think Nick Scali’s management ought to recognise that they've done the right thing in paying back half the JobKeeper, but paying back the rest would be the right thing to do. They've had very strong profits, they paid a very significant dividend and there are many people out there doing it tough - many of your listeners who are in fragile employment or looking for work, who need more support in a way that Nick Scali doesn’t.Read more
ABC PERTH DRIVE
THURSDAY, 4 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits; Nick Scali.
GEOFF HUTCHISON, HOST: Andrew Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury, and he joins me from Canberra. Thank you for waiting so patiently, Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Real pleasure, Geoff. Great to be with you and your listeners.
HUTCHISON: Now, obviously Nick Scali has weathered the COVID storm in some financial comfort. Should the business hand back millions of dollars it received through JobKeeper?
LEIGH: Absolutely, they should. And to get the answer to that, you just need to go to Nick Scali’s corporate ethics statement, where it says that the firm recognises the need ‘to maintain the highest standards of behaviour, ethics and accountability’. Well if they really believe that, then in a time in which they've seen their profits nearly double, they ought to do the right thing and hand back tax subsidies that it turns out they didn’t need.Read more