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
2CC CANBERRA LIVE
WEDNESDAY, 3 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Auditor-General conducting an audit of the JobKeeper scheme; Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits; Scott Morrison failing to properly denounce Craig Kelly’s spreading of dangerous misinformation.
LEON DELANEY, HOST: The Morrison Government's JobKeeper wage subsidy will now come under scrutiny from the Australian National Audit Office. And in particular, the office will be taking a look at the Australian Tax Office and how they've managed the delivery of that particular support service, that particular support measure, and whether or not the ATO has been effective in enforcing the rules and the integrity of those payments. The audit was something called for by our very own local representative Dr Andrew Leigh back in December, who said that JobKeeper needed proper scrutiny. Andrew Leigh’s on the phone now. Good afternoon.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good afternoon, Leon. Great to be with you and your listeners.
DELANEY: Thanks very much for joining us today. Yes, JobKeeper - fantastic idea, great policy, has worked really well. The only problems with it is where it wasn't given to people who needed it and the fact that they're going to cut it out perhaps sooner than they should. Aside from that, were there other problems?
LEIGH: Leon, it's gone to firms which were more profitable in 2020 than they were in 2019, where their profits went up rather than going down. It's gone to firms that used JobKeeper to pay large executive bonuses, in one case a $2.5 million bonus - more than many of your listeners will earn in a lifetime. It's gone to firms that have paid out significant dividends, chunks of which have gone to billionaires such as Solomon Lew, James Packer and Gerry Harvey. So we do need appropriate scrutiny around JobKeeper, because as you say Leon, there are sectors of the economy that need JobKeeper to continue past the end of next month. The Government's cutting off JobKeeper from people who need it while allowing JobKeeper to go to people that don't need it.Read more
WEDNESDAY, 3 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Auditor-General conducting an audit of the JobKeeper scheme; Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits.
LEON BYNER, HOST: This is a really interesting story out of something that we've talked about a lot. And that is that the Auditor-General - this is the federal Auditor-General, he's basically the umpire of the Parliament - is going to probe JobKeeper, because it appears that it was used to pay dividends and executive bonuses. Now, an audit of the scheme is going to examine issues including whether the tax office has put in place effective measures to protect the integrity of JobKeeper payments. And again, the bloke who's asked for this has done it for good reason, so I thought we'd get him on this morning because it's clear that this money was never intended to be a bonus for someone. It was never there for that purpose. So let's talk to the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury, Andrew Leigh. Good morning. What do we know?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: G’day, Leon. Great to be with you. What we know so far is that JobKeeper is the most expensive program the federal government's ever put in place and it's been effective, saving around 700,000 jobs. But that doesn't mean that every dollar has been well spent. We do know that there's a number of firms - among them Premier Investments which owns Portmans, Just Jeans and Smiggle - which have seen their profits go up in 2020 rather than going down. They paid an executive bonus of $2.5 million to their CEO, more than most of your listeners would earn in a lifetime, and then paid out a significant dividend, a large chunk of which will go to their billionaire shareholder Solomon Lew. Good luck to them for their success, but they've also received millions of dollars of taxpayer handouts in JobKeeper. I don't think that's why the JobKeeper program was designed.Read more
THE BRIEFING PODCAST
TUESDAY, 2 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Billionaires getting richer while battlers struggle; Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits.
JAN FRAN, HOST: When Bloomberg tallied all this up, Australian billionaires saw their wealth go up by 50 per cent during the pandemic.
TOM TILLEY, HOST: Yeah, and the Aussie billionaires do particularly well, because in the US and the UK billionaires saw their wealth go up by 25 per cent. So compared to the Aussies on 50 per cent-
FRAN: 25 per cent, that’s terrible.
FRAN: So in today's briefing, we're asking, is this fair? Should they be sharing their wealth?
TILLEY: Yeah, especially given people had such a tough time during the pandemic. When you think back to the start, remember when everyone was like cheering for the nurses? They were clapping the frontline workers in supermarkets, delivery drivers, teachers, cleaners. Well, they’re paid wages and wages have stayed flat. And overall the economy, during that same period as the Rich List, went backwards 3.8 per cent.Read more
2SM WITH MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 2 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits; Vaccination program; Industrial relations reform; Federal election; Treasurer not focussing enough on struggling sectors of the economy.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: JobKeeper – or BonusKeeper, I think BonusKeeper is what my next guest has dubbed it as and he's done some magnificent work. Although the Prime Minister yesterday I see basically turned around and said that he's playing politics with this issue or certainly the federal opposition is. Dr Andrew Leigh is a regular on the program each and every Tuesday. Good morning, Andrew. How are you, mate?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Marcus. Fighting fit. How are you?
PAUL: Yeah, good. Thank you. And you'll need to be because apparently, according to the Prime Minister who's dismissed your concerns, you're simply playing the politics of envy, quote unquote.
LEIGH: Nothing like having clichés thrown at you by a former ad man, is there Marcus? But the fact is that the Prime Minister designed RoboDebt to harass people on welfare. Then when people ask reasonable questions about why JobKeeper is going to millionaire CEOs or billionaire shareholders, he dismisses them with the oldest cliché in the book. Now the fact is, this is about fairness and decency. It's about making sure that taxpayer dollars are spent where they need to go at a time when we're facing a recession and a pandemic.Read more