ENGAGED EGALITARIANISM: REINVIGORATING GLOBALISATION IN THE POST-COVID AGE
The Canberra Times, 1 February 2021
Pandemics increase our fear of foreigners and lend power to the isolationists. COVID-19 has empowered those who believe in shutting out the world, and made life tougher for those who believe in the benefits of engaged multilateralism and diverse multiculturalism. Not since the twenty-first century began has there been a better time to be a racist, xenophobe, protectionist, chauvinist, or jingoist.
But just as the cost of coronavirus has been disproportionately borne by the most vulnerable, so too a retreat from global engagement would hit disadvantaged people the hardest. A more closed economy means slower growth, which in turn means that unemployment will stay higher for longer. Less overseas investment will constrain productivity growth, limiting potential wage rises. Weaker international institutions will slow the rate at which vaccines flow to the world’s poorest nations. Nations that depend on remittances and foreign aid are especially vulnerable in the face of a downturn.Read more
THURSDAY, 28 JANUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Labor calling for an inquiry into the JobKeeper scheme; Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits; Climate change.
THOMAS ORITI, HOST: As Australia's economy recovers from the initial blow of the pandemic and we approach these final weeks of the JobKeeper wage subsidy, there are calls for large companies that recorded profits to return government funds. Mining Company Iluka resources has joined carmaker Toyota and the Super Retail Group in voluntarily returning millions of dollars in JobKeeper payments after a surprisingly profitable year. So that begs the question, I mean, are there other companies that have profited from the wage subsidy and should they be forced to pay it back? Andrew Leigh is a federal Labor MP and the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and he joins us live now. Morning, Andrew. Thanks for your time.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning. Great to be with you.
ORITI: Are you surprised that companies are volunteering to pay back millions of dollars to the government?
LEIGH: Not at all. Every large company says it's committed to corporate social responsibility, and this is simply the expression of that sentiment. If you've claimed JobKeeper thinking that your profits are going to be down and in fact they turn out to be up, then the right thing to do is to say to the taxpayer ‘we don't need government handouts, we've done well and here's the money back’ - in order to support people in the tourism sector, university sector, the arts sector, to support casuals, to support the million people who are out of work or the other million people who'd like more hours. There are people out there doing it tough and good corporates recognise that if they're not among them, they should hand the government subsidies back.Read more
2SM WITH MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 26 JANUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits; Australia Day; Margaret Court; Gender imbalance in the Australia Day awards system and the need for revamp.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: The first of our Australia Day guests today is Andrew Leigh MP. Good morning to you Andrew and happy Australia Day, mate.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Marcus. Great to be with you.
PAUL: I see on page 20 of today's Herald, there's a push on corporate Australia to repay JobKeeper. Now you and I have discussed this in the last couple of months. Corporate governance experts are urging more of Australia's big companies to repay funds received through the federal government's JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme, warning taxpayers will bear the brunt of the $90 billion cost for decades, Andrew.
LEIGH: Absolutely, Marcus. And what a great patriotic moment it would be if some of these corporates decided that they'd make a national gesture to give back taxpayer subsidies they don't need for the good of the country, to help those less fortunate than themselves. I can't think of a more generous patriotic gesture than that from some of the corporates who received handouts last year - thinking they would need them - but then had a bumper year of profits.Read more
ABC ADELAIDE MORNINGS
THURSDAY, 21 JANUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits; Labor’s plan to invest in social housing.
DAVID BEVAN, HOST: Dr Andrew Leigh, the Federal Labor MP for Fenner who in a previous life was an economist. Good morning, Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, David. Great to be with you.
BEVAN: Dr Leigh, can you explain to us, these reports of some companies - I think it was the Super Retail Group, owner of Rebel, Macpac, BFC. They're returning $1.7 million to the government. Last week, Toyota also announced they’ll pay back $18 million. These are significant amounts of money here. This is JobKeeper. What's going on? Are they required to because they didn't have the downturn they were expecting or is this a PR exercise? What's going on?
LEIGH: There's no obligation, David. It's just a matter of good corporate ethics. I thought the chief executive of Toyota Australia Matthew Callachor put it really nicely when he said returning JobKeeper payments was ‘the right thing to do as a responsible corporate citizen’. And he recognises that firms aren’t just there for their shareholders – they’re there for their customers, for their workers and for the broader community. Acting as Toyota and Super Retail Group have done builds faith with the community that you’ll take government handouts when you need them, but you'll give the money back when you don’t.
BEVAN: So they were entitled to keep it, because they were granted JobKeeper on the previous month's downturn. Is that the way it worked? And so ok, we’ll continue it for you in the next few months, but actually it turned out it wasn't so bad. But you don't have to give it back?
LEIGH: It's a great question. So it does turn on the way in which JobKeeper eligibility happened. If you had a downturn in March, you were typically able to claim JobKeeper right through from March to September. So you had retailers that closed their doors for a month, then reopened them and saw a surge in sales. In some cases, such as Solomon Lew’s Premier Investments, they had the biggest ever profit year in 2020 but still received JobKeeper. Now if you're a billionaire who's seen your wealth go up on average 50 per cent last year and you've got a firm that's paid a big dividend and executive bonuses, then I think it's time to say to the taxpayer, ‘look, have the money back’. Good luck to you for your business success, but you don't need to be getting taxpayer handouts at the same time as we’re struggling to find money for things like investing in sustainable housing as you've just been talking about.Read more
ABC CANBERRA BREAKFAST
THURSDAY, 21 JANUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits.
LISH FEJER, HOST: You might have noticed in the news over the past few months that there are calls for thriving businesses, businesses that have been posting record profits this year, to hand back JobKeeper payments that they received during the pandemic. Particularly as some companies have done really well during the pandemic. So we're looking at winding JobKeeper back, JobSeeker back at the end of March, and also pouring money still into sectors that really need it like the tourism sector. The announcement yesterday from Chief Minister Andrew Barr that there's going to be a $2 million injection into the tourism sector here in the territory. Joining me this morning is Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and Charities, and Federal Member for Fenner in the ACT, Andrew Leigh. Good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Lish. Great to be with you.
FEJER: You too, thanks for joining me. This trend of record profits in many JobKeeper recipients, how common is it?
LEIGH: We don't know because the government hasn't disclosed the data. But we certainly know that there's a few firms that are in this situation. Premier Investments – which owns Smiggle and Portmans and Just Jeans - was one of those that closed its doors for a month in March last year, which made it eligible for JobKeeper. But then as soon as it opened up its stores, it saw sales roaring back. Between online sales and face to face sales, they had their best year ever last year, and yet received more than $40 million from the taxpayer in the form of JobKeeper. So the case I've been making is that for a firm like that, which was doing well enough to pay its CEO a $2.5 million bonus and pay its shareholders substantial dividends, they don't need government handouts. They’d do well to pay the money back, as indeed other firms have chosen to do.Read more
6PR PERTH LIVE WITH OLIVER PETERSON
WEDNESDAY, 20 JANUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits; Support for the hospitality industry; Deloitte’s Business Outlook.
OLIVER PETERSON, HOST: The Prime Minister seems to be on your team now, Andrew. He likes the idea of the companies repaying JobKeeper if they don't need it.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: He's willing to smile, but he's not willing to scowl. He's not willing to actually ask for firms to pay the money back who’ve received JobKeeper, seen increased profits, paid CEO bonuses and paid out stonkingly big dividends to billionaire shareholders. I mean, there are firms that just need to be asked to do the right thing and to move their corporate ethics in line with the ethics of most Australians.
PETERSON: Toyota’s done it, obviously handing back a fair wad of cash to the federal government - to us, to you and me, taxpayers of the country. The latest as well is the Super Retail Group. But there is some resistance at the moment as well, we know, from Solomon Lew’s Premier Investments, which is doing pretty well. No indication at the moment that they would be paying back the JobKeeper payments, despite making a fair bit of money as of last year.
LEIGH: Premier Investments has had record profits. They closed down their stores for a month in March last year, which is how they got to be eligible for JobKeeper. But when they reopened them, they saw a surge in sales and they've posted record profits. They've used it to pay a $2.5 million bonus to their CEO, to pay out a multi-million dollar dividend. And good luck to them for being successful, but does a firm that successful really need government handouts? I don't think so. I think they ought to follow the lead of Super Retail Group. They ought to follow the lead of Toyota Australia, which recognised that firms aren't just there for their shareholders. They're there for the whole community - for customers, for workers, for taxpayers. That's what gives companies their social licence to operate.Read more
2CC CANBERRA LIVE
WEDNESDAY, 20 JANUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting profits.
LEON DELANEY, HOST: The Federal Member for Fenner Andrew Leigh is calling on billionaires to repay JobKeeper payments as their businesses bounce back rather than paying out big executive bonuses or whopping great dividends. Now, there's no legal obligation to repay the money, but a couple of big companies already have. Toyota and Super Retail Group have committed to return the money from JobKeeper because they say it turned out their business last year had ended up being profitable after all and it was the right thing to do, to give the taxpayers back their money. Andrew Leigh is on the phone now. Good afternoon.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good afternoon, Leon. Great to be with you.Read more
Australian billionaires must repay JobKeeper, not pocket millions in bonuses - Op Ed, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age
AUSTRALIAN BILLIONAIRES MUST REPAY JOBKEEPER, NOT POCKET MILLIONS IN BONUSES
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, 20 January 2021
When the pandemic hit, billionaire Solomon Lew was quick to plead for government assistance. In one telephone call, he reportedly cried when asking Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to establish the JobKeeper program. Lew’s firm, Premier Investments, temporarily shut down many of its stores, including Smiggle, Dotti, Portmans and Just Jeans. The company applied for JobKeeper and ultimately received more than $40 million in taxpayer assistance.
Then Lew’s business came roaring back. Stores reopened and online sales boomed. In 2020, Premier Investments made a bigger profit than it had in 2019. The company paid shareholders $57 million in dividends. As the largest shareholder, Lew himself received more than $20 million.
Despite receiving a handout from the taxpayer, Premier Investments also paid its chief executive Mark McInnes a $2.5 million bonus, taking his total pay packet to more than $5 million.Read more
2SM WITH MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 19 JANUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting profits; Deloitte Business Outlook; the risks of cutting support payments too soon; Federal election.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: It's time to catch up with Andrew Leigh MP. Good morning, Andrew. How are you, mate?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Great, Marcus, how are you?
PAUL: Okay. BonusKeeper - that's what you dubbed JobKeeper. You and I went through the detail at length on the program late last year. A number of Australian businesses that were still doing quite well were paying executive bonuses and also making quite a handy profit while receiving JobKeeper. Now we learned that there's a handful of Australian companies pledging to return some of the money.
LEIGH: It's terrific, Marcus. Toyota Australia is one of those who've given the money back. They've given $18 million in JobKeeper payments back to the taxpayer and their CEO, Matthew Callachor, said that it was ‘the right thing to do as a responsible corporate citizen’. And then yesterday, we had Super Retail Group - which owns Rebel, Supercheap Auto and BCF - saying much the same, plenty of good sales. They decided that they didn't need the taxpayer money and so they're giving $1.7 million back to the taxpayer. I really think those two firms are really going to go up in their public standing. They show that their corporate ethics are in line with most Australians. If you're doing well, you don't need taxpayer handouts.Read more
2GB MONEY NEWS
WEDNESDAY, 13 JANUARY 2020
SUBJECT: Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses.
BROOKE CORTE, HOST: What do you reckon, should Premier return the millions received in JobKeeper payments to the taxpayer?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Absolutely, they should. Premier was perfectly within their rights to apply for the money. But given that they had a more profitable year in 2020 than in 2019, it beggars belief that they think that they can have their hand out for taxpayer cash. Now we've got a million people out of work, we've got another nearly million who would like to get more hours. People's unemployment benefits are being cut and the unemployment rate isn't expected to return to pre-pandemic levels for a number of years. So we just don't have the spare government cash to be subsidising big dividends to billionaires and bonuses to multi-million dollar CEOs.Read more