THURSDAY, 11 NOVEMBER 2021
SUBJECT: The Morrison Government’s mismanagement of JobKeeper.
LIAM BARTLETT, HOST: But this morning, I can give you more publicly available information about JobKeeper today. We promised our listeners we would stay across this, try to monitor any news that we can to follow the dribble of extraordinary public money, taxpayers money that went to companies that really did not need it. Now first, the good news this morning. Maggie Beer Holdings has announced it has repaid every single cent it received, some $820,500 in total, all of it going back to the Treasury. And just another reason I reckon to scoff a tub of Maggie Beer burnt fig ice-cream this morning. So more power to them and a great result there. On a negative note today we've learned that the plus size fashion retailer City Chic has so far held onto every cent of the $7.2 million it was paid over the 2020-2021 financial years, despite booking 135 per cent increase in net profits. Just think about that for a moment. City Chic got 7.2 million in taxpayer assistance - that's welfare - while it expanded into Europe, acquired the German based retailer Navabi back in July and expanded into the UK in December with the purchase of the Evans brand. City Chic has declined to comment. What a surprise. The other news today is that one of the country's biggest pathology companies has pocketed more than $12 million in JobKeeper payments from you, the taxpayer, even though its profits have topped $100 million since the pandemic started. Australian Clinical Labs is the company. Over the past two financial years they've had after tax profits of $11.7 million and $88.7 million respectively. Over that time JobKeeper payments accounted for after tax profits of $12.5 million. The opposition politician who refuses to give up on this is Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and Charities. Andrew, good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Morning, Liam. Great to be chatting with you.
BARTLETT: This would be comical, if it was not such a disgraceful waste of public money. So here's a pathology company involved in COVID testing during a pandemic, copping all this money. It is truly ridiculous, Andrew.
LEIGH: It’s a vast amount of money, Liam, and it's gone straight to the venture capitalists who sold out from Australian Clinical Labs during the crisis. This is a company that's done very well. Of course, we've relied on healthcare companies during the pandemic, but they didn't need corporate welfare on top of the significant contracts that they were getting. This was money which could have been used to support small businesses that were suffering as the east coast locked down, industries such as higher education and tourism that have really been hit for six during the pandemic. And yet money was being given by Morrison and Frydenberg to firms whose revenues were going up.
BARTLETT: But there's no shame there. They're not giving it back, are they? There's no word on that.
LEIGH: They haven't done a Maggie Beer. I think that’s a pity. As you said, Liam, many of us will be looking to Maggie Beer when we're doing our Christmas shopping because they've just shown what an ethical firm does - the voluntary hand back. Now, no one's forcing firms to hand money back, no one will force firms to hand money back. But if these companies believe in their corporate social responsibility statements, then they ought to be willing to make the right decision by the Australian taxpayer at a time when plenty of people around the country are tightening their belts.
BARTLETT: There was another sector that's done very well, as people would know, because real estate prices have gone through the roof. And McGrath real estate agents, that's a big company – McGrath real estate agents it seems received over $4 million in JobKeeper. Have they indicated it's going to give any of that back yet, Andrew?
LEIGH: No, they haven't and they've made a whopping profit, Liam - more money in the last year than in the previous five years combined. We thought perhaps when the pandemic hit that there might have been a big hit to the real estate sector, but as anyone who's tried to buy a home lately knows, prices have been going up. And McGrath has benefited significantly from that. Well done to them for their significant profits, but they don't need to be getting taxpayer handouts at the same time. And that's the problem with the way in which JobKeeper was rolled out. It was a great idea, Labor called for it in the first place, and had it been well executed it would have saved jobs at a reasonable cost. But when you spray money around on firms that don’t need it, you end up inflating the cost and the cost per job saved could be as much as $200,000 - well above the average wage. When you're saving jobs at $200,000 a pop, you gotta scratch your head and ask what's going on.
BARTLETT: It’s a bit more than scratching the old noggin. But we're beginning to see a few more figures in this reporting season from public companies as it rolls out, and as it does that we will continue to give our listeners information. Andrew, thank you for keeping in touch with us. I appreciate it.
LEIGH: Real pleasure, Liam. Thank you.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.