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.
PAUL: Who's still holding out, Andrew? Who do we need to remind of their public responsibility to Australian taxpayers? That is, look, JobKeeper was put in place to ensure that people can keep their jobs, businesses could stay afloat. Unfortunately, a number of businesses have probably misused this money, some through maybe no fault of their own considering how dire the economy was at that point. They've gone on to report better than thought profits and they need to repay some of this money back to Australian taxpayers. It’s not like the government's pressuring them to do so. I mean, Scott Morrison the Prime Minister last week accused you of playing politics of envy just because you’re asking for these businesses to have a conscience.
LEIGH: It’s extraordinary, isn’t it? The bloke that set up the RoboDebt scheme accuses others for playing politics of envy when we're asking billionaires to do the right thing. Marcus, I’d say if your listeners are in Just Jeans or Smiggle or Portmans today, they might politely suggest to the manager that the company that owns those outlets, Premier Investments, should pay back its JobKeeper. It received so much money that it was able to not only pay a stonking dividend, a big chunk of which went to its billionaire shareholder Solomon Lew, but also to pay its CEO a $2.5 million bonus. Good luck to them, but they don’t need taxpayer support and many others could do with greater support right now. We've got huge challenges, as Julian Hill's terrific report’s highlighted, in education and climate change and employment. Real wages have gone backwards since the Liberals won office. Australia has become more corrupt, we've become less productive, and we've become more indebted, and indeed more unequal. So we need government resources to go to tackling the big challenges that Australia faces, not lining the pockets of some of the most affluent Australians.
PAUL: Yeah, alright. Look, I really worry that some of these companies won't pay the money back. How can you ensure that we keep the pressure up, Andrew?
LEIGH: You're doing it exactly right now Marcus. The example of some firms paying it back I think should be commended. I do think what Nick Scali has done is terrific, but we just need to keep on talking about the issue. We need to keep on ensuring that these firms know that they have an obligation not just to their shareholders, but to the broader community too.
PAUL: Alright. I want to move on to something else. Before we do, I want to play this little bit of audio. I know you'll know where it's from. Here we go.
AUDIO CLIP: Kick the tyres and light the fires, big daddy.
PAUL: Kick the tyres and light the fires, big daddy. What movie is that from, mate?
LEIGH: Sounds like a Top Gun quote to me, doesn’t it to you?
PAUL: Top Gun. Why are we talking about Top Gun this morning, Andrew?
LEIGH: Well, the Prime Minister’s ego is unfortunately writing cheques his body can’t cash, Marcus. He’s all ad man and no substance. He's a bloke that can hold a lump of coal but can’t hold a hose. He can't do the right thing by Australians in dealing with the PFAS issue up at Williamstown but just wants the cheap headline and the easy story in the nightly news.
PAUL: He didn't get photographed a cockpit of a fighter jet, did he?
LEIGH: He’s done everything. He's been around and-
PAUL: Hang on, here he is. Yes [laughter] Here we go. Finn McHugh today in the Daily Telegraph. Let's have a look, page two, I think it is - Australia’s Top Gun of politics rode into the danger zone yesterday, entering a Hunter Valley RAAF base to the strains of Kenny Loggins’ 80s era smash hit Danger Zone from the Top Gun soundtrack. Prime Minister Scott Morrison was there to announce that Australia’s 33 strong fleet of F-35A fighter jets had been introduced, blah, blah, blah, etc. [laughter] Oh no. How corny!
LEIGH: He can’t miss that his government’s a target rich environment, Marcus. So this is the government which has so many flaws, which has still got people like Angus Taylor and Stuart Robert as ministers, in which education costs are going up and Australia’s school test scores are going down. And while the rest of the world is vaccinating its population, we’re yet to roll out vaccines, and that means the economy is poorer for longer as a result of Scott Morrison's mismanagement of the vaccine rollout.
PAUL: Alright. But don't worry, he's there. He's in the cockpit. He's in control. He’s, I don't know, kicking the tires and lighting the fires, Andrew.
LEIGH: Leadership's about substance, not spin, Marcus. The Australian people know this. People want a leader who will deal with challenges like climate change rather than just spinning their way from headline to headline. Ultimately, the Australian people are wising up to this bloke, and they recognise that he's not a problem solver. He's somebody who's got much bigger ambitions for himself than for the country.
PAUL: Alright. Look, right on cue - I think we'll have to play a little bit of it at least, Andrew. It’s great to talk to you, as always, mate. Okay.
LEIGH: Likewise, Marcus. Talk soon.
PAUL: Look out for yourself. I'll see you out there on the runway.
[Danger Zone plays]
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.