ABC THE BUSINESS
WEDNESDAY, 24 MARCH 2021
SUBJECT: JobKeeper waste.
ALICIA BARRY, HOST: Record pyjama sales and online shopping drove an 89 per cent surge in Premier Investments' half year profit. Solomon Lew's company owns a range of brands. The standout was Peter Alexander, and a 60 per cent jump in internet sales also helped. As did another $15 million top-up in JobKeeper payments, bringing the total JobKeeper received by Premier to $70 million. I spoke with Labor MP Andrew Leigh, who says Premier Investments doesn't need corporate welfare.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: JobKeeper was not a program designed to go to firms with rising profits. It was meant to keep battlers in jobs, not help billionaires buy their next yacht. Premier Investments should do the right thing and pay the money back. It didn't need JobKeeper support, and the right thing right now would be to return that money to the taxpayer for people who really do need support.
BARRY: It legally qualified for JobKeeper and it hasn't done anything illegal with the money. It's well within its entitlements to use it.
LEIGH: This isn't a question of legality. It's a question of morality. The Business Council of Australia and the Australian Tax Office say you shouldn't take JobKeeper and pay executive bonuses. Yet Premier Investments last year paid its CEO a $2.5 million bonus, more than many Australians will earn in a lifetime.
BARRY: Premier Investments says it will use the last round of JobKeeper as intended, keeping it aside to pay staff should it need it in future lockdowns.
LEIGH: Premier Investments has enjoyed higher profits than it did before the pandemic. It’s the absolute case study of a firm that didn't need taxpayer support. Corporate welfare of this scale is utterly unnecessary, and we know that among listed companies a fifth of the money that the government paid out went to firms with rising profits. If that's true across the entire program, we're talking about $10 to $20 billion of taxpayer money - more than $500 per Australian - that went to firms that didn't need it.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra