SUBJECT: JobKeeper being misused as BonusKeeper and DividendKeeper.
ROBBIE BUCK, HOST: Well, this is an interesting one. We’ve been hearing about JobKeeper coming to an end at the end of this month and some of the industries that are really concerned - the tourism industry, for example, and plenty of people in the arts as well who are concerned about what's going to happen there. But then on the other side of it, there are growing calls for some of the companies that have received millions of dollars in the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme to hand back some of those dollars after hitting very high - sometimes record - income over the last 12 months.
WENDY HARMER, HOST: Some of them got a good chunk of change. I mean, Qantas -they got the 459 million. Another company called AP Eagers, 130 million. And with no real understanding, I don't think, or guarantees of where the money's actually gone.
BUCK: Yeah. We’ve been told that an investigation will be conducted into the federal government's $100 billion scheme, amid concerns that some of the money that was supposed to be used to retain staff was diverted to pay dividends and bonuses. Companies like Harvey Norman and Athlete's Foot owner Accent Group have refused to pay back the money to the government, despite having bumper seasons. Andrew Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Treasury Minister and requested the investigation last year, and he joins us from Canberra. Morning, Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Morning, Robbie. Great to be with you.Read more
SUBJECTS: JobKeeper being misused as BonusKeeper and DividendKeeper; allegations of sexual assault against a cabinet minister.
MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: Now, we are going to be joined very shortly by the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury Andrew Leigh, who is calling on the companies - many companies - who have accepted JobKeeper payments and have gone on to make pretty big profits to return them. Especially those companies that have made big bonuses, delivered big bonuses to their executives. Andrew Leigh joins us now from Canberra. Good morning to you.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Morning, Michael. Great to be with you.
ROWLAND: So how extensive would you like this review of JobKeeper to be, and what sort of companies are you talking about?
LEIGH: JobKeeper was meant to save the jobs of battlers, not to allow billionaires to buy another yacht. But the fact is that there's many firms which have enjoyed their biggest profit year ever in 2020, despite receiving JobKeeper. Good luck to them, but they shouldn't be receiving taxpayer handouts if they've been that profitable. And many of these firms, contrary to tax office advice, paid executive bonuses. I’m thinking of firms like Premier Investments, which runs Just Jeans and Smiggle, that paid a $2.5 million bonus to its CEO - more than most of your viewers will learn in an entire career. They also paid out a significant dividend, a large chunk of which went to their billionaire shareholder, Solomon Lew. They simply don't need taxpayer handouts, and they should give the money back.Read more
2SM WITH MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 2 MARCH 2021
SUBJECTS: Companies refusing to repay JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits; Proposed JobSeeker increase; the Aged Care Royal Commission report; allegations of sexual assault against a cabinet minister.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Let's introduce a warrior.
[‘The Warrior’ plays]
PAUL: We’ve got a water warrior, Helen Dalton. We’ve got a corruption warrior in Jodi McKay. But we’re going to anoint a brand new one today. Andrew Leigh, good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: G’day, Marcus. Terrific to be joining the ranks of your warriors.
PAUL: Alright. You are our #JobKeeperWarrior. How much Australian taxpayer dollars have you clawed back?
LEIGH: Well, we've gone past the $100 million mark, Marcus. We had healthcare company Healius handing back their JobKeeper last week and even the ports operator Qube handing back half of the JobKeeper that they didn't need. But we also had a week in which we saw the luxury car dealer AP Eagers report a profit of over $100 million, after receiving $130 million of JobKeeper. And we saw Harvey Norman turn up an extraordinary profit - $600 million - and still refuse to repay their JobKeeper. So a few firms have done the right thing, Marcus, but there's plenty out there that have gotten massive profits off the back of taxpayer subsidies and ought to hand back corporate welfare that they didn’t need.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 24 FEBRUARY 2021
As a former professor at the Australian National University, I hadn't expected that I would have the opportunity of being in a parliament when two consecutive higher education bills were being debated, this one being the Education Legislation Amendment (2021 Measures No. 1) Bill 2021. It's an exciting day for higher education indeed to have received so much focused attention from the parliament. But there is some slight tension between these two bills. We have just finished debate on a bill ostensibly about academic freedom of speech and we are now debating the Australian Research Council, a body in which the coalition has meddled, thereby reducing the freedom of speech of academics and reducing the tradition of careful, impartial scholarship and independent peer review.
Academic freedom of speech is a great thing. It was Gough Whitlam who said:
Academic freedom is the first requirement, the essential property of a free society. More than trade, more than strategic interests, more even than common systems of law or social or political structures, free and flourishing universities provide the true foundation of our western kinship, and define the true commonality of the democratic order.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 24 FEBRUARY 2021
The more companies report, the more we learn about the appalling mismanagement of the JobKeeper scheme by the Morrison government.
Accent Group got $45 million in JobKeeper, yet its 2020 profits were up 40 per cent. It paid its CEO a million-dollar bonus, and shareholders got $65 million in dividends, $11 million of which went to a Monaco billionaire. Bentley dealer Autosports got $2 million in JobKeeper and doubled its profits. Investment bank Moelis got $3 million in JobKeeper and paid $4 million in executive bonuses.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 23 FEBRUARY 2021
In 1997 the anti-personnel mine ban treaty was opened for signature by the UN General Assembly and it came into force in 1999. When it was initially proposed, the Australian Army argued in favour of the tactical utility of landmines. But, as Hugh White recalls, the debate within Defence swung against mines as a result of people's recollection of the experience of de-mining in Cambodia and also the casualties caused in Vietnam, where landmines laid by Australians were dug up and used against our troops. As Stephanie Koorey noted in an article about the landmine treaty for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, it has saved lives as a result of changing the norms around landmines.Read more
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
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 22 FEBRUARY 2021
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.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
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 18 FEBRUARY 2021
This week we learnt that $3 million of taxpayer money went via JobKeeper to Moelis, an investment bank that last year paid its executives millions of dollars. At a time when wages are flat for most Australians, the wealth of billionaires rose 59 per cent in the last 12 months.
At least 11 Australian billionaires, including Solomon Lew, Gerry Harvey, John Gandel, Brett Blundy, James Packer and Nick Politis, have benefited from the JobKeeper program.Read more