HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 18 FEBRUARY 2021
One of the most beautiful parts of my beautiful electorate of Fenner is the Wreck Bay community, located in the Jervis Bay Territory. Surrounded by Booderee National Park, it is a truly stunning part of the world. But residents have long complained to me about the problems of accessing high-quality mobile telephone coverage. This became a particular issue in the 2019-20 bushfires, when bushfires came close to the community. Fire is an ever-present danger in the Wreck Bay community, and yet Telstra don't see a commercial case for upgrading mobile phone coverage.
So I've written to Ministers Paul Fletcher and Mark Coulton, calling on them to make funding available through the next round of the Mobile Black Spot Program—round 5A—to upgrade mobile phone coverage in the Jervis Bay Territory. This is a key safety issue and one of equity for a community which currently lacks good quality mobile coverage.Read more
5AA MORNINGS WITH LEON BYNER
THURSDAY, 17 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Billionaires benefiting from JobKeeper.
LEON BYNER, HOST: I want to talk about JobKeeper because the situation is, I always understood, that if you were eligible as a business for JobKeeper, your turnover had to be down about 30 per cent or more in order to get it. But things have moved on somewhat and we now see that according to reports from our next guest, who is a gifted economist, at least 11 billionaires last year received dividends totalling tens of millions of dollars from companies that received JobKeeper subsidies designed to keep workers employed. Now my question is if that is true, how did those companies manage to qualify for JobKeeper when clearly their turnover wasn't down 30 per cent? So let's see if we can get some answers on this and talk to the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury, Dr Andrew Leigh. Andrew, can you answer that?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: G’day, Leon. Great to be with you. The JobKeeper program allowed you to claim based on either an actual downturn or a forecast downturn. So we don't know whether companies claimed because they told the tax office they were going to be worse off, or because they actually had a couple of months where they were worse off. But we do know that there's plenty of companies that claimed JobKeeper who had their best ever profit year in 2020. That includes Premier Investments – which owns Smiggle, Just Jeans and Portmans – which did so well it could afford to pay a CEO a $2.5 million bonus. A bonus that was financed by your listeners through the JobKeeper program. We've seen many other billionaires benefiting because they own shares in companies that received JobKeeper, but then paid out significant dividends to their owners.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 16 FEBRUARY 2021
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is a great Labor achievement. Established by the Gillard government, it seeks to mobilise capital investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and low-emissions technologies where low-emissions technologies are defined by an independent board and guidelines.
In its first year it made nearly a billion dollars of investments and, to date, has deployed $6 billion of Clean Energy Finance Corporation funds and leveraged $27 billion in private investment. It's helped finance around 18,000 small-scale projects and every year is responsible for about one million tonnes of carbon abatement. Since it began, it has returned to the Australian taxpayer some $718 million. It's an extraordinary record. It's an organisation which has improved energy technologies in Australia, which has boosted investment and created jobs in Australia, which has contributed to carbon abatement and which has returned money to the budget.
Who could be against that? The answer is the Liberal and National parties.Read more
2SM WITH MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 16 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits; the Morrison Government’s secrecy over JobKeeper data; the economic cost of the Morrison Government’s delayed vaccine rollout; Parliamentary Friends of Cycling; the right of every woman to feel safe and be safe in the workplace.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Andrew Leigh MP has been keeping track of JobKeeper, the payments made to big corporations. He's done some brilliant work in this area, where we've seen tens of millions of dollars clawed back, put back into our public coffers from businesses that have otherwise posted a profit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Andrew is on the program again, as he is each and every Tuesday. Hello, mate.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Top of the morning to you, Marcus. A lot brighter in Canberra than it is in Sydney today, I’m afraid.
PAUL: Yeah well, it sounds like it - although there is a dark cloud hovering over Canberra, given this story, and I'll get to that in a moment with you, I’ll get your comments in regards to young Brittany Higgins. But first let's go to JobKeeper. Where are we? You've got a motion in Parliament?Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 15 FEBRUARY 2021
That this House:
(1) notes that the Jobkeeper program is the most expensive one-off program ever implemented by an Australian Government, estimated to cost around $100 billion—it has been effective in supporting jobs, but the unprecedented spending requires close scrutiny;
(2) acknowledges that millions of Australians were excluded from Jobkeeper, including short-term casuals, arts sector workers, and the entire university sector;
(3) recognises that:
(a) the Jobkeeper program is scheduled to be terminated at the end of March 2021, despite severe problems in many sectors and regions across Australia, and the warnings from economists that support should not be withdrawn prematurely;
(b) while many were left out of Jobkeeper, the program provided support to firms that:
(i) recorded record profits in 2020; and
(ii) paid executive bonuses; and
(c) the practice of paying executive bonuses by firms receiving Jobkeeper has been criticised by the Australian Taxation Office, the Business Council of Australia, former Liberal Premier of Victoria Jeff Kennett and the Australian Labor Party, but not the Government; and
(4) calls on the Treasurer to make a statement to the Parliament no later than 25 February 2021 revealing how much Jobkeeper support was paid to firms that:
(a) saw their profits increase from 2019 to 2020; and
(b) paid executive bonuses.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 15 FEBRUARY 2021
Across the world, 171 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have now been delivered, including 50 million in the US, 15 million in the UK, five million in Brazil, two million in Indonesia. Israel has delivered 72 doses per 100 people.
The Prime Minister said that Australia would be ‘at the front of the queue’, and the health minister said that vaccination would be ‘commencing in January’. But the fact is that Australia didn't strike our first vaccine deal until September 2020, six months after other nations had lined up vaccine supply for their citizens.Read more
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.Read more
ABC PERTH DRIVE
THURSDAY, 4 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits; Nick Scali.
GEOFF HUTCHISON, HOST: Andrew Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury, and he joins me from Canberra. Thank you for waiting so patiently, Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Real pleasure, Geoff. Great to be with you and your listeners.
HUTCHISON: Now, obviously Nick Scali has weathered the COVID storm in some financial comfort. Should the business hand back millions of dollars it received through JobKeeper?
LEIGH: Absolutely, they should. And to get the answer to that, you just need to go to Nick Scali’s corporate ethics statement, where it says that the firm recognises the need ‘to maintain the highest standards of behaviour, ethics and accountability’. Well if they really believe that, then in a time in which they've seen their profits nearly double, they ought to do the right thing and hand back tax subsidies that it turns out they didn’t need.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 3 FEBRUARY 2021
In speaking here it is an honour to follow the member for Lingiari, who has followed this issue deeply during his long career in this place. The member for Lingiari is, as members know, the only person serving in this place who gave his first speech in the Old Parliament House. And, during his time in this parliament, he has worked to serve the most disadvantaged. His powerful speech today, telling some of the stories of those who were abused, is just another of his many contributions towards serving the people he represents and addressing the issues of deep disadvantage. He will be sorely missed when he leaves this place at the next election.
I spoke in December about some of the institutional abuse stories, about the accounts of Lars and his brother Willem, about Imelda and about the institutions here in the ACT. I did so aware of the risk of retraumatisation that always occurs with these stories, and I acknowledge those who had the bravery to share their stories with the royal commission and allow the royal commission to include those accounts of what had happened to them in its final report.Read more
2CC CANBERRA LIVE
WEDNESDAY, 3 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Auditor-General conducting an audit of the JobKeeper scheme; Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits; Scott Morrison failing to properly denounce Craig Kelly’s spreading of dangerous misinformation.
LEON DELANEY, HOST: The Morrison Government's JobKeeper wage subsidy will now come under scrutiny from the Australian National Audit Office. And in particular, the office will be taking a look at the Australian Tax Office and how they've managed the delivery of that particular support service, that particular support measure, and whether or not the ATO has been effective in enforcing the rules and the integrity of those payments. The audit was something called for by our very own local representative Dr Andrew Leigh back in December, who said that JobKeeper needed proper scrutiny. Andrew Leigh’s on the phone now. Good afternoon.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good afternoon, Leon. Great to be with you and your listeners.
DELANEY: Thanks very much for joining us today. Yes, JobKeeper - fantastic idea, great policy, has worked really well. The only problems with it is where it wasn't given to people who needed it and the fact that they're going to cut it out perhaps sooner than they should. Aside from that, were there other problems?
LEIGH: Leon, it's gone to firms which were more profitable in 2020 than they were in 2019, where their profits went up rather than going down. It's gone to firms that used JobKeeper to pay large executive bonuses, in one case a $2.5 million bonus - more than many of your listeners will earn in a lifetime. It's gone to firms that have paid out significant dividends, chunks of which have gone to billionaires such as Solomon Lew, James Packer and Gerry Harvey. So we do need appropriate scrutiny around JobKeeper, because as you say Leon, there are sectors of the economy that need JobKeeper to continue past the end of next month. The Government's cutting off JobKeeper from people who need it while allowing JobKeeper to go to people that don't need it.Read more