HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 3 FEBRUARY 2021
According to this morning's email update from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, there are now 103 million cases of COVID globally and there have been 2.2 million deaths. The weekly global incidence, thankfully, is down to just 3.6 million new cases. Weekly global mortality is down a little but is still at the staggering figure of 93,803 deaths.
The vaccine is coming, but in Australia's case it's coming too slowly. Globally, there have been over 100 million vaccine doses administered; in the United States, 32 million doses administered. If you look at the Our World in Data site, it has figures on the share of people vaccinated per 100. In Israel, that figure is at 36 per cent; in the United Kingdom, 13 per cent; and, in the United States, eight per cent. So other countries are getting on with the rollout.Read more
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.
LEON BYNER, HOST: This is a really interesting story out of something that we've talked about a lot. And that is that the Auditor-General - this is the federal Auditor-General, he's basically the umpire of the Parliament - is going to probe JobKeeper, because it appears that it was used to pay dividends and executive bonuses. Now, an audit of the scheme is going to examine issues including whether the tax office has put in place effective measures to protect the integrity of JobKeeper payments. And again, the bloke who's asked for this has done it for good reason, so I thought we'd get him on this morning because it's clear that this money was never intended to be a bonus for someone. It was never there for that purpose. So let's talk to the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury, Andrew Leigh. Good morning. What do we know?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: G’day, Leon. Great to be with you. What we know so far is that JobKeeper is the most expensive program the federal government's ever put in place and it's been effective, saving around 700,000 jobs. But that doesn't mean that every dollar has been well spent. We do know that there's a number of firms - among them Premier Investments which owns Portmans, Just Jeans and Smiggle - which have seen their profits go up in 2020 rather than going down. They paid an executive bonus of $2.5 million to their CEO, more than most of your listeners would earn in a lifetime, and then paid out a significant dividend, a large chunk of which will go to their billionaire shareholder Solomon Lew. Good luck to them for their success, but they've also received millions of dollars of taxpayer handouts in JobKeeper. I don't think that's why the JobKeeper program was designed.Read more
THE BRIEFING PODCAST
TUESDAY, 2 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Billionaires getting richer while battlers struggle; Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits.
JAN FRAN, HOST: When Bloomberg tallied all this up, Australian billionaires saw their wealth go up by 50 per cent during the pandemic.
TOM TILLEY, HOST: Yeah, and the Aussie billionaires do particularly well, because in the US and the UK billionaires saw their wealth go up by 25 per cent. So compared to the Aussies on 50 per cent-
FRAN: 25 per cent, that’s terrible.
FRAN: So in today's briefing, we're asking, is this fair? Should they be sharing their wealth?
TILLEY: Yeah, especially given people had such a tough time during the pandemic. When you think back to the start, remember when everyone was like cheering for the nurses? They were clapping the frontline workers in supermarkets, delivery drivers, teachers, cleaners. Well, they’re paid wages and wages have stayed flat. And overall the economy, during that same period as the Rich List, went backwards 3.8 per cent.Read more
2SM WITH MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 2 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits; Vaccination program; Industrial relations reform; Federal election; Treasurer not focussing enough on struggling sectors of the economy.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: JobKeeper – or BonusKeeper, I think BonusKeeper is what my next guest has dubbed it as and he's done some magnificent work. Although the Prime Minister yesterday I see basically turned around and said that he's playing politics with this issue or certainly the federal opposition is. Dr Andrew Leigh is a regular on the program each and every Tuesday. Good morning, Andrew. How are you, mate?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Marcus. Fighting fit. How are you?
PAUL: Yeah, good. Thank you. And you'll need to be because apparently, according to the Prime Minister who's dismissed your concerns, you're simply playing the politics of envy, quote unquote.
LEIGH: Nothing like having clichés thrown at you by a former ad man, is there Marcus? But the fact is that the Prime Minister designed RoboDebt to harass people on welfare. Then when people ask reasonable questions about why JobKeeper is going to millionaire CEOs or billionaire shareholders, he dismisses them with the oldest cliché in the book. Now the fact is, this is about fairness and decency. It's about making sure that taxpayer dollars are spent where they need to go at a time when we're facing a recession and a pandemic.Read more
THURSDAY, 28 JANUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Labor calling for an inquiry into the JobKeeper scheme; Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits; Climate change.
THOMAS ORITI, HOST: As Australia's economy recovers from the initial blow of the pandemic and we approach these final weeks of the JobKeeper wage subsidy, there are calls for large companies that recorded profits to return government funds. Mining Company Iluka resources has joined carmaker Toyota and the Super Retail Group in voluntarily returning millions of dollars in JobKeeper payments after a surprisingly profitable year. So that begs the question, I mean, are there other companies that have profited from the wage subsidy and should they be forced to pay it back? Andrew Leigh is a federal Labor MP and the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and he joins us live now. Morning, Andrew. Thanks for your time.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning. Great to be with you.
ORITI: Are you surprised that companies are volunteering to pay back millions of dollars to the government?
LEIGH: Not at all. Every large company says it's committed to corporate social responsibility, and this is simply the expression of that sentiment. If you've claimed JobKeeper thinking that your profits are going to be down and in fact they turn out to be up, then the right thing to do is to say to the taxpayer ‘we don't need government handouts, we've done well and here's the money back’ - in order to support people in the tourism sector, university sector, the arts sector, to support casuals, to support the million people who are out of work or the other million people who'd like more hours. There are people out there doing it tough and good corporates recognise that if they're not among them, they should hand the government subsidies back.Read more
2SM WITH MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 26 JANUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits; Australia Day; Margaret Court; Gender imbalance in the Australia Day awards system and the need for revamp.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: The first of our Australia Day guests today is Andrew Leigh MP. Good morning to you Andrew and happy Australia Day, mate.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Marcus. Great to be with you.
PAUL: I see on page 20 of today's Herald, there's a push on corporate Australia to repay JobKeeper. Now you and I have discussed this in the last couple of months. Corporate governance experts are urging more of Australia's big companies to repay funds received through the federal government's JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme, warning taxpayers will bear the brunt of the $90 billion cost for decades, Andrew.
LEIGH: Absolutely, Marcus. And what a great patriotic moment it would be if some of these corporates decided that they'd make a national gesture to give back taxpayer subsidies they don't need for the good of the country, to help those less fortunate than themselves. I can't think of a more generous patriotic gesture than that from some of the corporates who received handouts last year - thinking they would need them - but then had a bumper year of profits.Read more
ABC ADELAIDE MORNINGS
THURSDAY, 21 JANUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits; Labor’s plan to invest in social housing.
DAVID BEVAN, HOST: Dr Andrew Leigh, the Federal Labor MP for Fenner who in a previous life was an economist. Good morning, Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, David. Great to be with you.
BEVAN: Dr Leigh, can you explain to us, these reports of some companies - I think it was the Super Retail Group, owner of Rebel, Macpac, BFC. They're returning $1.7 million to the government. Last week, Toyota also announced they’ll pay back $18 million. These are significant amounts of money here. This is JobKeeper. What's going on? Are they required to because they didn't have the downturn they were expecting or is this a PR exercise? What's going on?
LEIGH: There's no obligation, David. It's just a matter of good corporate ethics. I thought the chief executive of Toyota Australia Matthew Callachor put it really nicely when he said returning JobKeeper payments was ‘the right thing to do as a responsible corporate citizen’. And he recognises that firms aren’t just there for their shareholders – they’re there for their customers, for their workers and for the broader community. Acting as Toyota and Super Retail Group have done builds faith with the community that you’ll take government handouts when you need them, but you'll give the money back when you don’t.
BEVAN: So they were entitled to keep it, because they were granted JobKeeper on the previous month's downturn. Is that the way it worked? And so ok, we’ll continue it for you in the next few months, but actually it turned out it wasn't so bad. But you don't have to give it back?
LEIGH: It's a great question. So it does turn on the way in which JobKeeper eligibility happened. If you had a downturn in March, you were typically able to claim JobKeeper right through from March to September. So you had retailers that closed their doors for a month, then reopened them and saw a surge in sales. In some cases, such as Solomon Lew’s Premier Investments, they had the biggest ever profit year in 2020 but still received JobKeeper. Now if you're a billionaire who's seen your wealth go up on average 50 per cent last year and you've got a firm that's paid a big dividend and executive bonuses, then I think it's time to say to the taxpayer, ‘look, have the money back’. Good luck to you for your business success, but you don't need to be getting taxpayer handouts at the same time as we’re struggling to find money for things like investing in sustainable housing as you've just been talking about.Read more
ABC CANBERRA BREAKFAST
THURSDAY, 21 JANUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits.
LISH FEJER, HOST: You might have noticed in the news over the past few months that there are calls for thriving businesses, businesses that have been posting record profits this year, to hand back JobKeeper payments that they received during the pandemic. Particularly as some companies have done really well during the pandemic. So we're looking at winding JobKeeper back, JobSeeker back at the end of March, and also pouring money still into sectors that really need it like the tourism sector. The announcement yesterday from Chief Minister Andrew Barr that there's going to be a $2 million injection into the tourism sector here in the territory. Joining me this morning is Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and Charities, and Federal Member for Fenner in the ACT, Andrew Leigh. Good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Lish. Great to be with you.
FEJER: You too, thanks for joining me. This trend of record profits in many JobKeeper recipients, how common is it?
LEIGH: We don't know because the government hasn't disclosed the data. But we certainly know that there's a few firms that are in this situation. Premier Investments – which owns Smiggle and Portmans and Just Jeans - was one of those that closed its doors for a month in March last year, which made it eligible for JobKeeper. But then as soon as it opened up its stores, it saw sales roaring back. Between online sales and face to face sales, they had their best year ever last year, and yet received more than $40 million from the taxpayer in the form of JobKeeper. So the case I've been making is that for a firm like that, which was doing well enough to pay its CEO a $2.5 million bonus and pay its shareholders substantial dividends, they don't need government handouts. They’d do well to pay the money back, as indeed other firms have chosen to do.Read more
6PR PERTH LIVE WITH OLIVER PETERSON
WEDNESDAY, 20 JANUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting huge profits; Support for the hospitality industry; Deloitte’s Business Outlook.
OLIVER PETERSON, HOST: The Prime Minister seems to be on your team now, Andrew. He likes the idea of the companies repaying JobKeeper if they don't need it.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: He's willing to smile, but he's not willing to scowl. He's not willing to actually ask for firms to pay the money back who’ve received JobKeeper, seen increased profits, paid CEO bonuses and paid out stonkingly big dividends to billionaire shareholders. I mean, there are firms that just need to be asked to do the right thing and to move their corporate ethics in line with the ethics of most Australians.
PETERSON: Toyota’s done it, obviously handing back a fair wad of cash to the federal government - to us, to you and me, taxpayers of the country. The latest as well is the Super Retail Group. But there is some resistance at the moment as well, we know, from Solomon Lew’s Premier Investments, which is doing pretty well. No indication at the moment that they would be paying back the JobKeeper payments, despite making a fair bit of money as of last year.
LEIGH: Premier Investments has had record profits. They closed down their stores for a month in March last year, which is how they got to be eligible for JobKeeper. But when they reopened them, they saw a surge in sales and they've posted record profits. They've used it to pay a $2.5 million bonus to their CEO, to pay out a multi-million dollar dividend. And good luck to them for being successful, but does a firm that successful really need government handouts? I don't think so. I think they ought to follow the lead of Super Retail Group. They ought to follow the lead of Toyota Australia, which recognised that firms aren't just there for their shareholders. They're there for the whole community - for customers, for workers, for taxpayers. That's what gives companies their social licence to operate.Read more
2CC CANBERRA LIVE
WEDNESDAY, 20 JANUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses; Companies repaying JobKeeper payments after reporting profits.
LEON DELANEY, HOST: The Federal Member for Fenner Andrew Leigh is calling on billionaires to repay JobKeeper payments as their businesses bounce back rather than paying out big executive bonuses or whopping great dividends. Now, there's no legal obligation to repay the money, but a couple of big companies already have. Toyota and Super Retail Group have committed to return the money from JobKeeper because they say it turned out their business last year had ended up being profitable after all and it was the right thing to do, to give the taxpayers back their money. Andrew Leigh is on the phone now. Good afternoon.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good afternoon, Leon. Great to be with you.Read more