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
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