Eight Questions the Morrison Government Needs to Answer About JobKeeper

Eight Questions the Morrison Government Needs to Answer About JobKeeper

Costing almost $100 billion (nearly $4,000 per Australian), JobKeeper is the most expensive single program ever deployed by the Australian Government. Unlike other advanced countries, our wage subsidy scheme has no public register of who received it.

JobKeeper helped save jobs, but too much has gone to firms that didn’t need the money. The Morrison Government has been secretive about its details. They’ve been treating JobKeeper like it’s Liberal Party money, not taxpayer money.

The Australian Taxation Office has now received four Business Activity Statements and a tax return from every Australian business that received JobKeeper. Yet the Government has only released information that puts the Coalition in a positive light.

Here’s eight questions the Morrison Government need to answer:

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Vaccine delay costing Australians - Transcript, 2SM with Marcus Paul

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

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?

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Australians want the truth - Speech, House of Representatives

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 15 FEBRUARY 2021

I move:

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.

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Vaccine rollout slow and costly - Speech, House of Representatives

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.

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Morrison more Goose than Maverick - Transcript, 2SM with Marcus Paul

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

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.

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JobKeeper handbacks a matter of ethics - Transcript, ABC Perth Drive

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
RADIO INTERVIEW

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.

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Too many still waiting on redress - Speech, House of Representatives

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.

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Every Aussie has stake in getting JobKeeper truth - Transcript, 2CC Canberra Live

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

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.

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Misinformation must be called out - Speech, House of Representatives

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.

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JobKeeper needs transparency - Transcript, 5AA Mornings

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

5AA MORNINGS

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.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.