PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 25 AUGUST 2021
SUBJECTS: Government’s historic JobKeeper waste; Labor’s JobKeeper transparency amendment; Government’s vaccine failure; Labor’s vaccine incentive.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: JobKeeper is the biggest program ever put in place as a one-off by the Australian Government, and it involved more waste than any Australian government program has seen. We know that some $13 billion - almost $1,000 for every Australian adult - was given through the JobKeeper program to firms with rising earnings. Yes, JobKeeper saved some jobs. But there weren't jobs saved by giving money to AP Eagers, the car company with rising earnings. There weren't jobs saved by giving money to Premier Investments and Harvey Norman. There weren't jobs saved by giving money to Accent Group, who used part of it to give a $1 million bonus to their CEO. JobKeeper went to the Australian Club, a men's-only club in Sydney that increased its surplus. It went to independent schools such as The Kings School, Wesley College and Brisbane Grammar, who saw an increase in their surplus. JobKeeper went to the Royal Australian Golf Club, that surely didn't need taxpayer handouts. While the Government changed the rules three times to keep public universities out, JobKeeper went to Bond University and New York University's Sydney campus.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 24 AUGUST 2021
About once a decade this parliament debates questions around Australia's international engagement. We did so in 1991, in 2002 and in 2010 and now again in 2021. Such debates are important not only for what they say about a particular international engagement but also for what they say about when Australia makes that decision of committing troops to an international engagement. This is symbolic of the positioning of the Australian War Memorial, designed to be along the parliamentary axis. So when considering whether or not to send troops to war parliamentarians look out and see the cost of war embodied in the War Memorial. It has been argued by some that parliamentary approval should be required before committing troops. I believe that at least we should have a parliamentary debate.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 23 AUGUST 2021
Zaki Haidari is a Hazara refugee from Afghanistan. A decade ago, the Taliban took away his father, Mahram. Zaki has not seen his dad since. The Taliban beheaded Zaki's brother, Ali, at a checkpoint when they discovered that Ali was carrying a student identification card.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
WEDNESDAY, 11 AUGUST 2021
I rise in continuation on the Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 2) Bill 2021. Mr Speaker, if you hear the Morrison government speak about charities, you'd think there is an outbreak of lawlessness among Australia's charities, yet the facts speak otherwise. Over the past 3½ years, the charities commissioner has deregistered just two of the nation's 59,000 charities for breaking the law in pursuit of activist goals. That means the annual chance of a charity being deregistered for illegal activism is about 10 in a million, which is about the same as the chance that a typical Australian will commit a murder. But facts have never stood in the way of the Liberals' crackdown on charitable activism.
Their latest proposal would go further than the current law, extending the ability of the charities commissioner to deregister a charity for a summary offence or because the charities commissioner anticipates that the organisation will commit a summary offence.
A summary offence might include blocking a footpath, trespassing or even failing to close a gate on a private property, and deregistration can occur because a charity promotes an event—for example, hands out flyers about it or simply puts it on their Facebook page.Read more
Government sending JobKeeper debt notices to pensioners, but not billionaires who pocketed millions - Transcript, 5AA Mornings
5AA MORNINGS WITH LEON BYNER
WEDNSDAY, 11 AUGUST 2021
SUBJECTS: The Government pursuing pensioners but not billionaires for JobKeeper repayments
LEON BYNER, HOST: My next guest is an Australian politician, but he's also an author, he's a lawyer, former professor of economics at the Australian National University, and has been a member of the Australian House of Reps for Labor since 2010. He's a clever bloke, alright. Now, the reason I'm going to talk to him in a moment is that we have thousands of Australians getting debt notices for pandemic welfare overpayments. Many profitable businesses are evading the same repayments. Now, the Government, of course, is being accused of double standards, and if those facts I've just put to you hold water, which they appear to do, we have a fairness issue here. Let's talk with the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury, Dr Andrew Leigh. Andrew, it's good to talk to you.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Likewise, Leon. Great to be with you.
BYNER: Now, how much money? Have you done a bit of an audit to work out how much money ought to be paid back to Australian taxpayers on this?
LEIGH: Leon, if you just take the basic question of how many JobKeeper recipients actually saw their earnings go up rather than down, it's some $13 billion. Put into perspective, that's more than the Commonwealth Government spent on public schools last year. It's more than they spend on childcare last year. It's about enough to take a fibre to the home network to every urban premises in Australia. It's a lot of money.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 11 AUGUST 2021
Before question time, I spoke about the absurdity of the situation of Jan, who had received a notice requiring that she repay some $1,000 of the pension because she had received JobKeeper in her capacity as a part-time schoolteacher in Victoria. While the government is going hard after Jan, putting her on a $15-a-fortnight repayment plan, it has nothing to say to Gerry Harvey, to Solomon Lew, to Brett Blundy, to the other Australian billionaires who've gotten JobKeeper as a result of having significant shareholdings in firms that enjoyed a profitable year and paid a dividend. That's the double standard that we have in this government, a standard that says that Jan, who is on the pension, should have to pay $1,000 back through a repayment plan but that the billionaires who've benefited from JobKeeper aren't asked by this government to repay a cent. When we on this side of the House call on the government to at least exert a bit of moral courage and at least ask these firms to live up to their corporate social responsibility statements, we get told by the Prime Minister that we're playing ‘the politics of envy’. That's how out of touch this Prime Minister is—that he is willing to go after Jan but not to go after Australian billionaires.Read more
Government always picks on pensioners and gives back rubs to billionaires - Transcript, 2SM Mornings
2SM MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 10 AUGUST 2021
SUBJECTS: The Government pursuing pensioners but not billionaires for JobKeeper repayments; the Government’s vaccine failures; Scott Morrison leads the most anti-university government in Australia’s history; the Government’s lack of action on climate change.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: All right, Andrew Leigh, Federal Member for Fenner. Good morning to you, Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Marcus. Great to be with you.
PAUL: All right, look, I know there's a couple of other things you want to talk about, but I don't want to say I told you so, but it's almost reminiscent of RoboDebt. You have been working extremely hard. We don't call you #JobKeeper warrior for nothing. You've tried to call back tens of millions of dollars from big business that have done well out of the pandemic. We don't criticise them for putting their hand out at first, but once they've paid handsome dividends and made a profit and all the rest of it they should give our money back, us taxpayers. Most of the money is borrowed anyway, but they haven't, and they're not being forced to by the Federal Government, by the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, in particular. But when it comes to average income earners, people who've done the right thing, that obviously did receive JobKeeper, some of them a little bit too much, after they've done the right thing and put their tax returns in, they now have a debt and they're being chased for it - $32 million worth. Andrew, why are we chasing mums and dads and small-income, average-income earners and not big business?
LEIGH: Extraordinary double standard isn't it, Marcus? You'd think that the Government would, as its first port of call, look at those multinationals who've received JobKeeper and gotten rising earnings. Instead, they always seem to look to the little guy. The Government that developed RoboDebt, the illegal scheme that cost them a massive court settlement; the Government that wanted to put in place automatic assessments for people on the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Yet again, every time they look to raise money for the budget it's raising it from the most vulnerable rather than from the most affluent.Read more
Government only ever recovers payments from pensioners, and never billionaires - Transcript, ABC NewsRadio
TUESDAY, 10 AUGUST 2021
SUBJECT: The Government’s JobKeeper failings.
GLEN BARTHOLOMEW, HOST: Well, now to reports the Federal Government has sent thousands of people Centrelink debt letters claiming they were overpaid due to JobKeeper. According to a report in The Guardian, the Government sent more than 11,000 people Centrelink debt letters worth around are claiming rather that they were overpaid $32 million. All the while resisting frequent calls to reclaim money from the businesses who received the wage subsidy, but then went on to make a profit. Meanwhile, in Parliament yesterday, the Opposition suddenly dropped support for an amendment to the Government's new business payments which would have required companies to reveal how much money they received from the JobKeeper wage subsidy. Labor MP Andrew Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury. He's led the charge on this. He says sending debt letters to Centrelink recipients smacks of a double standard.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: I'm disappointed, Glenn, but I'm not surprised. This is the Government that invented Robodebt, and which has gone soft on big firms getting JobKeeper despite rising earnings. How many of those firms have been asked by Scott Morrison to repay? Absolutely zero. But now we've got more than 11,000 people who've received JobKeeper who are getting debt collection letters from Centrelink. From the Government that wanted to put disability support recipients on to the automatic assessments, it's sadly no surprise.Read more
Government gave taxpayer dollars to billionaires, but only pursues repayments from pensioners - Speech, House of Representatives
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 10 AUGUST 2021
Jan is a schoolteacher who works part-time, and her school received JobKeeper. As a result, according to Centrelink, she was overpaid $1,049.85 on her age pension. This is the letter that Centrelink sent to her, demanding the repayment of that amount.Read more
MONDAY, 9 AUGUST 2021
SUBJECTS: The Government’s JobKeeper failures.
CARRIE BICKMORE, HOST: Labor MP Andrew Leigh has been naming and shaming companies that profited off JobKeeper and he joins us now. Andrew, you've been pushing for transparency and accountability for big businesses receiving JobKeeper or other government support. Why did Labor back down?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Carrie, we need to make sure we prioritize support for people in lockdown right now. There's no way Labor was going to hold up money going out the door for people who are suffering under the weight of lockdown. No-one's been stronger on transparency around JobKeeper than me. It was a great program poorly implemented. Around 15 per cent of the money seems to have gone to firms whose earnings went up rather than down, like Best & Less, Harvey Norman, Premier Investments and Accent Group. Some of them used it to pay executive bonuses. We need to know more about this scheme, because it wasn't Liberal Party money they were spending, it was taxpayer money.Read more