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
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
ENGAGED EGALITARIANISM: REINVIGORATING GLOBALISATION IN THE POST-COVID AGE
The Canberra Times, 1 February 2021
Pandemics increase our fear of foreigners and lend power to the isolationists. COVID-19 has empowered those who believe in shutting out the world, and made life tougher for those who believe in the benefits of engaged multilateralism and diverse multiculturalism. Not since the twenty-first century began has there been a better time to be a racist, xenophobe, protectionist, chauvinist, or jingoist.
But just as the cost of coronavirus has been disproportionately borne by the most vulnerable, so too a retreat from global engagement would hit disadvantaged people the hardest. A more closed economy means slower growth, which in turn means that unemployment will stay higher for longer. Less overseas investment will constrain productivity growth, limiting potential wage rises. Weaker international institutions will slow the rate at which vaccines flow to the world’s poorest nations. Nations that depend on remittances and foreign aid are especially vulnerable in the face of a downturn.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
I’m inviting applications for a Canberra-based media adviser from April to November 2021, while my current adviser takes maternity leave.
I have a pretty broad range of ways I engage on policy issues, from books, op-eds and interviews to social media, tele townhalls, podcasts, and public events.
My media adviser helps draft and coordinate those ideas. This involves drafting media releases, speeches and op-eds, liaising with journalists, crafting content for social media and working with the wider Labor team. The hours tend to exceed 40 hours a week and can be unpredictable, which is why there's an overtime allowance.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