House debates

Thursday, 18 March 2021


JobKeeper Payment

12:12 pm

Photo of Stephen JonesStephen Jones (Whitlam, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

If you're going to run up a trillion dollars worth of debt, then you want to have something to show for it. Today we learnt that not only has the government got nothing to show for it—not one significant infrastructure project to show for the trillion dollars worth of debt that this government has run up over the last nine months—but, worse than that, the JobKeeper program that was supposed to be put in place to save people's jobs has been rorted by some of the biggest companies on the Australian stock exchange to pump up their profits and pay executive bonuses and dividends. Over $10 billion has been funnelled from Australian taxpayers into the profits of these companies and into dividends of these companies that are making absolute bumper profits. That is bad enough, but when you look at what the government is not doing to address the desperate situation for those businesses in Australia who, in a few short weeks, are going to be left with no support, then that problem is a national disgrace! Over $10 billion to companies so they can channel it into bonuses and dividends, yet travel agents and those exposed to the international tourism industry are going to have to lay off staff.

Last week the government made, in full Scott Morrison fashion, a huge announcement. The Prime Minister made the announcement, 'We're going to be providing money to save the tourism industry.' It was absolute nonsense. I welcome the fact that some people are going to be given incentives to spend money to get on a plane, but what it means for my electorate is there's going to be taxpayer-funded incentives for people from my electorate to spend their money somewhere else in the country but no incentive for people to come to my electorate and to my region—destinations in the Illawarra, Southern Highlands and South Coast—to spend their money on tourism. This is an absolute disgrace.

Businesses are doing it very tough indeed. Last week I met with Leisure Coast Limousine Service. They have lost two-thirds of their business since the start of the pandemic. They have gone from 32 drivers to 23 drivers. This is a business that has been in business for decades, with three generations of the one family working in this business. They are currently facing the threat of having to close their doors. Scott Morrison—the Prime Minister tin ears—

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'd ask the member to call the Prime Minister by his title.

Photo of Stephen JonesStephen Jones (Whitlam, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

The circumstances facing people in businesses like this is absolute death.

I also met with a representative of my local travel agent, Donna Jones. They are facing the situation where they're going to have to close their doors as well. Forty three per cent of travel agents believe they're unlikely to return a profit at least until 2023, if indeed they are even in business then. A recent survey of travel agents found that 94 per cent of them are dealing with a decline in revenue, and 99 per cent, at least, are experiencing a 70 per cent decline in revenue. They feel like they are this far away from having to close their doors. The Prime Minister and this government have not got an answer to the problems.

It is adding insult to injury that, at the same time, this JobKeeper program has wasted so much money. It has been the life support for industries like Leisure Coast Limousine Service, travel agents and others in the tourism industry in my electorate and around the country. But they're about to have the rug pulled out from under them. Today it was revealed that these programs that we lobbied so hard to get in place under this government have been rorted and exploited—not by a few pennies, but by $10 billion. If that $10 billion had been put to use in a real program to support travel agents and to support the tourism industry all down the east coast, then in a few weeks time we wouldn't be about to see thousands of employees having to face the sack and lose their jobs. We call on the Prime Minister to do the right thing. We call on these businesses to do the right thing. How much of that $10 billion that has gone into fluffing up executive bonuses and dividends in businesses that were supposed to be on their knees could be rechannelled back into the tourism industry and back into those businesses that really need it? (Time expired)