Wednesday, 24 March 2021
Statement by the Speaker
A year ago billionaire Solomon Lew reportedly cried as he spoke on the phone to the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, urging him to create JobKeeper. Lew's firm, Premier Investments—which owns Just Jeans, Jay Jays and Smiggle—qualified for over $45 million in JobKeeper support from taxpayers. Today Premier Investments announced a record profit, almost twice what it was making before the pandemic. Premier Investments has paid its CEO a $2.5 million bonus, more than many workers will earn in a lifetime. They paid $111 million to shareholders, over $30 million of which will end up in Solomon Lew's pockets.
The Business Council of Australia and the Australian Taxation Office say firms getting JobKeeper shouldn't pay bonuses. The head of the small business council says this kind of behaviour is 'pretty close to theft'. The Australian Financial Review editorial today says Premier Investments should pay its JobKeeper back. As much as one-fifth of JobKeeper may have gone to firms like Premier Investments whose profits were rising. The Liberals may have squandered $10 billion to $20 billion. Last month Solomon Lew's $40 million superyacht, Maridome, finally made it to Melbourne after being caught by COVID on the other side of the world. He must be delighted to have it back. Perhaps to thank the Australian taxpayer he could rename his super yacht 'JobKeeper'.