House debates

Monday, 30 August 2021


National Anti-corruption Commission

7:30 pm

Photo of Anika WellsAnika Wells (Lilley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] If the Liberal and National parties had a slogan, it would be 'one rule for me, another rule for thee'. For the past eight years, the Abbot-Turnbull-Morrison government have waltzed into parliament and popped up in the media spinning a false narrative that Labor can't be trusted with public money. They've told the Australian public that Labor debt is bad but Liberal debt is good. The reality is that Australia has never had a government that has spent so much public money with so little to show for it. To protect the Great Barrier Reef they gave almost half a billion dollars to an organisation with six full-time staff. They purchased the Leppington Triangle land at Western Sydney airport for $30 million when it was worth only $3 million. They gave Murdoch-owned Foxtel a $30 million grant to boost under-represented sports. The Deputy Prime Minister claimed $675,000 in expenses as a drought envoy and failed to produce a final report. And don't get me started on sports rorts.

JobKeeper is the biggest wage subsidy program ever put in place by an Australian government, but it resulted in more waste than any Australian government program since Federation. By mid-2020 the Prime Minister and the Treasurer already had a report from Treasury warning that billions of JobKeeper dollars were going to companies with rising revenue. Flashing red lights should have gone off at that moment. Select figures released by the Parliamentary Budget Office have revealed that $8.4 billion was paid to almost 200,000 companies whose revenue increased from July to September 2020. I understand that bad forecasts happen, especially when the incentives for getting them wrong are so rewarding, but why isn't the Morrison government hunting down the massive corporations that received JobKeeper while their profits rolled in? The Treasurer doesn't think twice about clawing back debt from small-business owners, from people on JobSeeker or from parents who receive childcare subsidies, so why do these millionaire mates get a pass now?

I was recently contacted by a psychologist and small-business owner in my electorate of Lilley who received a bill for almost $17,000 from the ATO. This psychologist received a bill because she claimed JobKeeper after projecting that her business would suffer a loss of 30 per cent during the pandemic, but she ended up losing only 28 per cent of her business during the pandemic. That loss, that two per cent, ended up being about $2,000 in difference, but it means she now has to pay almost $17,000 in JobKeeper payments. It beggars belief that Gerry Harvey is allowed to keep his $22 million in JobKeeper payments, while he brags in the media about doubling his profits during the pandemic, but a frontline healthcare worker who runs a small family business has to pay back her JobKeeper payments because she anticipatorily miscalculated her loss by $2,000. But those are the rules that the Treasurer drew, and that really shows you where the Morrison government's priorities lie.

As we chart the path through Australia's COVID recovery in the months and years ahead, Australia's taxpayers cannot afford any more of the waste that we have seen from the Morrison government. The ever-growing list of scandals and rorts surrounding the Morrison government shows why Australia needs a powerful and independent anticorruption commission. From the hundreds of millions spent on dodgy car parks and sporting grounds in Liberal electorates to the billions that have now been spent in JobKeeper payments to firms that actually increased their profits during the pandemic, it is clear that it is long past time for a Commonwealth body to be established to tackle corruption.

Every state and territory government in Australia has its own anticorruption commission, but for some reason, after eight long years in office, the Liberals have refused to take any action to tackle corruption, leaving the Commonwealth as the only Australian government without a body dedicated to tackling corruption by public officials. I wonder why a government would resist establishing a commission to investigate government corruption for so long. I don't know, but I can tell you that federal Labor aren't afraid to shine a light. Labor's national anticorruption commission will also be able to follow the money, meaning it can investigate private individuals as well as help restore Australian people's trust in their government. (Time expired)