Tuesday, 31 August 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Treasurer. Gerry Harvey has now repaid $6 million in JobKeeper out of the $13 billion that went to companies with rising revenue. Gerry Harvey thinks the money should be paid back. Why doesn't the Treasurer?
I thank the member for Fenner for his question. On 25 March this year, I did an interview on ABC radio, and I said the following:
… I would welcome Gerry Harvey or any other major company that's in the position to repay their JobKeeper payments back. I would welcome that.
That is what I said in March of this year. Let me remind the House of another quote:
We've made it really clear for some time now that JobKeeper - which has been doing a lot of good in the economy, it's the reason that we proposed it in the first place …
That was said this year. Who said that? Who said it was doing a lot of good and they proposed it in the first place? It was the member for Rankin. Only the Labor Party could say that they invented a program that they are now criticising.
Thanks, Mr Speaker—I was quite good at that job! On relevance: the Treasurer wasn't asked about alternatives. We know we did support wage subsidies and we did support JobKeeper. That's why we voted for it. But this is about the rorting—
The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat and won't use points of order to introduce new material. If he doesn't like the question that's been asked, he can't alter it by way of a point of order—that is the point I'm trying to make. I do though just say to the Treasurer: this was a specific question, and I think he was entirely relevant to it when he first got to the dispatch box, but it isn't an opportunity to range more widely on the topic.
Well, Mr Speaker, it is a good opportunity to talk about the importance and the success of the JobKeeper program, a program that was described as 'remarkable' by the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia; a program that was described as 'well targeted' by the federal Treasury in a review they did in mid last year; a program that the Australian tax office delivered, in which it was, in the words of the Australian National Audit Office, 'effective in managing risks'.
Now, the Prime Minister earlier alluded to the economic abyss that Australia faced last year when we introduced the JobKeeper program. I want to point out to those opposite that business confidence fell by 62 points in March of last year, the largest single monthly decline and the lowest level since the survey began. But, in the months following, business confidence increased by 17 points and then a further 26 points to May of last year. Over March 2020, consumer confidence fell by 38 per cent, a record low for the index. The week following the announcement of JobKeeper, consumer confidence increased by 10 percentage points, and consumer confidence has continued to improve.
JobKeeper is perhaps the most remarkably successful economic support program this country has ever seen. And it's contributed to the strong rebound in the economy that we saw at the end of last year and the start of this year.