Thursday, 2 September 2021
Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 2) Bill 2021; In Committee
I rise to speak about the Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 2) Bill 2021. I have spoken a number of times in the committee stage, so I don't intend to labour or repeat some of the ideas that I've already presented. But Labor is totally committed to making sure we are transparent about this and many other questions in terms of the corporate largesse that is so casually doled out by the government—$13 billion in this instance.
I was clear about the deficiencies of the amendment that has just been passed in this chamber. Listed companies received only three per cent of the entire JobKeeper program. There's no harm in what the government cooked up with One Nation, but it adds nothing to the transparency that Australian taxpayers are calling for and it doesn't address the staggering waste that Mr Frydenberg has overseen. That amendment will deal with 120 companies in total, and they received $2½ billion. Meanwhile, we know there are over 150,000 firms who were beneficiaries of that $13 billion in JobKeeper. They had rising takings, and we will know nothing about them. In contrast, the amendment that is before us now does deal with this issue. It would require much broader transparency. It's an amendment that was moved, at least for this bill, by me in the first instance. An identical amendment was moved by Senator Patrick to accommodate the previously described hurt feelings that One Nation have about various other matters unrelated to this question.
Just as Harvey Norman's repayment of $6 million this week shows the importance of public scrutiny, the positive effects that ASIC has already generated by requiring some measure of transparency show us exactly why we need a much clearer picture of the big firms that profited from JobKeeper. The reason we brought this amendment forward, the reason we brought a similar amendment forward, the reason we support Senator Patrick's amendment now and the reason we voted for a similar amendment in a previous debate is that we know the government is desperately trying to cover up $13 billion of waste—$13 billion of waste. We'd like to know where it went and so would most Australians. The question is: why does the government persist in trying to cover it up?