Senate debates

Thursday, 2 September 2021


Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 2) Bill 2021; In Committee

9:32 am

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

[by video link] These amendments confirm that One Nation are nothing more than lapdogs to the government. Three weeks ago this Senate had the government on the ropes with its JobKeeper rorts. We had a government bill to give the Treasurer a new round of powers to make COVID support payments and the Senate supported amendments moved by Senator Patrick requiring that a public register of who got JobKeeper be established. The Senate had clearly said to the government, 'If you want the parliament to give you more powers to give out more money then we want a little bit of transparency in return.'

We collectively sent an amended bill to the House. The government then rejected those amendments and we had a stand-off, so collectively we had to answer the question: do we insist or do we fold? The Australian Greens were up for insisting and at that time the entirety of the crossbench were up for insisting, but then, unfortunately, the Labor Party went to water like a dog on a hot day. The bill came back to the Senate and the Australian Labor Party folded, as they so often do.

Now here we are again with a new round of amendments to a different government bill, and it is One Nation who have folded this time. Worse than that, they are actually providing cover for the government. Their amendments would require the reporting of details of JobKeeper payments by only public listed companies. This is next to useless because we already have that information because publicly listed companies report that information. For the benefit of Senator Roberts, that's what being a publicly listed company actually involves.

Ownership Matters have done some work on this overnight. By their account, while ASX 300 companies certainly got a lot of JobKeeper—around $2.5 billion—that accounts for less than five per cent of the total of around $90 billion in JobKeeper payments. With One Nation's amendments, we won't even know about the other 95 per cent. Any JobKeeper payments made to private companies, for example, or any other entities not listed in Australia will remain secret. Payments made to private schools will remain secret. Payments made to companies owned by foreign governments—including the CCP, which One Nation claim to be so worried about—will remain secret. Payments made to companies domiciled in tax havens will remain secret. We will find out next to nothing that we didn't already know.

What One Nation's amendments actually do is provide a significant amount of cover and a massive escape hatch for the government. Just as public pressure on the JobKeeper rorts starts mounting to unsustainable levels, in steps One Nation to help out their mates in the Liberal Party. We've got more reports from the ABC this morning showing that at least $6 billion in JobKeeper payments went to companies that increased their turnover in both the June and the September quarters of last year. But, thanks to One Nation's stitch-up with the government, we won't ever find out who the majority of those companies are. We won't know who has profited so massively at the expense of the Australian public. We won't know which mates of this government lined their pockets in one of the biggest financial rorts this country has ever seen, as Australia's biggest support package became Australia's most rorted support package. And we won't know because Labor failed to insist on amendments when we had the government on the ropes last week and because One Nation have stepped up and shown they are patsies to the government in helping the government out of this massively increasing public pressure that is coming to bear on the JobKeeper rorts.


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