Thursday, 2 September 2021
Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 2) Bill 2021; In Committee
[by video link] When Senator Patrick put this whole thing up, we said, yes, it sounded good—to hold companies who got payments under the JobKeeper program accountable. After further investigation into it and given information that we received, of course it's not going to achieve what it was intended to.
Senator Roberts has covered a lot of the issues here. It's interesting that here we have two senators on One Nation's side of the parliament doing the work that most of the Labor senators should have been on top of. Labor put up the same amendment, which is going to achieve absolutely nothing if the end result you want is accountability. It's not going to achieve that. Yet we can actually find out the information and put up an amendment that is going to have more results than this politicking—getting out there and saying to people, 'Look what we're doing. Aren't we great? We're going to call for accountability,' which will achieve absolutely nothing. If those in Labor are really serious about accountability, then why haven't they put up an amendment that says companies should pay back the money? Why? Because they're too gutless. That's exactly right—they're too gutless. And they also know that, if you did that, companies would shut down and close their doors, and people would lose their jobs.
Now, we've dug deep into this. Senator Patrick—he's up for re-election, and this is important—is saying, 'I'm out there beating the drum, and I want accountability,' which will prove absolutely nothing. It all sounds good on the surface. That's what we get on the floor of the parliament all the time—what sounds good. But in parliament I've found, for the last five years, that we're bandaiding legislation that has been poorly drafted and doesn't do what it's supposed to do.
Our proposed amendment on sheet 1442 will see ASIC publish on its website a consolidated report on JobKeeper payments by a listed entity. This information will be useful because matching financial information will be available in a standardised form. My amendment is a transparency measure that will lead to a level of accountability through reputational damage to listed companies and by quantifying part of the money wasted by the poor design of the JobKeeper program. Senator Patrick's amendment is not an alternative transparency measure, because it can achieve nothing. You see, publicly listed companies have to show their profit and loss. Privately listed companies don't. What are we comparing it to? Absolutely nothing. Senator Patrick, I've got to tell you: you should've been in the show; you're the greatest showman on earth, because what you're trying to sell us is a lemon. The Labor Party have gone along with you. And you know what? The Labor Party really don't want to see this get up with our votes. And that's why you're trying to shame One Nation into supporting your amendment, which is useless, because the Labor Party know that it will get knocked back in the lower house. You've got no chance of getting it up. But at least, with our amendment, there is a chance that it will get up and will lead to accountability. So Labor are just smoke and mirrors, again, as usual. They don't even know what they're talking about. They're going on this little trip with you, propping you up and having a go at One Nation. Remember, everyone: it's coming into election time. And there is going to be no end result.
I remember when I tried to get my dairy bill up and it needed one vote. That one vote was Rex Patrick's. He didn't support it. He said to me: 'I go back and I talk to the people in my electorate. I actually find out what their feelings are and how they feel about things.' Well, Senator Patrick, have you read the Advertiser newspaper today in your state? Are you aware that small businesses are totally against you? You have not spoken to them. You have not consulted with them. They are against you on this. And you say you talk to people? That's not the case; that's not what I'm hearing. So this is just you grandstanding to say, 'Look at me and what I'm achieving.' You're achieving nothing! And, like I said, if the Labor Party go along with this, then you're too bloody gutless, because you should've put up an amendment on how you're going to get the money back. No-one's done that.
As to this shaming of businesses: you're going to tie up everyone in this—people who have done the right thing. You might have those ratbags out there, but this is going to tie up small mum-and-dad businesses that have done the right thing and it could have unintended consequences on them. Who knows—the banks might come after them, or radical groups might come after them and name and shame them. You know, there are people in our society who, no matter how much heat you put on them to shame them, will not change their stinking attitude.
So what we do is: we start with legislation that is going to expose those people and make a start which will work. Your amendment will not work.
I have tried to work with the government, to see sense in this, to actually get accountability. That's why Senator Roberts and I have worked hard together on this to come up with a solution. Like I said, we are constantly trying to work with the government, or the opposition, or the crossbenchers, to come up with something that is right for the people of this country. We're sick of this. Labor has a go at me, saying, 'We're not supporting this amendment, because it's been rushed.' How many times have we heard that with my amendments? 'We're not supporting it, because it's rushed.' Labor are so bloody-minded that they don't want to support something that may be good for the people of Australia, because they don't want to see that One Nation is doing their job. That's why they don't support us on most of our amendments, amendments that are good for this country.
If good legislation is put up by whichever side of politics, we will support it. But I am opposing your amendment because it achieves nothing. And I'm not going to put those small businesses into a situation where they may be attacked unnecessarily and unwarrantedly. I say to Labor again: unless you've got a real fair dinkum argument on this you should be supporting my amendment, because I'll tell you now that Senator Patrick's hasn't got a chance of getting up and you damn well know it. You know it'll be thrown out because you haven't got the numbers in the lower house. It'll be thrown out anyway.
Let's have some common sense here and support this amendment, which is going to bring some accountability to this country. That's what you really want, isn't it? You want accountability, not just to be out there grandstanding, saying, 'Look what I'm doing; I'm trying to get accountability'? It will achieve nothing because there's no transparency. A lot of these private and listed companies don't put up their profit and loss statements, so what are you comparing it to? Nothing. Sorry, Rex; you tried, but your amendment is a lemon.