Monday, 21 June 2021
Coronavirus Economic Response Package Amendment (Ending Jobkeeper Profiteering) Bill 2021; Second Reading
by leave—I table an explanatory memorandum to the bill and move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows—
The Greens are introducing the Ending JobKeeper Profiteering Bill because someone has to hold greedy big corporations to account in this country. The Morrison Government has shown that it is completely unwilling to do so.
In exchange for millions of dollars in political donations from the big end of town, the Liberal and National parties govern in their interests. For years, big corporations have been lining up and getting all sorts of handouts from this government. At the same time, one in three of them do not pay any tax.
During the pandemic, these handouts have included JobKeeper payments. The Morrison Government is allowing big corporations—who have made giant profits and handed over bonuses to their super wealthy directors—to keep public money that was meant to be for workers' wages. The Greens say, very simply: if you're making enough money to buy a private jet or pay executive bonuses, then you should pay back JobKeeper.
This Bill ensures that big corporations are incentivised to do just that. It puts a hold on them claiming GST input credits for up to ten years, unless they repay the amount of JobKeeper funds that they used to profiteer instead of helping their workers. That means those big companies that made profits, paid dividends and/or paid executive bonuses during the financial year they received JobKeeper payments will be motivated to pay it back.
This Bill also introduces some much-needed transparency around the JobKeeper scheme. It requires the Australian Taxation Office to publish a list of big corporations which received JobKeeper payments, and how much they received. This will end the Morrison Government-approved secrecy around JobKeeper profiteering.
The independent Parliamentary Budget Office estimates that over $1 billion in JobKeeper funds has gone to just 65 big corporations, who then went on to make big profits and paid dividends or gave out executive bonuses. This is just the tip of the iceberg, because the government refuses to say just how much public money went in the form of handouts to billionaires and big corporations who were making out like bandits already.
Many of us have been pleading with the billionaires and the big corporations to give it back. But it's not enough to just ask them to pay back JobKeeper; the government and Parliament have to make them do it. Simply appealing to these billionaires' better natures won't work, because they don't have better natures. Billionaire magnate Gerry Harvey, chairman of the Harvey Norman corporation, continues to refuse to pay back JobKeeper, despite the big profits made by the company—hundreds of millions of dollars. He had literally a captive audience during the lockdown. People were shovelling money through the front door, but he had his hand out for more money from the government, which this government was only too willing to give him.
Many small businesses and many workers were able to stay afloat because of JobKeeper. Many businesses that went on to turn a profit have paid some or all of the JobKeeper they received back, but not billionaire Gerry Harvey and not the Harvey Norman corporation.
Instead of lining the pockets of billionaires like Gerry Harvey, the more than $1 billion in JobKeeper profiteering should go to things like schools and hospitals and lifting Australians out of poverty.
I commend this bill to the Senate and urge all parties to support it. It's time to force the billionaires and the big corporations to do the right thing and pay back JobKeeper.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.