Tuesday, 19 October 2021
Privileges Committee; Reference
That the following matter be referred to the Standing Committee of Privileges for inquiry and report:
Having regard to the matters raised by Senator Patrick in correspondence tabled by the President on 1 September 2021:
(a) whether the Commissioner of Taxation has, without reasonable excuse:
(i) disobeyed a lawful order of the Senate,
(ii) failed to produce documents in accordance with an order of the Senate, or
(iii) improperly interfered with the power of the Senate to obtain information necessary to support its accountability functions; and
(b) if so, whether any contempt was committed in that regard.
We will be supporting Senator Patrick's motion today. We supported JobKeeper in the parliament and we acknowledge the important role that the policy played in maintaining connections between employers and employees during the pandemic; but, since then, a number of issues have come to light in relation to the implementation, and particularly the transparency, of the program. This includes the $19.7 billion that was paid despite businesses turnovers increasing compared to the previous year. Other countries have transparency registers and public registers, and we believe that the ATO should publish the names of larger firms that received JobKeeper.
We're not arguing for the ATO to publish the names of small business or individuals who received JobKeeper, or indeed any other of their tax information or their personal details, but we do believe there is a responsible way forward, and that is to be transparent and shine a bit of light on who received JobKeeper. That's why we are supporting this referral to the Privileges Committee.
I indicate the Greens' support for Senator Patrick's motion. I want to place very clearly on the record here that JobKeeper has turned into the biggest corporate rort in Australia's history. We saw multiple billions of dollars go to companies that just simply didn't need it. The government knew about this very early in the day in the history of JobKeeper and did nothing whatsoever to stop this massive flow of public money into the hands of big corporations. We support this for a number of reasons but, in particular, what JobKeeper needs is the disinfectant of sunlight shone upon it. It needs more transparency so that more companies are shamed into paying the money back.
One Nation will support this motion. There are two primary issues here. The first is that we do not support the indiscriminate sharing of information that is private and should be confidential. We do, though, support the need for accountability and holding this government accountable. We understand that the tax commissioner has some issues and that the referral to the Privileges Committee is in the ideal position to resolve those issues. We need resolution in two forms. First of all, we want the Privileges Committee to hopefully consider what the taxation commissioner wants to do to protect the privacy of people so that their information is not released willy-nilly without context. Secondly, we want to make sure that the information is disclosed preferably in camera so that we can have full accountability on the government's JobKeeper scheme.