SPEECH – Australia’s billionaires and corporations not paying tax should repay JobKeeper

CANBERRA – Monday, 15 March 2021

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.

This past 12 months has been one of the toughest years in living memory for Australians.

It’s the worst recession we’ve faced in many decades.

Since the JobKeeper subsidy was introduced a year ago, almost four million workers employed by more than one million businesses have received more than $90 billion in payments.

We’ve got another 1.6 million people currently out of work or looking for more work receiving the dwindling JobSeeker payment.

This is the biggest government bailout we’ve seen in this country, and one that Labor called for loudly.

Because Labor knew we’d need to dig deep to help Australians out at a time of immense difficulty.

Especially if we wanted to reduce the impact and ease our way back to some sort of normalcy.

But not all Australians are equal, Mr Deputy Speaker.

During the pandemic, as this motion notes, the wealth of Australia’s billionaires grew by up to 50 per cent.

They were getting richer as everyone else was doing it tough.

This Government’s October budget contained almost $100 billion a year in subsidies to big corporations and the very wealthy.

Now, it would be fair to say, that maybe these people and corporations didn’t need that level of support.

Especially considering that one third of Australia’s biggest corporations pay no tax.

None.

That is extraordinary.

Here we have a Government that hounded the most vulnerable members of our society with that appalling program known as Robodebt?

Almost half a million debts were wrongly issued and have to be repaid in full.

This total fiasco cost Australian taxpayers some $1.2 billion, not to mention the very real human cost, of those people who felt so hounded and pressured that they took their own lives.

There is yet to be any real reckoning for that.

We are yet to see any ministerial resignations over those deaths, and over this disastrous scheme.

But we know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that this Government is not one that likes to bear the consequences of its actions.

It is not a Government that accepts responsibility for its wrongdoing.

And it’s a Government that likes to give jobs to mates, and a handout to mates, while berating the poorest, most vulnerable Australians for being in their situation.

And so I fully support this motion in its calls for Australia’s billionaires and major corporations to do what’s right, and pay their fair share of tax, for starters.

If we’re to be a country of lifters, not leaners, as the Prime Minister says, then surely those with the most cash to burn will be eager and willing to do their part to start lifting – and paying tax.

But instead what we’ve been seeing is corporate giants dipping their hands in the honeypot of taxpayer-funded JobKeeper subsidies, government aid, and then turning around and announcing big profits, and paying out dividends to shareholders.

It’s a disgrace, and that money should be repaid.

Automotive dealer AP Eagers reported profits of $156 million after taking $130 million in JobKeeper.

Harvey Norman is refusing to pay back $22 million it received in JobKeeper payments while announcing a net profit after tax of $462 million in the second half of last year.

It’s paying dividends of $250 million, of which Gerry Harvey himself will get almost $80 million, seeing as he owns about a third of his company’s shares.

Talk about not passing the pub test.

Pay back the money. It’s the right thing to do.

Show hardworking everyday Australians that you’re not just having a laugh at their expense.

We all know JobKeeper was an essential emergency measure put in place at a time when Australians needed it the most, but this sort of abuse of the scheme is just not on.

Twenty Australian companies have volunteered to repay $144 million worth of payments, and good on them.

Although I note that the ATO has so far received just $20 million.

Good on them for doing what’s right.

Now let’s see the rest of them do the same, and show Australians that they’ve got their best interests at heart.

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ENDS