While the JobKeeper subsidy allowed genuinely in need businesses to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent aftermath, it also lined the pockets of big businesses, with a number of giant corporations snaring a significant share of the funding.
The likes of Gerry Harvey and his mammoth Harvey Norman pocketed $22 million, and Kerry Stoke’s Seven West Media claimed $47 million. And while Tabcorp and Michael Hill were also in for the windfall, the company that received the most in JobKeeper payments was Qantas, netting $726 million.
Now the Greens Party have come up with a plan.
It has proposed amendments to the federal government’s appropriations bill to force JobKeeper recipient companies with an annual turnover of more than $50 million, and which reported a profit over the last year, to repay back the full amount of the wage subsidy from the government.
In a tweet on Monday, Greens leader Adam Bandt said that it’s “only fair” that large, profitable Australian companies are forced to repay the wage subsidy.
“The Liberals will keep JobSeekers in poverty and hound them for any overpaid cent — but let billionaires keep millions in JobKeeper they didn’t need,” he said.
“So today I moved a budget amendment demanding that Scott Morrison force big profitable companies [sic] pay JobKeeper back.”
The Greens want the billionaires and successful big businesses to be put on notice to pay back the wage subsidy in full. They said it will free up $1.1 billion for budget spending, according to Parliamentary Budget Office costings commissioned by the party.
Mr Bandt also accused the Morrison government of lining the pockets of billionaires and the top end of town with its 2021–22 federal budget, arguing that the funding could be much better spent on those more deserving and needy.
“This government … is allowing big corporations who have made giant profits and handed over bonuses to their executives and wealthy directors to keep public money that was meant to be for workers’ wages,” Mr Bandt said.
“There is at least a billion dollars there to be reclaimed, to go into schools, to go into hospitals, to go into lifting people out of poverty.”
The Greens have made the call after the release of an Ownership Matters report in March found that 58 of the 66 ASX 300 companies that received the government’s $93 billion wage subsidy, between July and December 2020, reported positive earnings.
“It’s only fair,” Mr Bandt said.