Mining company Iluka Resources is the latest company to repay millions of dollars in JobKeeper payments, after Toyota and the Super Retail Group returned their stimulus payments following better-than-expected financial results in 2020.
In an interview on ABC News Radio, shadow assistant treasurer Dr Andrew Leigh said there’s a public register in New Zealand that lists all the firms that have received wage subsidies during the coronavirus crisis.
On the other hand, Dr Leigh said the federal government has refused to disclose that information to the COVID Committee.
As a result, he said he wrote to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg asking for the House economics committee to be empowered to conduct an inquiry into JobKeeper to “get to the bottom of how many firms saw increased profits in 2020 despite receiving JobKeeper”.
“The information’s at the fingertips of the Tax Office. They simply need to disclose it to the Australian people,” Dr Leigh said.
“The thing about JobKeeper is the eligibility required was simply a brief downturn. Many firms that shut their doors in March of last year received JobKeeper.”
Dr Leigh also pointed to Premier Investments, the owner of retail brands Portmans, Just Jeans and Smiggle, that saw their best profit year ever in 2020.
“They’re a firm that was doing so well, they could afford to pay their CEO a $2.5 million bonus, doing so well that they paid out a significant dividend — a chunk of which went to their largest billionaire shareholder, Solomon Lew. And yet they won’t return to the taxpayer the JobKeeper subsidies they received which they clearly didn’t need,” he explained.
“We know about Premier, but we don’t know about many other firms, and it’s important to get to the bottom of it because JobKeeper is the largest and most effective program in keeping people in work.”