You probably are aware that the first version of JobKeeper was plundered by businesses who, in many instances, were not adversely impacted by COVID-19 and in quite a few cases these were businesses who actually increased revenue and profits during the first twelve months of JobKeeper.
There has been a massive government coverup mainly to protect the architect of the scheme, Josh Frydenberg, from the adverse publicity and blame surrounding the bungle.
Newscorp have so far been silent on the matter and Sky after Dark have actually been mounting a protection racket for Frydenberg and blaming Labor for voting for the scheme. Not so the normally Right leaning Spectator Australia who, through their conservative columnist Judith Sloan, have stuck the boot right in ; this is Sloan in the Spectator Australia :
“But when it comes to government outlays, the wildly expensive JobKeeper will rank as the single most irresponsible and reckless spending program ever undertaken by a government. Lasting only 12 months, JobKeeper has ended up costing the Australian taxpayer close to $90 billion. It makes the Pink Batts and Building the Education Revolution programs look completely amateurish in terms of government spending for dubious benefit.”
The problem started with Josh, in his haste to show business that he was on their side, announcing a massive public spending scheme called JobKeeper. Payments of $1500 a fortnight were to be available to workers at firms that, depending on the size of the company, saw their turnover fall by at least 30 or 50 per cent during COVID-19. Josh told those businesses that if they reckon – perhaps on the toss of a coin – that they could lose revenue attributable to the impact of COVID on their business then they were entitled to dip into a pool of public money to enable them to continue to pay their workforce. Quite naturally many business enterprises snapped up the offer particularly when it was realized that the handout was open ended ; in other words you could keep the money even if you business did no suffer a revenue downturn and even if your business prospered during COVID.
So, the money was only meant to go to employers suffering material drops in revenue, yet it is estimated that $368 million was paid out to entities that more than tripled their revenue in the June quarter last year.
Clearly in a scheme dealing with public funds, you would expect that recipients of the government handout would be obliged to refund the money if in fact their revenues did not diminish during the period under review and particularly if they were able to increase revenue and profits. But according to Josh that’s not the way the scheme was designed – unlike Robodebt – so in effect it was a handout with no strings attached.
To be fair, some businesses have repaid some of the money received from taxpayers. Most notably retailer Harvey Norman repaid $6m in JobKeeper in August after it posted record profits in the 2020-21 financial year. The repayment is less than a third of the estimated $22m the company and its franchisees received.
There are several aspects of this bungle that are disturbing. The first is that it occurred at all on such a large scale but more importantly that the government have tried to cover it up and put the Treasurer in witness protection. At the very minimum there should be an open enquiry probably a Royal Commission.
Tonight, Sixty Minutes is doing a piece on this massive rorting of public money but evidently Frydenberg was not available to be interviewed : perhaps he had to wash his hair !
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