The AFR’s Joe Aston has continued his full fledged assault against the Morrison Government’s JobKeeper waste, which saw more than 150,000 companies that weren’t in trouble – many of them actually thriving – receive $13 billion worth of subsidies from taxpayers.
On 12 September, Aston highlighted Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s hypocrisy and contradictions in defending these ‘overpayments’ in a 1400-word opinion piece in The Australian:
“New Treasury analysis has found that in the June  quarter … the actual median decline in turnover for JobKeeper recipients was 28 per cent,” he wrote…
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For 98 per cent of JobKeeper recipients, the required turnover decline was 30 per cent. Therefore, with his 28 per cent median turnover decline, Frydenberg is bragging that roughly half of them shouldn’t have qualified!…
“While it is true that a number of businesses did not experience a fall in turnover in the June quarter by the full anticipated amount … in these same businesses … more than 85,000 employees were stood down on zero hours. Without JobKeeper, these 85,000 jobs would have been lost.”
How on earth can he claim that without JobKeeper, every single one of those workers temporarily stood down would’ve permanently lost their jobs? It’s arrant nonsense. Not a scrap of evidence is provided to support the contention because none exists.
By the end of June, nearly all of them (outside Victoria) were back at work. And Frydenberg continued to pay their employers $750 per week, per employee, for July, August and September.
Say we accept that all 85,000 of those jobs would have been lost – which nobody seriously does – then we next should ask: at what cost did Frydenberg save them? …Saving 85,000 jobs cost $29 billion. That is $339,494 per job for six months, or $678,988 annualised. Were all of these jobs in investment banking?…
“Treasury’s advice was clear: ‘There are compelling arguments to maintain JobKeeper in its current form.’ This was the advice irrespective of the fact the review found 15 per cent of businesses subsequently had actually increased their turnover.”
This is the first explicit acknowledgement by Frydenberg that less than halfway through a $71 billion program he discovered that his COVID-19 water bucket had a gaping hole in it and that he chose to do nothing about it. And his response is to absent himself from his own decision. The largest spending program in history matched by the least amount of ministerial responsibility.
Yesterday, Joe Aston turned his sights to Liberal backbenchers making a virtue of JobKeeper waste:
Over the weekend, Liberal backbenchers began pushing a heroic JobKeeper graphic onto their social media feeds. It sports Josh Frydenberg in full Lord Kitchener mode, with the deranged slogan: “99 per cent of the businesses that did not experience the anticipated fall in turnover were small businesses, with an average of just four employees”…
As an opposition backbencher in 2013, Frydenberg told the House of Representatives that “this government has a budget crisis – indeed, a budget emergency. They are approaching $300 billion of debt.”
Eight years later, the balance of Australian government debt has surpassed $800 billion on Frydenberg’s watch and he boasts about handing $28 billion to businesses on the basis of bad forecasts. He is literally bragging about waste. It’s good waste, you see, because those businesses were small. This is the new argument of fiscal conservatives.
Now that public information has verified just how poorly targeted JobKeeper was, the Liberal message has been recast.
Having regrouped over a Zoom session of jingle bingo, Frydenberg and his backbenchers now transmit the vibe that JobKeeper was terrific general stimulus for corner stores. This conveniently ignores the exorbitant fact that Frydenberg already handed $34 billion of general stimulus to small and medium businesses under his cashflow boost program.
That paid between $20,000 and $100,000 (tax-free) to every Australian SME, with no turnover test and no application required! But really, who’s counting anymore?
The Coalition calculus appears to be that 99 per cent of the questionable money went directly to small businesses, “the Liberal base”, so it’s all sweet.
Meanwhile, MichaelWest.com.au has reported that luxury Italian high fashion houses, Gucci and Prada, received more than $6 million in JobKeeper from Aussie taxpayers despite experiencing rising sales and profits:
Deep in the latest set of financial statements for Gucci Australia, you will find this footnote: “The company qualified for the Job Keeper wage subsidy program in Australia and received throughout 2020 a total amount of $4,756,500”…
Gucci’s cash receipts soared from $415m to $582m last year. Thanks to JobKeeper, their profits rose too…
Like Gucci, Prada’s Australian operations also enjoyed rising sales, and profits, and both had more cash sitting in the bank at the end of the year than they did at the start: Prada $7.7m and Gucci $135m…
Prada’s billionaire proprietor, Miuccia Prada, really ought to pop a little $3,900 Prada Saffiano leather handbag in the mail for Josh, just a token of her appreciation for Josh’s $2m in JobKeeper.
The Coalition’s fiscal hawks are always quick to chastise welfare recipient “leaners” and require them to repay minor excess welfare payments. But they support billions of dollars worth of JobKeeper overpayments!
This goes to show that there is one rule for the unemployed and another for the Coalition’s business mates. Social welfare is frowned upon and wasteful, whereas corporate welfare is virtuous in the Coalition’s eyes.
There is a strong case for a royal commission into JobKeeper. After all, there was a royal commission into what looks like a piddling scheme, home insulation.
Absolutely. But it would only happen after a change of government.
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