Analysis of corporate disclosures published in The Australian shows that more than 400 listed companies in many sectors received $3.7 billion in JobKeeper payments:
The extent of the payments reached into every part of the economy with names such as gas producer Beach Energy ($7.6m), jobs website Seek ($17.2m), gambling machine manufacturer Aristocrat Leisure ($16.1m), mall operator Vicinity ($23.4m) and newly-listed car dealer Peter Warren ($28m) receiving tens of millions of dollars.
The disclosures which so far amount to more than $3.7bn in payments, represent the most comprehensive snapshot of how JobKeeper program operated across the Australian economy. Some payments ran into just tens of thousands of dollars while others ranged into the hundreds of millions of dollars with airline Qantas the biggest winner taking $856m of taxpayer funds under the program over two years.
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Moves by business to repay some of the JobKeeper funds did little to dent the taxpayer-funded boost, with only $218m returned to Canberra from recipients, according to filings so far lodged with the ASX.
Well that’s $3.7 billion accounted for. What about the other $86 billion of JobKeeper paid to unlisted firms?
For me, the biggest failure with JobKeeper is that the Australian Treasury knew in June 2020 that 157,650 firms with rising turnover had received a whopping $4.61 billion in funds. Yet it kept JobKeeper eligibility unchanged and hosed an additional $9.2 billion of taxpayer money on companies with rising turnover over the following three months without even introducing any claw back mechanism:
This is inexcusable by the Australian Treasury and Josh Frydenberg. They should have plugged the hole, not let more taxpayer dollars gush to companies experiencing rising turnover/profits, many of whom were also foreign owned.
Clawback provisions are standard operating procedure for government payments subsequently found to be overpayments. Ask any Centrelink client. So why where JobKeeper recipients excluded when the scheme was assessed in June 2020?
Taxpayer dollars should never be used to juice executive bonuses and company dividends.
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