CANBERRA, AAP – More than 11,000 people have been sent debt notices worth almost $33 million linked to JobKeeper wage subsidies.
But the Morrison government continues to resist calls to crack down on businesses that won’t hand back payments despite turning monster profits.
Services Australia has revealed that as of April-end, 11,771 welfare recipients had debts raised after a review of JobKeeper and income support payments.
In response to questions on notice from Greens senator Rachel Siewert, the agency said the debt claims – which have not yet been recovered – totalled $32.8 million.
Greens leader Adam Bandt said the ultra-rich had used JobKeeper money to buy private jets, pay out share dividends and increase profits.
“It is outrageous that the government refuses to make billionaires and big corporations pay back the money that they clearly didn’t need to take from the public purse,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday.
“Yet at the same time it is hounding the most vulnerable people in the country who are doing their best to survive the pandemic.”
Mr Bandt said the government pursued people through the disastrous robodebt scheme, which resulted in a $1.2 billion class action settlement, but refused to take on corporations.
Services Australia compliance general manager Chris Birrer said people on JobSeeker and other payments had an obligation to report JobKeeper as income.
“It could impact whether or not they were eligible for a rate of JobSeeker or other income support payment or what the correct rate would be,” he told a hearing earlier in the year.
The Morrison government on Monday shot down a push to force companies turning over more than $10 million to disclose JobKeeper payments.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said the government didn’t want to vilify businesses who were eligible under the broad scheme introduced alongside national lockdowns.