CANBERRA, AAP – Harvey Norman’s decision to repay $6 million in federal wage subsidies has reignited calls for major companies’ JobKeeper receipts to be made public.
Independent senator Rex Patrick has been leading the charge in the upper house to name and shame businesses that profited while pocketing JobKeeper.
He believes companies have an ethical duty to repay wage subsidies if they posted profits during the pandemic.
“No one begrudges any company receiving JobKeeper on the basis that they were struggling through the pandemic,” Senator Patrick told ABC radio on Wednesday.
“What people begrudge is the fact there are some companies that effectively have taken taxpayers’ money and funnelled it through to the wallets of some investors and executives through bonuses.”
He said media and political pressure had led to Harvey Norman deciding to pay back millions of dollars it received from the scheme.
The Senate has ordered the Taxation Commissioner Chris Jordan to provide details of JobKeeper receipts for companies turning over more than $10 million annually.
But Treasurer Josh Frydenberg intervened, saying releasing the information would undermine the willingness of Australians to give confidential information to the government.
Senator Patrick believes the upper house will be able to force their hand.
“The order of the senate is a final order, it is a lawful order and no minister can step in the way of a lawful command to a public servant,” he said.
Financial Services Minister Jane Hume said JobKeeper had been a lifeline for workers to maintain contact with their employer.
Senator Hume said it was great news that some companies performed well after receiving the wage subsidy.
“We’d love, of course, to see as many companies who feel they didn’t need that money to return it but there is no compulsion to do so,” she told the ABC.
She warned some businesses were still struggling because of the pandemic.