CORPORATIONS to have bolstered their profits from the Commonwealth’s subsidy to fight the pandemic’s impact will be forced to pay taxpayer’s money back to the Treasury, according to a Canberra MP.
More than $1 billion owed is set to be returned from 65 of the richest Australian companies, costings for the Parliamentary Budget Office has revealed.
Labor member for Fenner, Andrew Leigh, joined the enquiry commissioned by the Greens into unpaid corporate JobKeeper assistance.
The ex-ANU professor of economics has targeted the company of prominent businessman Solomon Lew, whose personal wealth was valued at $3.72 billion last year, courtesy of an extraordinary number of almost vitriolic tweets.
Premier Investments returned on Tuesday (May 4) a small share of the profits that Lew’s Australian Securities Exchange company financially benefited from taxpayers.
“Premier Investments get half a clap for returning $15 million in JobKeeper,” he tweeted. “But they may have gotten as much as $110 million, and they clearly didn’t need a cent.”
Mr Leigh, who has taken on the chief role of Labor’s fiscal watchdog on Jobkeeper matters, had reportedly contacted corporate watchdog, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, to gain full disclosure of the subsidy that Premier Investments gained.
The company, whose purpose is to maximise growth in capital returns to shareholders, had only reported its net earnings at its half-year result that contravenes ASIC guidelines.
“Repaying $15m should be just the start. Last year, Premier set a record profit, paid the CEO a $2.5m bonus and paid a stonking dividend. They don’t need a single dollar of corporate welfare,” Mr Leigh tweeted a day earlier.
The opposition spokesperson for the assistant minister for Treasury also attacked Accent Group after the company that owns Athlete’s Foot and operates more than 400 footwear stores in Australia and New Zealand was found to spent its $45 million JobKeeper cash on buying out other businesses.
Mr Leigh also revealed that another company that has $24 billion worth of assets currently under management has profited heavily from taxpayers.
“Property developer Mirvac just upgraded its earnings guidance on the back of high-rise sales. But it’s only returning half of the $20 million in JobKeeper it received,” he tweeted.
The federal government has remained lukewarm on forcing multi-million dollar companies paying back Treasury, Prime Minister Scott Morrison sticking to the line the assistance has kept large numbers employed last year during COVID-19.
Mr Morrison was quick to initially praise Super Retail Group, which owns Supercheap Auto, Rebel, Macpac and BCF, for being one of the first corporations to hand back its full $1.7 million in income support back in January.
But Mr Leigh said that was simply not good enough in context of Premier Investment’s way of handling its subsidy.
“Hey @ScottMorrisonMP, how about a hotline where Aussies can report companies that got millions of dollars of JobKeeper, despite increasing their profits, then used it to pay bonuses to millionaire CEOs & dividends to billionaire shareholders?” he tweeted.