Labor votes with government to keep JobKeeper scheme payments secret

Aug 09, 2021, updated Aug 09, 2021
Job advertisements have started to fall (Photo: ABC)

Job advertisements have started to fall (Photo: ABC)

Big companies will not be forced to reveal how much they received in JobKeeper wage subsidies after a push for greater transparency was defeated in parliament.

Independent senator Rex Patrick last week amended a federal government bill for new coronavirus financial support to include JobKeeper disclosure requirements for companies earning more than $10 million.

But the coalition used its lower house numbers to defeat the change and on Monday Labor voted with the government in the Senate.

Senator Patrick lashed the opposition for not holding firm after last week backing his amendment.

“I’m going to buy you a dog. It’s going to be a dog that rolls over every time a Liberal Party member walks in the room,” he told parliament.

“I had a meeting with a senior coalition minister last year. What this person said to me was ‘Rex, I love playing chicken with the Labor Party because they always swerve’.”

Labor’s finance spokeswoman Katy Gallagher said the party would not put the transparency scheme ahead of businesses and families needing more support.

“It is dire out there for these businesses. It is devastating,” she said.

“The last thing they need is a tic-tack between two houses of parliament on a transparency measure that we believe should be in place.”

Senator Gallagher said Labor would continue fighting for JobKeeper transparency.

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Under Patrick’s amendment, the tax commissioner would have published how much businesses were handed from the JobKeeper scheme and other assistance packages.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said all JobKeeper recipients were eligible under the rules which were designed to save workers during nationwide lockdowns.

“We don’t think it’s appropriate to create a circumstance where now they are vilified with some sort of pretence that they weren’t eligible when they were eligible,” he told the ABC.

Tasmanian independent Jacqui Lambie exploded at Labor in the chamber after learning the party would not insist on the amendment.

“At least have the courage to stand up against these animals over here,” she said.

“You are slapping the little person and I thought Labor was better than that.”

Shadow assistant treasurer Andrew Leigh has led a campaign to name and shame businesses who didn’t hand back JobKeeper payments despite turning big profits.

The Labor frontbencher previously called for firms with turnovers above $100 million to be on a public register but on Monday said he wouldn’t delay business support.

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