MPI – JobKeeper Payment

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Mr PITT (15:54): I love following the Member for Watson. He’s got a bit of showmanship about him. In some of the workplaces I’ve come from he’d probably get the nickname ‘show bag’, but you can’t have everything!

I find it incredible—absolutely incredible—that those opposite are ultimately complaining about the success of the Australian economy. They’re complaining about the fact that the Australian economy powered through COVID, provided returns for shareholders and helped to keep some 700,000 Australians employed through JobKeeper. What a terrible outcome—seriously!

Who do you think those results go to when it comes to profits for shareholders? We heard them talking about the billionaire shareholders, but there are also those Australians out there who are mum-and-dad shareholders, pensioners or self-funded retirees, who might hold union superannuation funds. They are the ones receiving these returns. In fact, Industry SuperFunds invest in a lot of these big companies.

Seriously, for those opposite to complain about the success of the Australian economy is just absolutely incredible. We have seen them be each way; we have seen them support and not support, we have seen them half-support; and now we see them being selectively supportive—for some but not others. In the midst of the COVID pandemic, there were difficult decisions to be made, and this government made them. There were incredibly tight time frames for things to be delivered, and we delivered them; that is the reality. I will acknowledge that at the time there was support from the opposition, at an incredibly difficult time for our country. The member for Fenner talked about epic leakage. The only epic leakage they need to worry about is the leakage in their primary vote across to the Greens; that’s where the epic leakage is! We have a national plan to get the economy back up, to get lockdowns removed, and to ensure we have vaccinations done and that we continue to deliver for the Australian people.

Ninety per cent of JobKeeper recipients were microbusinesses, with turnover under $2 million. I have never been described as a microbusiness before; I was quite proud to get close to $2 million in turnover in a former life! Clearly, that is an incredible amount of individuals who received support from the Commonwealth in their time of need, and that has meant that some 700,000 jobs were saved and that they stayed connected to their employers. This is the reason for this investment.

Treasury’s three-month review found that the program was well targeted, would you believe! The payment went to businesses that experienced an average decline in turnover of 37 per cent in April against the same month a year before, compared with a four per cent decline for other businesses. It went to businesses at which the job separation rate had doubled following the introduction of operating restrictions just before JobKeeper was introduced. To sum that up in a very brief way: they needed it. They needed the support to ensure that they remained in business post pandemic. Now we have the national plan, which we are lining up to ensure that that success continues.

The ATO has also said, when it comes to claims from—it’s of that little importance that I’ve actually forgotten the seat the shadow Treasurer comes from!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Wallace ): Rankin.

Mr PITT: Rankin—thank you. On the claims the member for Rankin has made about humiliating revelations about sending JobKeeper money to dead people, the ATO responded a day later to say:

The ATO is not aware of any ultimately successful claim for deceased or other fictitious employees.

The ATO is pretty hard to get on with usually, I’ve got to say. But, quite simply, they’re right. This was an important program which was necessary for the success of the country as we drove through a very difficult period. We know there was a worldwide pandemic. We know it impacted economies around the world. We know that Australia has come through as the shining light as to how to manage this outbreak, keep our people employed and keep our people safe.

If we hadn’t done this, all of the things we’re doing—including things in my portfolio like the extension of the Exploring for the Future program, with $125 million; and $100 million for the Junior Minerals Exploration Incentive—would have been pointless because these employees and these jobs would not have been there. You can’t deliver these programs without support from business. You can’t deliver the outcomes they are delivering unless there are employees and businesses that are profitable businesses. It was an important part of what we did during the outbreak, and I am absolutely supportive of the decisions we made around JobKeeper. It helped to keep our country strong, and in my own portfolio it meant that the resources sector delivered record exports of some $310 billion and more than 38,000 extra direct jobs in this country.

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