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26 August 2021

Independent Senator Rex Patrick has slammed the Government for attempting to silence the Tax Commissioner from revealing to the Senate the names of large employers that have received a JobKeeper payment, the total amount of taxpayer money paid to them and how much they have paid back.

“Australians have a right to know which large employers have received taxpayer money and how much they received,” Senator Patrick said.

The Tax Commissioner was required to hand the information to the Senate by 4:30pm today but the Government have sought to interfere by lodging its own claim of Public Interest Immunity.

“The information the Senate asked for is not related to an employers’ business or taxation information, it is related to the amount of public money they were provided. It is no different to grant money or the total amount of money received under a government contract, which is already published information.”

“There is huge controversy around the abuse of the JobKeeper scheme, a program set up to assist struggling businesses during the pandemic,” said Senator Patrick. “Jobkeeper was a wage subsidy scheme for businesses significantly affected by COVID-19. And yet some businesses took it, improved their profits and then paid larger dividends to their shareholders and bonuses to their executives.”

“Those companies that abused the taxpayers’ goodwill should pay it back.”

New Zealand spent AUD$12.35 billion in direct wage subsidies but has received $673m (or 5.45%) by way of voluntary return. Australia spent AUD$89.3 billion with pledges of $225m (or 0.25%) to be voluntarily returned.

“The New Zealand Government publishes the names of employers who received a wage subsidy payment and how much they were paid. If the employer fully repaid the money their name was removed from the published list. Transparency had an effect and is something we should do here.”

“Those employers that used the money in a manner consistent with the intent of the JobKeeper program need not be concerned in any way by the proposed disclosure, only those that rorted the system."

"It’s important that this information is released so that we can see the full extent to which some big businesses rorted JobKeeper to boost their profits and pay directors’ bonuses."

"Despite this move from the Government, which is most unusual given the supposed independence of the Tax Commissioner as a statutory officer, I will not be letting this matter rest. This is an important battle for my constituents and there are a number of additional measures I can take. Watch this space!"

A copy of the letters from the Tax Commissioner and the Treasurer can be found here.