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12 August 2021

Independent Senator Rex Patrick has rejected the Tax Commissioner’s claim that it is not in the public interest to disclose 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 has recognised that the Senate has the power to compel the information sought but has suggested that releasing it is not in the public interest because it will undermine public confidence in the Tax Commissioner’s ability to keep taxation information confidential.

“The information the Senate is asking for is not related to an employers’ business or taxation information, it is related to the amount of public money they were provided. In that respect 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.”

“On the next sitting day I will ask the Senate to reject the Tax Commissioner’s claim and insist that he complies with the original Senate order.”

Senator Patrick's motion to reject the Tax Commissioner's claim can be found here. The Commissioner's claim is available here.