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‘I’m done with ’em’: Crossbench senator shuns Coalition over JobKeeper payments

“They have gone to make substantial profits, paid dividends, paid executive bonuses, while collecting JobKeeper. Money has been funnelled from hard-earning taxpayers into the wallets of shareholders and investors.”

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Harvey Norman last week announced it would return $6 million in funds received by company-controlled entities under JobKeeper, which reignited calls for other companies to do the same.

A Senator Patrick-backed push came close to forcing the government to reveal every recipient firm with a turnover above $10 million, but the move failed when One Nation leader Pauline Hanson withdrew her support. Senator Patrick said the information he was seeking was not related to an employers’ business or taxation information, and it was not invasive.

“I think as a fundamental basic proposition, there ought to be transparency. In New Zealand transparency around its wage subsidy scheme has yielded 5 per cent of the money being paid back. In Australia, it’s 0.25 per cent,” he said.

Eligibility for the first six months of the JobKeeper program was based on anticipated fall in turnover, which was changed to actual decline in turnover for the second phase.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he would “welcome any entity paying back JobKeeper if they are in the position to do so. But the law at the time was very clear, and our focus as a government was to get money out the door to support those who were in need.

“JobKeeper was an economic lifeline which helped keep around a million businesses in business and 3.8 million Australians in a job at the height of the pandemic.”

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