Labor MP Andrew Leigh has said that more pressure needs to be put on companies that used JobKeeper to pay dividends and executive bonuses.
Mr Leigh has been a vocal critic of a number of companies that used JobKeeper to pay out dividends, including Accent Group, which received $13 million in JobKeeper and paid CEO Daniel Agostinelli a $1.2 million bonus.
“Just because something’s legal doesn’t mean it’s morally the right thing to do. People need to recognise that in a crisis like this, we need to pull together. There’s a great Australian egalitarian tradition,” Mr Leigh said.
Mr Leigh said that Australian companies should follow the example of New Zealand’s Mainfreight, which turned down wage subsidies despite being eligible, and called on the government to put more pressure on companies that had used the subsidy improperly.
“It’s important too for those firms to recognise that they are among a small number of entities in Australia who are out of step with the business community,” Mr Leigh said.
“They’re out of step with public opinion. I think it’d help to if the Prime Minister and the Treasurer were willing to speak out on this. So far, they’ve been silent as a church mouse.”
Mr Leigh suggested that JobKeeper was “still a bit clunky” and that it needed to be tweaked to include casuals, art workers, and the university sector.
“So it’s a program that could certainly do with a lot of tightening up, and also a program that oughtn’t to be going to subsidise excessive dividends and massive bonuses,” Mr Leigh said.
Business Council of Australia (BCA) CEO Jennifer Westacott also warned that the “nation-saving instrument” of JobKeeper was being misused by a small number of companies and that there “wasn’t any question” that it was the wrong move to make.
“I would urge those companies to really think about these decisions, because we have to build community confidence… we have to wind this thing down according to the government’s timetable,” Ms Westacott said.
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