Latest ASIC data reveals the amount of JobKeeper taken by public companies

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Public companies raked in more than $4 billion in JobKeeper payments according to new data, sparking rumblings by the opposition it will scrutinise COVID-19 support payments if it were to win government.

Aggregated JobKeeper figures from the nation's corporate watchdog has unveiled aviation, retail and services and automobile companies ranked high in the number of taxpayer funded subsidies dished out to businesses during the pandemic.

The total $4.2 billion which has been disclosed to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission shows the amount attributed to publicly listed companies on the ASX, which according to the Parliamentary Budget Office is only a minor fraction of $89 billion thrown at companies during the pandemic.

According to ASIC's report, Qantas was the main recipient of JobKeeper payments over both the 2020 and 2021 financial years, and was fuelled by the fiscal freefall which occurred from the pandemic.

The major airline in both financial years booked statutory losses in excess a $1.5 billion, with the halts to revenue allowing the company to qualify for the program.

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Companies needed to show a reduction in turnover or an estimated loss in income to qualify for the scheme.

A number or public and private companies took the payment despite not qualifying for the program and booking profit and revenue rises over the course of the pandemic. PBO data has previously revealed close to $40 billion of that money went to firms which did not book downturns during the period.

Analysis conducted by The Canberra Times on the ASIC data showed automobile giant Eagers Automotive took the highest number of in JobKeeper receipts, despite not experiencing a downturn during the period.

It took $131.1 million in payments and then followed by Premier Investments which booked close to $87 million in receipts during the period but has publicly paid back $15.6 million of those funds back to the taxpayer.

Other companies which took the funds but recorded rises of the two consecutive financial years include Adairs, ARB and Australian Clinical Laboratories.

ACT Labor MP Andrew Leigh who has spearheaded a campaign for major companies to pay back the funds, said the opposition would pledge to review the allocation of public funds during the pandemic if it came into government next year.

"JobKeeper saved jobs, but we didn't need to give $20 billion to firms with rising revenues," he said.

"JobKeeper went to French and Italian billionaires, to executive bonuses, and to hedge funds and investment banks."

Dr Leigh also noted the recent data is only showing information already being reported by public companies and was only implemented following a watered down transparency bill backed by One Nation.

Labor and a slew of crossbenchers were seeking to implement legislation which would have made companies with turnover of more than $10 million to disclose how much JobKeeper was taken and if profits stooped or rose over the period.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg defended ASIC's data, saying the implementation of the scheme prevented unemployment from rising above 12 per cent and saved more than 700,000 jobs.

"If businesses are in a position to pay back JobKeeper, we will welcome any repayment," he said.

"What we will not do is retrospectively clawback JobKeeper payments from eligible businesses. At a time of huge uncertainty, these businesses kept their employees in work and were required to pass on every dollar of JobKeeper they received."

This story Latest ASIC data reveals the amount of JobKeeper taken by public companies first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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