Will we ever know the true extent of JobKeeper errors?

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Anyone looking at the ASX ad feed will now have noticed that many listed companies are producing ads – like this one from Perth-based Iluka Resources – that detail the amount of JobKeeper they have received over the years. last two years, how many employees it was for, and whether any of that taxpayer funding was subsequently voluntarily repaid.

These announcements are the result of further pressure from Parliament imposed on hundreds of state-owned companies, following a compromise agreement between the federal government and One Nation. The Coalition was trying to persuade Pauline Hanson not to support Independent Senator Rex Patrick’s sensible proposal to produce a public registry of all JobKeeper beneficiaries who have annual revenues north of $ 10 million.

The result is that we have negligible visibility into 97% of JobKeeper’s unprecedented largesse, but even more disclosure of the 3% that went to SOEs that we pretty much already knew about.

However, getting the disclosure in a standard format is still useful, and the new requirements appear to increase the number of public companies reimbursing some or all of their JobKeeper receipts.

Some state-owned companies, such as debt collector Credit Corp, attempted to hide their JobKeeper receipts and then decided to repay the funds once they realized disclosure was inevitable.

Credit Corp’s JobKeeper ad was dropped on Oct. 28, stating that $ 12.7 million had been claimed and then returned over two fiscal years. This was news to most of the people following the action who were unaware that 20% of the audited $ 30 million net profit for 2019-2020 came from JobKeeper without any specific disclosure.

There is also an interesting trend developing where state-owned companies withhold their JobKeeper disclosure to ASX until after their AGMs. Here are some examples:

  • Qantas: AGM Held Nov 5 and Huge $ 885 Million JobKeeper Haul Disclosed for 27,419 Employees Nov 11
  • Featured Entertainment: AGM held October 28 and disclosed $ 157.4 million JobKeeper bailout for 7,040 employees at 4:10 p.m. on November 11
  • Domain ownership: Held the AGM on November 4 but did not disclose JobKeeper’s reimbursement of $ 6.5 million until November 8
  • Domino’s Pizza: Held the AGM on November 3 and informed ASX on November 8 of the full refund of $ 1.71 million in JobKeeper.

The other interesting trend is how some of the biggest and most controversial JobKeeper applicants are dragging their feet on the ASX disclosure. We have yet to hear from Crown Resorts, Seven West Media, Premier Investments, Accent Leisure, Harvey Norman, and Eagers Automotive.

You can determine JobKeeper’s situation with most of these companies from their financial accounts, with the exception of Solomon Lew’s Premier Investments, which never disclosed its gross sales. (Expect for a likely announcement at 8 p.m. on a Friday night after the December 2 AGM.)

It was certainly clear at Nine Entertainment’s AGM on Thursday that President and former Treasurer Peter Costello is not a fan of the widely spread ploy, which Nine managed to avoid taking. (The Parliamentary Budget Office estimates that $ 38 billion of the $ 88 billion paid went to employers who did not qualify for the revenue reduction requirements.)

At the AGM, I asked her if Nine should have followed other companies’ lead and grabbed everything she could get, or if the company had taken an ethical stance not to distort the project.

Costello replied:

We were hoping not to qualify and I think for us you had to anticipate a 50% drop. It turned out that we didn’t have 50%. We were able to – I’m quite proud of it – we were able to get through the coronavirus without taking JobKeeper and without terminating people’s employment. It shows what you can do when you have a strong media business.

If only some of our greedy billionaires like Kerry Stokes and Solomon Lew had a similar point of view rather than jumping into JobKeeper when the state-owned companies they control are nowhere near the required 50% revenue cut.

As News Corp’s Terry McCrann explained in a well-argued withdrawal from JobKeeper, if only Treasurer Josh Frydenberg had followed the New Zealand model and built in an ability for the ATO to claw back taxpayer funds from those with too much. claimed.


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