Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie has called the opposition “shameful” for voting down an amendment to a COVID-19 response bill that would have let the public know much big businesses received in JobKeeper.
In a fiery speech, Lambie told the Senate that Labor had given small businesses “a right slap” for voting down changes that would have brought more transparency to the government’s $90 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy.
“[Small businesses] want to know why they’re on their knees out there and big boys like Harvey are getting all the extra JobKeeper payments,” Lambie said.
The COVID-19 economic response bill returned to the Senate on Monday after the lower house voted down a proposal by Independent Senator Rex Patrick. Under the proposal, the tax commissioner would be required to publish the amount of JobKeeper large businesses received.
The proposal was intended to address the fact that some businesses received billions in JobKeeper payments despite their turnover increasing during the pandemic.
The ABC reports as much as $4.9 billion in JobKeeper was paid to large companies that went on to record an increase in revenue.
Lambie said small businesses across the country, including in Tasmania and Western Australia where lockdowns have been rare, are also feeling the effects of the pandemic on trade.
“Even though we aren’t coming in and out of lockdown and all the rest, it’s like a domino effect out there,” she said.
Gerry Harvey gets tens of millions of dollars in JobKeeper and sticks it in his pockets. I've got streets on the west coast of Tasmania where 70 per cent of businesses have closed. They paid taxes, too. They paid his bonus. And they deserved better than a rollover by Labor. pic.twitter.com/kcl3qaLxDR
— Jacqui Lambie (@JacquiLambie) August 9, 2021
Lambie said without the domestic tourist and business travel markets, small businesses from retail shops to hotels and live music venues “are feeling the pain”.
Lambie criticised Labor for not voting in favour of the amendments, saying the opposition lacked the courage to fight for more transparency in the most expensive government stimulus package ever rolled out in Australia’s history.
“You are supposed to be the opposition. God, you’ve been doing it for eight years! No wonder you’re still there,” she said.
Lambie alleged that Labor’s decision to oppose the amendment was partly because some of the companies that benefited from JobKeeper give political donations to the opposition.
She said small businesses deserve to know why some of Labor’s political donors cannot be honest and give JobKeeper payments back if they had made a profit.
“How do you think they’re feeling? It is a right slap for them today. It’s a right slap,” she said.
SmartCompany has contacted Senator Lambie’s office for comment.