Qantas, Crown Resorts and Flight Centre have been revealed as the three biggest recipients of the controversial JobKeeper wage subsidy — claiming more than $1.3 billion in government payments between them.
Publicly listed companies were ordered in September to disclose how much money they had taken from the JobKeeper program, as well as how many employees they had taken it for and how much they had paid back to the government.
And on Tuesday, corporate regulator ASIC posted the information to its website with a link to a downloadable spreadsheet.
The data showed Qantas was by far the biggest JobKeeper recipient — claiming $160.5 million in the 2020 financial year and another $695.5 million in the 2021 financial year.
Get business news first
Sign up to SmartCompany’s daily newsletter
ASIC’s disclosures showed Crown Resorts was the second-biggest JobKeeper recipient.
The casino operator claimed $92.9 million in the 2020 financial year and another $198.3 million in the 2021 financial year.
Crown was later criticised for taking JobKeeper, because it went on to hand out hundreds of millions of dollars in dividends to shareholders.
Meanwhile, Flight Centre claimed $96.4 million in the 2020 financial year and a further $152 million in 2021 financial year.
‘Not too late to take stock’
The data dump comes a day after ATO second commissioner Jeremy Hirschhorn told a summit run by The Australian Financial Review that businesses benefitting from Australia’s strong economic recovery should consider repaying JobKeeper cash they no longer need.
Hirschhorn also said future stimulus payments should not go towards shareholder dividends or executive bonuses — as happened with JobKeeper.
“If you are a large business that had rebounding turnover, it is still not too late to take stock and return any excess JobKeeper that you actually did not need,” Hirschhorn said.
“In relation to the newer stimulus measures, please access them and use the proceeds to invest in your business.
“But also think twice if your plan is to access them simply to pay bigger dividends or executive bonuses.”
More than $27 billion in JobKeeper was paid to companies with rising sales in the first six months of the program last year, according to Treasury data.
That equates to 38% of the first $70 billion paid out under the program.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has subsequently come under pressure to require companies to repay taxpayers if they took JobKeeper without needing it.
But the government has introduced no such rules and has offered no indication of doing so in the future.
Calls for transparency
Publicly listed companies were required to make the JobKeeper disclosures published on Tuesday as a result of pressure from Parliament.
In September, independent senator Rex Patrick moved an amendment in the Senate that would have required the ATO to reveal all companies with annual turnover of more than $10 million that received JobKeeper.
Labor, the Greens and the cross bench supported the amendment.
But the federal government knocked it back with support from One Nation.
Labor frontbencher Andrew Leigh, who has long been a vocal critic of waste in the JobKeeper program, told TND on Tuesday that greater transparency was needed after JobKeeper went to billionaires who didn’t need it.
“JobKeeper went to French and Italian billionaires, to executive bonuses, and to hedge funds and investment banks,” Leigh said.
“This wasn’t Liberal Party money, it was taxpayer money, and Labor believes that JobKeeper receipt by firms with turnover above $10 million should be [made] public.”
The JobKeeper program was announced in March 2020 to help businesses affected by the pandemic cover their wage bills.
Short-term casual workers were excluded from the program, but the Reserve Bank of Australia estimates it nonetheless saved about 700,000 jobs.
Top 10 JobKeeper recipients
- Qantas – $856 million
- Crown Resorts – $291 million
- Flight Centre – $248 million
- The Star Entertainment Group – $157 million
- Myer – $144 million
- Eagers Automotive – $131 million
- Mosaic Brands – $125 million
- G8 Education – $103 million
- Event Hospitality and Entertainment – $90 million
- Premier Investments – $87 million
This article was first published by The New Daily.