Tasmanian Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson will grill the head of Treasury today over concerns large corporations receiving JobKeeper are posting profits and providing dividends to shareholders.
As reporting season gets under way, several nationwide retailers in receipt of the government income support payment have already reported increases in dividend payouts.
Companies with a turnover of less than $1 billion became eligible for JobKeeper if their turnover reduced by 30 per cent, while those larger than $1 billion required a 50 per cent loss of turnover.
Companies will post their annual profit statements over the next month.
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Unlike other countries which have similar company support payments, Australia did not ban businesses in receipt of government subsidies from paying dividends or buying back their shares.
Australia also does not have a register of companies receiving the payments, which is commonplace overseas.
Senator Whish-Wilson raised the issue with Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy in April, and was told the matter would be looked at as part of a review.
He wrote to Mr Kennedy again on Tuesday and will question him about the issue during a COVID hearing in the Senate on Thursday.
Senator Whish-Wilson said any companies found to have been receiving JobKeeper while posting profits and increasing dividends to shareholders should return the payment to the government.
“It would be seen as a rort by the Australian people and would undermine their confidence in the whole policy,” he said.
“Millions of Australians couldn’t get access to JobKeeper – especially casual and insecure workers, university students, local government employees – and yet here we have examples of big business becoming eligible for public subsidies and paying themselves big profits.
“The Greens were the first ones to call for JobKeeper. We definitely support the policy, and largely it’s worked very well, but this undermines confidence in it.”
Australian corporations have also benefited from loosened rules in regards to continuous disclosure to the stock market in regards to their revenue.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has demanded listed companies show how much JobKeeper payment they receive as part of their reports in response to growing concerns.
The office of Treasurer Josh Frydenburg did not respond to a request for comment.