A political stoush has erupted between the Morrison government and Labor over the proposed public disclosure of companies which profited from JobKeeper.
Debate over the transparency of one of the biggest financial stimulus packages on record was front and centre on Tuesday, after retailer heavyweight Harvey Norman bowed to public pressure, returning $6m million in JobKeeper payments to the tax payer.
In the Senate, Labor had tabled an amendment to a treasury bill which would force the government to disclose profits made by companies, which had annual turnovers of more than $10 million.
However, during question time, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg attacked the bill, claiming it was "smear" on confidentiality within the taxation system.
"Small business is now fighting a Labor Party that is seeking to destroy one of the fundamental pillars of our tax system, namely the protection of confidential information and the Labor Party is seeking to have the data of more than 10,000 businesses dumped in the ... Senate," Mr Frydenberg said
"While businesses were seeking the support of government in the middle of a pandemic, the Labor Party is now seeking to attack them and come after them."
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese told the Labor caucus on Tuesday morning, Mr Frydenberg was the "most profligate treasurer" in history and needs to be held accountable for his mismanagement on JobKeeper.
Independent Senator Rex Patrick told The Canberra Times the treasurer's honesty system failed and has blown out the deficit which will be paid by future generations.
"The program was based on an honesty system and unfortunately the treasurer failed prudentially by not having a counter that dealt with dishonesty," he said.
Harvey Norman's repayment of $6.02 million to the Australian Taxation Office was revealed in its bumper 2021 financial year results, which saw its net profit soar 75 per cent to $841.4 million from the heightened demand for furniture, office equipment and entertainment during the pandemic.
Pressure had been mounting on Harvey Norman to repay the subsidies it took, after chairman Gerry Harvey earlier in the year refused to it pay back when discussing the company's financial success during the economic downturn.
ACT Labor MP Andrew Leigh had been calling for a transparency register to show which companies kept JobKeeper payments and made profits during the pandemic.
"Six months ago, Gerry Harvey flatly refused to repay," Dr Leigh said.
"Does anyone imagine he would've repaid without huge public pressure?
"Harvey Norman has given us the best advertisement for more transparency into the secretive, rorted JobKeeper scheme."
It has also been revealed through Parliamentary Budget Office numbers that approximately $13 billion was provided to businesses during the pandemic which recorded revenue increases.
"This is a welfare scheme for lottery winners," Dr Leigh said. "This is a government which gave $13 billion ... whose revenues were were rising."
Labor's treasury amendment comes after the major party voted down an earlier JobKeeper transparency push tabled by Senator Patrick, which was attached to the Coronavirus Recovery Bill.
Harvey Norman's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation for financial year 2021 was $1.46b, a 54.2 per cent rise compared to the prior year.
While total sales revenue increased $1.3bn on top of the prior year's result to $9.7bn.
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