You would have thought JobKeeper rorts would have been a free kick for Labor.
But the captain of the opposition and his first fleet of officers have broadly remained silent on the gross mismanagement of taxpayer funds, leaving it up to a factionless Labor MP from the ACT to call for transparency on one of the largest fiscal support packages ever handed down by an Australian government.
For more than a year, Member for Fenner Andrew Leigh has been calling for a transparency index like what is installed in New Zealand, to publicly disclose which companies took support and then profited.
Dr Leigh and in part independent Senator Rex Patrick's push for profiting firms to return taxpayers' funds has seen companies such as Dominos and Premier Investments return the money to the tax office.
Toyota Australia did not need prompting, repaying $18 million back in January. "Our management and board decided that returning JobKeeper payments was the right thing to do as a responsible corporate citizen," a Toyota spokesperson said.
This week alone, Harvey Norman bowed to public pressure and returned $6m in JobKeeper payments, after it earlier in the year refused to pay back the subsidy.
"Harvey Norman has given us the best advertisement for more transparency into the secretive, rorted JobKeeper scheme," Dr Leigh said this week.
But where was the coordinated attack by Labor's front bench for allowing big business to rake in subsidies when posting record profits during the pandemic?
Labor's shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers would have been the first guess as a leading voice to hold the government to account on JobKeeper rorts, as would small business spokesman Richard Marles, but both have remained relatively quiet on the issue.
A breakthrough in accountability almost occurred in the Senate this week, with both Labor and Senator Patrick lodging amendments that would make private companies with annual turnovers greater than $10 million have to disclose if a profit was recorded after taking the handout.
But both were narrowly voted down after One Nation flip-flopped and introduced its own watered down version, which would make publicly listed companies disclose received payments.
It is worth noting public companies are already revealing the amount received by JobKeeper, due to existing financial disclosure rules mandated by the ASX.
So in all, the One Nation amendment which was supported by Labor will do nothing to increase the transparency around the economic measure.
When former prime minister Kevin Rudd handed down a $42bn stimulus package during the Global Financial Crisis, the then opposition sparked a vicious attack on Labor for dire financial mismanagement.
The question is whether Labor will use the same tactic over the mishandling of JobKeeper or will it be left up to one sole minister again?
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