Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?
Millions of Australian workers are entitled to feel that way after watching 60 Minutes expose on Josh Frydenberg’s JobKeeper free-for-all that has seen 157,000 Australian businesses pocket over $13 Billion in taxpayers’ money that they didn’t need.
Surely this Government would be all over these companies to pay that money back? After all, this is the same Government that drove a relentless and vicious campaign of clawing back welfare payments under its doomed and loathed Robodebt scheme.
Not on your life. Instead, Josh Frydenberg and his accomplice, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, has set about once again putting the squeeze on unsuspecting welfare recipients who applied for JobKeeper in good faith but may have been overpaid.
That’s $30 million of money the Government claims these workers aren’t entitled to, and it’s determined to rip it out of the pockets of ordinary folks who are already on struggle street.
The $13 Billion that profitable companies took from JobKeeper that they didn’t require because their businesses remained profitable, or their turnover didn’t fall below the requisite 30 per cent or more threshold as forecast? Nothing to see here.
What universe do Josh Frydenberg, Simon Birmingham and Scott Morrison inhabit where they feel they can stare down calls for some basic financial justice, transparency, and integrity?
How have we come to the point where this Government is so gung-ho in stalking ordinary Australians with automated phone calls, intimidating debt collectors and threats of sanctions for not repaying welfare money – yet it simply shrugs its shoulders and walks away from asking businesses to return taxpayer money they don’t need?
Well, let’s take a look at the scoreboard.
- The Government’s infamous Sports Rorts scheme splashed over $102 million to projects in Coalition seats and marginal Labor electorates at the whim of then Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie in late 2018 and early 2019 ahead of a Federal Election.
- Scott Morrison’s Government then followed up with its ludicrous Carpark pork-barrel scam, which saw over $660 million of your tax dollars allocated to schemes and scams in marginal Liberal electorates to build carparks – many of which no one wanted or asked for. And this was sanctioned without oversight the day before Morrison called the 2019 Federal Election, a sleight of hand that shows all the hallmarks of a conman working the angles.
- There was the purchase of $80 million worth of water entitlements in 2017 from Eastern Australia Agriculture (EAA), a company co-founded by Energy Minister Angus Taylor.
- EAA had valued its entire water holdings at $79.5 million but got lucky when the Morrison Government paid $80 million for less than half of its holdings.
- The Government’s Urban Congestion Fund was supposed to be used to make our cities more livable. In the end, it was simply used to make Coalition seats more winnable, with 83 per cent of grants being directed into Coalition seats or marginal Labor electorates.
- Another $3 billion of your taxpayers’ money was slated to be available via a Community Development Grants program. Again, it saw over 75 per cent of successful applications come from Coalition electorates.
Can you see a pattern here?
It may well be your taxpayer money, but this Government sees it as slush find to facilitate its political aims, reward its backers and supporters, and enrich its mates.
For workers, this culture of sleaze and entitlement is all being cultivated whilst the Government does nothing about the scourge of insecure work, flat wages, a lack of a universal, affordable childcare and early education, the skyrocketing cost of tertiary education or the move towards a cleaner, greener economy that will provide the jobs of the future.
This is a government so fixated on its own political survival that it simply brushes aside the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s “[email protected]” report on making work safe for women.
The only jobs they’re keen to make safe are their own.
It’s easy to become cynical about the self-interest of politicians. Tropes about snouts in the trough, that they’re all on the take, and that the only interest that governs politics is self-interest.
What’s not acceptable is if we, as unionists and workers, simply walk away from raising these issues, holding the powerful to account and fighting for change.
Because if we don’t do it, then the next generation of workers and taxpayers will be seduced into thinking that this type of politics is just how it is.
That would be a disaster for our movement and our people. It’s on all of us to do what we can to make sure that doesn’t happen.