I prefer the audio to the written edition this week, contains enthusiastic swearing.
I’ve had feedback of the audio cutting out after 30 secs in Chrome on Windows, no idea why, use another device/browser and you’ll be ok.
The non-Spotify version for our international geo-blocked listeners is down the bottom now.
Come on down to the free money buffet
Picture an inner-city charity food van dispensing meals to the homeless on a Saturday morning.
A dozen rough-sleeping people have emerged from hideaways across the suburb for a much-needed meal.
A couple of older guys pull up in an Audi Q7. They’re dressed in chinos and golf club polos, pastel knitwear draped over their shoulders.
“Hey look, free brunch!” says one.
They push their way to the front of the queue and help themselves to meals. One calls his daughter, an influencer with a sizeable following. “Get down here, there’s free food!”
One post later and the footpath is packed with smooth-faced, tanned people in PE Nation activewear, polishing off everything the charity van has to offer.
How would you feel watching that scene unfold?
That imaginary incident is effectively what the JobKeeper subsidy became.
A snouts-in-the-trough free-for-all, as Australia’s Least-Needy helped themselves to free money.
Via a system designed with all the clawback governance of a cruise-ship dessert buffet.
People who need the help look on in disgust
So much of the money went to an absolute Pantheon of privilege.
Plenty of elite private schools stepped up to claim. Anyone who lives near one knows they’re so cashed-up that they’ve bought half the real estate in the surrounding suburb. They enjoyed uninterrupted fees through COVID. Yet they got the free money.
As did prestige golf clubs, hedge funds and barristers.
Don’t think this is some class warfare thing. I’m a keen capitalist. I’m good with elite private schools and nice boats if people earn them through hard work and smart ideas.
But I’m bothered as fuck by propping them up with unnecessary lottery-wins from everyday taxpayers.
Here are some prime suspects:
Are you good with car dealers Eagers Automotive getting $130M that went straight to their bottom line?
“Back-to-back records for our shareholders.” Absolutely fucking shameless.
Solomon Lew is ‘quarantining’ your money
Solomon Lew’s giant retail business Premier Investments announced in May it was returning $15.6 million out of its total of $68.9 million in JobKeeper payments. In their last half-yearly report to the ASX their earnings were up 88.5% to $237.8 million.
Where’s the other $53.3 million in JobKeeper?
Lew said in March his company was quarantining it to pay staff that might be stood down in future lockdowns.
Sydney and Melbourne went into lockdown, and … you guessed it … Premier stood down staff without pay.
Last week Harvey Norman’s Gerry Harvey announced he was returning just $6M of a $22M JobKeeper windfall while scoring a $140M personal dividend.
We should not be shouting Gerry more free racehorses while so many other Australians – businesses and individuals – are burning right now.
“An attack on small business”
The federal government has pushed back against attempts to name JobKeeper profiteers, calling it “an attack on small business”.
Here’s what’s an attack on small business: damaging the economy for decades with an unnecessary $13 billion deficit blow-out. That’s how much got paid out to businesses whose earnings rose through COVID.
For small businesses, making a profit is really hard work. Then you give the government 26% of it.
Because smaller businesses must pay our company tax, not like Ikea or Facebook.
That’s a slap in the face for every SME.
We’ll all be paying more tax for years to pay this scam off.
I dread raising the possibility of more pandemics and other business-killers in the future, but it’s possible. And when business needs support, government will say:
“No, you guys were way too greedy last time, we can’t risk more PR blowback.”
The people who did the right thing will pay the same price as the gougers of 2020.
Obviously lots of businesses did the right thing here. Big picture, JobKeeper was excellent policy. Our business would have died without it. We emerged from COVID phase one with our staff intact.
We’re grateful for that money and we’d like to thank you, the taxpayer, for helping us survive. We’re still in a zero-profit situation and will be until next February at best. But we’re confident we can keep employing our 60-odd full-time staff and a lot more casuals.
Now everyone thinks business people are pigs
I’ve always been bothered by the public perception of business.
The image of business people has basically been the same since the World War 1-era cartoons of top-hatted, monocled capitalists. Sitting around a roaring fire in winter, while starving, frostbitten orphans peer through the window.
Give us more money, and screw everyone else.
The majority of business owners I know are honest, honourable people. They’re not perfect. Who is? But they’re in business because they love it.
Some get rich. Most don’t. Either way they’re creating jobs that help a lot of people lead stable, fulfilling lives.
Thanks to the likes of Harvey and Lew our image is, once again, pigs.
They and their lobby groups have been lecturing governments on waste forever, their definition of waste being: money that isn’t given directly to them.
That same mentality plays out across so many issues.
Greedy old guys who want profit now, and screw the consequences to their grandchildren and everyone else’s.
It’s JobKeeper rorts, it’s climate change, it’s wrecking the budget for decades to come with unsustainable franking credit cash.
Every government dollar that goes to those guys is a dollar stolen from people in genuine need.
Business, we have to do better than this
Mark Carnegie is a capitalist I really admire. He thinks outside the usual narrow templates.
Last week in this interesting podcast interview he made the point that business has responsibilities to society above and beyond just obeying the law*.
“History just gets washed away in current culture. The original idea of giving a company limited liability and unlimited life used to have to be granted by an Act Of Parliament … it required people to say ‘in order that we give you these special rights, you’ve got an obligation to show how this is societally productive’. ”
Business can’t thrive without the trust of society.
Right now, business people, we need to do better than this.
And when you put your customer hat on, remember who dipped into our wallets when we weren’t looking.
* He was not discussing JobKeeper, but rather corporate ethics in general.
Just in case you think I’m jumping on a bandwagon, my book Undisruptable has a chapter called Pay Your Tax. On why you should be happy to pay tax, and if you spend your life using evasion schemes, you will become a sad bastard human being.
Of all the thousands of books in Booktopia’s Economics, Finance, Business and Management category, plucky little Undisruptable is #1 by Customer Review Rating.
Why not buy it right now and liven up your lockdown?
Backup audio option if you’re not a Spotify user: