- The Guardian
- Issue #1958
The purpose of JobKeeper should have been to help keep the working class employed during a once-in-a-century pandemic that devastated the global economy. However, like all things the Morrison government does, the main aim is always to help big business.
A new report from corporate governance advisory firm Ownership Matters has estimated that $280mil in government funds were given to companies that were extremely profitable during the pandemic. Furthermore, $1.38bil in JobKeeper payments were paid out in the second half of 2020 to sixty-six of the top 300 companies on the ASX.
“The figures show that twenty per cent of all JobKeeper that was given to ASX300 companies went to organisations who were trading better on 31 December 2020 than at the same time in 2019,” Ownership Matters director Dean Paatsch told news.com.au.
The beneficiaries? Investors. According to the Guardian (UK): “the analysis […] shows that someone who invested a dollar in each of a basket of JobKeeper companies in March last year would have all but doubled their money, receiving a return of 99.2 per cent. An investor who invested in the same way in companies that did not get JobKeeper would have made a return of 57.3 per cent.”
While some companies, like Domino’s and Toyota Australia have promised to return the money, others such as Harvey Norman haven’t. In March last year, the sharemarket feel thirty per cent. However, Companies like Harvey Norman exceeded expectations, with those who had invested in the company since March last year receiving a return of 112 per cent plus dividends. These dividends will total $249mil, of which Gerry Harvey, the founder of Harvey Norman, will receive $78mil as he holds 31.4 per cent of the shares.
Writing for The Canberra Times Labour MP Andrew Leigh exposed the problem of JobKeeper:
“Over its year of operation, JobKeeper cost $83bil, and saved 700,000 jobs, most of them for six months. That equates to $118,000 per job – almost twice the average wage (including full-timers and part-timers) of $66,000.”
Here, the Coalition’s fabled economic managing ability is on display. The problem, of course, is not with JobKeeper itself but the way it was implemented, with billions going to profitable companies instead of sectors that struggled, such as the arts, tourism, and hospitality. Countries with similar schemes managed their funds far more efficiently. In New Zealand, companies had to prove a downturn in sales of at least forty per cent before any subsidies were handed out.
This, unfortunately, is no mere accident. The bourgeoisie always make mega-profits in times of calamity; wars usually serve the capitalist class well in this respect. With Jobkeeper, the Morrison government was able to pretend that it cared for the working class by giving them a handout, all the while it was merely serving to line the pockets of the ruling class.
May Day is this Saturday. This is a day to remember the achievements and struggles of the working class and the power of working-class solidarity. As we take to the streets this Saturday, we must not forget this fight is not over, that the ruling class and its capitalist state are findings ways to exploit workers at every turn, even when they pretend to be a friend of the people.