Oz Blog News Commentary

The laundromat urger

May 18, 2022 - 08:43 -- Admin

As far as I am aware, in the UK and Australia, a tout is someone who buys up tickets for an event, to sell them at inflated prices to people desperate to get a ticket to said event. In the US, a ‘tout’ is someone who goes around racecourses offering racing tips, in exchange for a share of any winnings. In the UK and Australia, the name given to that person is ‘urger’ or ‘racecourse urger’. The extreme version of that type of person, is someone who goes around to as many punters as there are horses in a race, and to each one, tells them he has inside information and that a particular horse will win. With the assumption that the punters bet on the tip being correct, all the urger has to do is remember which tip was given to which punter. When a particular horse wins, the punter who received a tip for that horse is sought and the urger puts his hand out for a proportion of the winnings.

The ethos of the racecourse urger reminds me of Scott Morrison. He has a similar moral compass, if that is not an insult to racecourse urgers. Morrison doesn’t give tips to punters, he shells out public money to mates. Unlike the racecourse urger who only obtains other people’s money by deception, Morrison starts off with public money, our money, and gives it to his mates in big business, and those mates make donations to the Liberal and other parties. This is a simple, but equally corrupt way of laundering money as you will find in any casino; public funds become political donations.

As an example, the JobKeeper wage subsidy program was the largest economic support mechanism in Australia’s history, costing $89 billion when it ended in September, 2021. However, up to $38 billion went to companies that either increased their turnover, or where their turnover did not fall by the 30% (or 50% for large companies) threshold during the quarter for which they claimed support1. It has often been said that it was poorly administered mostly because there was no provision to claw back the JobKeeper funds where there was no decrease in turnover. In New Zealand, their JobKeeper was accompanied by a public register, and increased rigour after the first three months of payments2.

This is often seen as a blunder by the Morrison government. However, I increasingly suspect that this was not a blunder by the Morrison government, but a design feature. The Parliamentary Budget Office found that $1.3 billion went to companies that tripled their turnover during the quarter for which they claimed JobKeeper, and that another $1.3 billion went to companies that doubled their turnover1. None of these companies were forced to return the public funds they received via JobKeeper

In the interval covering October and November 2021, the listed JobKeeper funding was given to the following companies. This only includes companies which received over $20 million: Qantas Airways Limited, $160.5m; Eagers Automotive Limited, $131.1m; G8 Education Limited, $103.2m; Flight Centre Travel Group Limited, $96.4m; Crown Resorts Limited, $92.9m; Myer Holdings Limited, $67.0m; The Star Entertainment Group Limited, $62.4m; AMA Group Limited, $43.5m; Premier Investments Limited, $40.4m; Mosaic Brands Limited, $28.5m; Event Hospitality & Entertainment Limited, $28.3m; Australian Clinical Labs, $26.9m; Millennium Services Group Limited, $21.8m; Viva Energy Group Limited, $21.8m; Kathmandu Holdings Limited, $21.3m3.

While only some of the political donation data is available (the rest is secret) and it is almost a year out of date (this data is for financial year 2020-2021). Poring over this shows that Qantas gave the Labor Party four donations or ‘other receipts’ totalling about $18,000, but gave the Coalition parties the same number of donations or ‘other receipts’ totalling $64,922; G8 Education Limited donated only to the Labor Party to the tune of about $3.7 million; Crown Resorts Limited donated $108,500 to the Labor Party and $47,000 to the Coalition parties; The Star Entertainment Group Limited donated $260,882 to the Labor Party and $181,300 to the Coalition parties4. These are only those donors that use the same name for their JobKeeper receipts. Chasing up all shareholders and associated entities would be a challenging task and is beyond my abilities.

While not all the donations go to the parties that dole out the cash, a fair proportion of it tends to do so. This is because companies generally have to look after themselves by donating to not only the government to influence policy, but also to the opposition in case they win an approaching election. This still does not alter the fact that public money is laundered into political donations. This has to stop.