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Are Australian companies exploiting taxpayers?

The government unveiled the $4 billion JobMaker wage subsidy in last week's budget as part of a plan to create jobs and stimulate the economy. The scheme offers employers between $100 and $200 a week for hiring new staff between the ages of 16 and 35.

No doubt the scheme is designed to create opportunities for more Australian jobs. However, for companies that are booming post-COVID, is it creating an opportunity to exploit taxpayers?

It seems at least a couple of companies do not want to be seen as doing so.

Woolworths says it will not participate in the scheme as it believes it would not be appropriate to claim the taxpayer funded assistance, given record supermarket sales. In an email sent to Woolworths employees last week, CEO Brad Banducci, confirmed the company will not be signing up to the scheme. He said it is not appropriate to participate, given the huge profits the supermarket giant has made during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Likewise, the Board of Briscoe Group announced on Friday that it would pay back the $11.5 million wage subsidy after the Homewares and Rebel Sport owner experienced continued strong sales during its third quarter for FY20.

In contrast, Wesfarmers, owners of Bunnings, Kmart, Officeworks and Target, said it would not rule out its use of the scheme. The $54 billion retailer has been a major beneficiary of COVID-19, with sales up more than 10% to $31 billion in the last financial year.

Coles has also confirmed it will claim the JobMaker subsidy. CEO Steven Cain said the supermarket intends to use the scheme, but only in certain circumstances.

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