Josh Frydenberg

$60B Short: Federal Government’s JobKeeper Bungle

The Government has made a "significant error" in calculating the acclaimed JobKeeper scheme.
Josh Frydenberg
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The Government has made a “significant error” in calculating the acclaimed JobKeeper scheme, with the program now expected to cost $70 billion, not $130 billion.

The Federal Treasury today revealed an extraordinary miscalculation of the number of employees – and subsequently the total cost – of JobKeeper.

Originally expected to cost $130 billion and cover 6 million workers, the scheme will actually only cost $70 billion and cover about 3.5 million employees.

How’d they get it wrong?

Turns out those forms they handed to businesses to indicate how many employees would get JobKeeper probably weren’t the clearest, with over 1000 firms found to have made “significant errors” when estimating the staff who would need the payment.

In a statement, Treasury said the most common mistake was employers putting down how much financial assistance they expected to receive, rather than the number of staff that would receive it.

“For example, over 500 businesses with ‘1’ eligible employee reported a figure of ‘1,500’,” the statement read.

Isn’t underspend good?

While it might sound like good news that the Government has given out less money than previously estimated, there’s some serious stings in the misstep for them.

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The first, is that it doesn’t make them look so smart.

And Labor made sure we all knew it.

Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the mistake was extraordinary.

“After all the lectures about fiscal responsibility, Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg have had to admit to getting their numbers wrong by $60 billion,” he said.

“If they can’t get this basic maths right how can we expect them to get the recovery right?”

While Treasury’s statement was clear that the mistake came down to employers giving the wrong numbers, Labor Leader Anthony Albanese said it was no excuse.

“This is a mistake you could’ve seen from space,” he said.

“This is a government that couldn’t run a bath let alone be good economic managers.”

All those left out

Besides handing Labor the ammo with which to shoot the Government’s fishy misstep in their self-made barrel, there is another implication to the mistake that will also loom over the Coalition into next week.

That is, all of those workers who were essentially left out of JobKeeper.

An example would be casuals who had not worked for one employer for 12 months or more. Another may be musicians and others from creative industries living gig to gig.

The fact that there’s $60B large now leftover means the Government’s stance on being unable to care for more Australians has been blown from the water.

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Anthony Albanese said it indicated the Government had not “done their homework” and that there were inadequate accountability measures.

Jim Chalmers said it was a smack in the face for casuals and others who had been told they would not receive JobKeeper.

“For weeks they (the Government) have been telling casuals and others that the program was full, when in reality they were 3 million workers short,” he said.

Better economic outlook

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg stressed today the reporting errors would not affect those receiving the payment.

He also noted that $60 billion not being spent was not all bad.

“It is welcome news that the impact on the public purse from the program will not be as great as initially estimated,” he said.

More coronavirus coverage visit Perth Coronavirus Updates.

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