Please explain: Cormann faces the music over $60 billion JobKeeper error

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann is set to face a grilling from a Senate committee hunting answers on bungled wage subsidy projections.

Jun 09, 2020, updated Jun 09, 2020
OECD boss and former Federal Minister Mattias Cormann. (Photo: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

OECD boss and former Federal Minister Mattias Cormann. (Photo: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Treasury boss Steven Kennedy will face the music on Tuesday when the coronavirus inquiry turns its attention to the $60 billion JobKeeper accounting error.

The Federal Government predicted the $1500 fortnightly payments would cost $130 billion covering more than six million workers.

But it was later revealed three million fewer employees were part of the scheme, forcing the projection to be revised down to $70 billion.

Tax commissioner Chris Jordan and other senior Australian Taxation Office staff will also front the committee.

The ATO and Treasury blamed the massive miscalculation partly on businesses making errors on JobKeeper application forms.

Childcare workers have become the first sector to be told wage subsidies will end earlier than the six-month life of the program.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week guaranteed the program would continue for the full legislated period, but the government announced on Monday one sector to be cut off early.

Instead, childcare services will receive a transitional payment from July 20 that Education Minister Dan Tehan predicts will be a “tiny bit” less than JobKeeper.

Tehan was tight-lipped on whether workers in other sectors could expect similar arrangements.

“No decisions have been taken in that regard,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“The Government has said that there will be a review in June so I am sure that the prime minister and the treasurer after that review will have more to say.”

Labor attacked the decision, accusing Morrison of breaking a promise.

Under the changes, parents will have to pay childcare fees again from July 13 as demand grows for services.

Opposition early childhood spokeswoman Amanda Rishworth said the cost of care would still be too high even if parents who have now lost work were eligible for more hours.

“What the government said is bad luck – bad luck, you are going to face the same fees that you did prior to this,” she said.

Coronavirus cases have remained low across Australia, with new infections in the single digits again on Monday.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth said it would be two to three weeks before it was known if Black Lives Matter protests had caused a spike in cases.

There have been 102 coronavirus deaths in Australia, with fewer than 460 active cases of the disease nationally.

But GPs are calling for a place on the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, alongside national and state chief health officers.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has made a submission to the Senate committee looking at the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“GPs have expressed frustrations about different information on testing criteria and use of personal protective equipment across the country as well as inconsistent advice from politicians and a lack of cohesion between different jurisdictions,” RAGCP president Dr Harry Nespolon said.

“Having an RACGP representative on the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee would make a significant difference.

“GPs should also be provided with information such as government modelling and local epidemiological data.”


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