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‘I take responsibility’: Treasurer accepts blame for $60b bungle

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has accepted blame for the $60 billion JobKeeper reporting error but says there are no plans to use the extra money to extend the program anytime soon.

“I take responsibility for this and am accountable through the Parliament,” Mr Frydenberg told Today on Monday.

“Of course, it is regrettable that these forecasts have had to be revised but importantly no money was paid out by the ATO, either an under payment or over payment as a result of the incorrect data that they had.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has accepted blame for the $60 billion JobKeeper reporting error. (Nine/Today)

The government admitted on Friday its JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme to assist business and workers through the COVID-19 pandemic will now be $70 billion rather than $130 billion and will now only cover 3.5 million people rather than 6.5 million that had been forecast.

The treasurer said the JobKeeper program was due to be reviewed at the end of June but suggested the additional money would not be handed out to those who have fallen through the cracks.

“We’re doing a review and obviously we will see how it’s being implemented as well as seeing how the economic conditions are at the time,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“There are no plans for wholesale changes to the eligibility criteria.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has attributed the amended costings to a “reporting error”. (Sydney Morning Herald)

“We recognise there are some sectors like tourism that are going to do it tough for quite a while because the international borders will remain closed for quite a while. 

“Now, we’ve already provided support to those sectors, but we will continue to look at other options that we may have to continue that support. But the best way to get people back in a job is through the easing of the restrictions.

“And National Cabinet, as you know, agreed to three stages of lifting those restrictions and it’s estimated some 850,000 people will be back in a job as a result of those restrictions being lifted. That’s going to be great news for the economy.”In an opinion piece for The Australian today, Mr Frydenberg called the bungle “regrettable”.

People queue up at Centrelink in Rockdale, Sydney after many people have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus lockdowns
People queue up at Centrelink in Rockdale, Sydney after many people have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus lockdowns (AAP)

He said Treasury massively overestimated the number of people who would need JobKeeper because in March, it assumed the health crisis would be much worse and the economic implications would be more dramatic.

Speaking on Sunday Prime Minister Scott Morrison took responsibility for the error.

“Ultimately, I have to take responsibilities for those things,” Mr Morrison said.

“So, sure, the estimate was overstated.”

Meantime, Labor wants Mr Frydenberg to front a Senate inquiry over the issue.

Opposition frontbencher Penny Wong says it’s a “$60 billion black hole in the economic credibility” of the government.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has described the JobKeeper error as “regrettable”. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

“We can’t trust anything Scott Morrison or Josh Frydenberg say about the economy or the budget, and perhaps worse has been the failure to front up and take responsibility,” Senator Wong told ABC television’s Insiders program on Sunday.

“When you’ve got a budget blunder of this size, I reckon it’s about time you fronted up and explained it.”

She said the chair of the Senate committee into the COVID-19 response Labor’s Katy Gallagher will be calling on Mr Frydenberg to give evidence to the committee.

“What I would say to Josh, this is your opportunity to front up and explain the $60 billion blunder to the parliament and to the Australian people,” she said.

But a government spokesperson said that was unlikely.

“As the Labor Party know the process for the COVID Committee is that House of Representatives ministers, if required, would appear through their representative ministers in the Senate and be supported by relevant departmental officials like takes place during Senate estimates hearings,” a government spokesperson told 9News.

– Reported with AAP

Source: 9News

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