Labor’s Katy Gallagher is targeting the Coalition over the fact Scott Morrison appeared to guarantee jobkeeper would stay in place until September on Friday, only to renege by removing the payment from the childcare sector on Monday.
Finance minister Mathias Cormann replied:
I don’t agree that’s what he’s done. Jobkeeper is in place to the end of September. In relation to childcare workers, [it was] replaced with a transition payment and subsidy.
Morrison had said:
The six months provision of jobkeeper has been set out in legislation and people can count on that.
[Q: You can guarantee that? That will be there until the end of September?]
Cormann said jobkeeper was “always a temporary support”. Although the program was in place until September, there “may well be some further adjustments made at the edges”.
Cormann noted the childcare sector had to agree to keep employment levels up to receive extra subsidy support, but wouldn’t guarantee there would be no job losses.
So the program named jobkeeper will be in place til September, but that doesn’t mean everyone getting the $1,500 fortnightly payment will continue to get it. If only you could pay bills with the name of or legislated end date of a program, instead of cash.
Closing the Gap to include justice targets, Ken Wyatt says
Treasury secretary takes responsibility for $60bn jobkeeper bungle
The Treasury secretary, Steven Kennedy, says he takes responsibility for the $60bn “estimates variation” on jobkeeper, and backs Cormann’s explanation about parameters changing (because health results were better than expected).
The Covid-19 committee then heard from the ATO commissioner, Chris Jordan, on the second error – that the ATO believed many more employees were covered due to errors in employers’ responses.
Jordan said a small number of the 900,000 businesses made errors such as putting their phone numbers, ABN or bank account details into the employees-covered field, and some put in 1,500 or multiples of 1,500.
He said 0.1% of employers appeared to think the field was asking for “the amount payable to, rather than the number of employees”.
He said many categories of error were picked up but:
We did not build rigorous analytics behind that field that asked for the estimated number of employees that businesses had [claimed for].
Jordan said the ATO told treasury about the error on 21 May, before the public update on 22 May.
Explaining why it took so long to detect, the ATO said the numbers enrolling in jobkeeper “seemed to be on trajectory consistent with estimates ... but once [we] began to confirm employees covered, we identified within a fortnight the numbers were less than expected”.
The ATO conducted outreach to big employers and believed the discrepancy was due to big employers not completing the second stage of their application (confirming which employees they were claiming for). Eventually, it “became evident” there was another factor: the employers mis-entering the number of employees.
Jordan said this “temporarily obscured the size of a demand driven program” but did not result in incorrect payments.
Cormann defends $60bn jobkeeper 'estimates variation'
The finance minister, Mathias Cormann, is before the Senate Covid-19 committee, explaining that the $60bn underspend in the jobkeeper program (from $130bn to $70bn) was an “estimates variation ... not an accounting error as it has been falsely described by some”.
Cormann explained the government was “expecting the worst” and was “prudently planning for the worst”, but the variation was due to “substantially changed” parameters – as the health outlook was much better than expected.
It is a usual estimates variation in relation to a demand driven program.
The size [of the variation] is a function of the high degree of uncertainty, and the potential size of the program. Importantly, the revised cost estimate was much lower, not much higher, than anticipated ... a very good thing.
It is important that we erred on the side of prudence, rather than put ourselves at the risk of a potential deteriorating situation, [in which case] we might have been forced to make estimates variation in the other direction, which would not have been good for confidence.
Berejiklian says NSW will punish businesses breaking coronavirus rules
Western Australia reports no new Covid-19 cases
NSW reports two new Covid-19 cases