Speaking from Narrabri in North West NSW, acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack said a wide range of businesses had told him that the wage subsidy should not be extended beyond its 28 March expiry date.
“They’re telling me that JobKeeper and the other arrangements that we have in place need to be tapered off,” Mr McCormack said.
When pushed on which industries had called for an end to JobKeeper, Mr McCormack said: “You could start at A, accountants, and you could work right through to Z, zoos and everything in between. There are jobs available in regional Australia right now from A to Z.
“Some businesses in some areas, yes, I appreciate will still be hard hit. But we cannot keep the assistance going forever. The great assistance that we have provided in the order of hundreds of billions of dollars, it can’t go on because it’s borrowed money.
“It comes from Australian taxpayers, it comes from other borrowings. It can’t go on forever, the assistance. You have to draw the line somewhere. We’ve made that decision.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg also reaffirmed the government’s decision to wind down the program, despite continued coronavirus outbreaks forcing snap lockdowns and border closures in recent weeks.
Mr Frydenberg said economic recovery in the form of 2.2 million workers and 450,000 businesses dropping off JobKeeper after September justified the decision to end the program by March.
“JobKeeper was always intended to be a temporary program. It was initially legislated for six months, and as you know, we extended it for another six months. But it is a program that goes to the end of March,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“You’ve seen the same reports that I have, where some businesses have asked for an extension, others, as we’ve heard from today, are seeing jobs coming back, and are seeing the customers coming back.
“But my job, as the Treasurer, is to put in place an economic plan which will create jobs, and which will save jobs, and which will get Australia to the other side of this crisis. And our economic plan is working, and you can see that in a whole range of numbers that have come out about the economy in recent months.”
Mr Frydenberg also revealed that personal income tax cuts that were backdated to 1 July 2020 have since increased household incomes by around $7 billion.
“$7 billion has flowed through the tax cuts to the pockets of Australian families over the last six months and more than $1 billion a month will be flowing over the next nine months,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“Household consumption has had a big lift directly as a result of the restrictions coming off, but also with confidence coming back.
“Consumer and business confidence are now back at its pre-COVID levels, and that’s a very positive sign.”
Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.