The Australian Tax Office and Federal Treasury revealed on Friday it made a $60 billion error in its JobKeeper cost estimate, with the scheme predicted to not set the government back $70 billion, rather than the $130 billion initially touted.
The two institutions said around 1,000 businesses had made errors reporting the number of employees due to receive the $1,500 per fortnight payment, as those businesses reported the amount of assistance they thought they would receive, rather than the number of eligible employees.
“This reporting error has come to light as the ATO and Treasury have been analysing the amounts being paid out under the scheme, reconciling these with the estimates provided by enrolled businesses of the likely number of eligible employees,” the ATO and Treasury said in a statement.
“It was not picked up by the ATO earlier as their primary focus in the first fortnight of JobKeeper payments was on ensuring that JobKeeper payments were paid promptly to those eligible for them, and not paid to those who were ineligible.
But while some experts are saying the error doesn’t translate to $60 billion in extra funds available for JobKeeper, activist group Get Up said the reporting error means there’s scope to include more Aussies previously excluded by the stipulations of the scheme.
“Instead of cutting JobKeeper, why not expand it to all the casuals and people on temporary visas who need it? The funds are literally all there,” GetUp’s national director, Paul Oosting said.
“Jobkeeper was proof that the money for social spending was always there, there’s no justification to cut these vital funds that are keeping food on the table for families across the country.
To receive the subsidy, casual employees must have been with their employer for at least 12 months, ruling out many casual workers: Of the 2.6 million casuals in Australia, around 955,000 have been with their current employer for less than a year, Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals.
Oosting’s comments echo the Australia Council of Trade Union’s calls earlier this month, which also asked the government to include casuals and visa workers in the scheme.
“There is now no argument in terms of cost,” ACTU Secretary Sally McManus told Guardian Australian.
“If you’re out of a job, you’re out of a job. It’s immoral that some working people in Australia, such as visa-holders, get absolutely nothing.”
JobKeeper may not last 6 months
There’s no guarantee the government’s income support measures will last the full six months as initially touted, Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed in a press conference earlier this month.
Morrison could not provide any certainty when pressed on whether the JobKeeper and JobSeeker measures would last the entire six months, instead telling the conference his priority was getting Aussies back to work.
“I can give them the certainty that I want them to be back in their jobs, where they don't need it [JobKeeper or JobSeeker],” Morrison said.
“That's what we want. I mean, people don't want to be on JobKeeper and JobSeeker. They want to be in a job that's paying them.