Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has admitted there’s nothing to stop employers sacking workers on JobKeeper now or in September when the $1500 payments run out.
Mr Frydenberg has conceded the scheme, which is designed to help workers keep their jobs, includes zero penalties for bosses who ultimately chose to get rid of workers.
It’s a revelation that shocked radio broadcaster Ray Hadley, who slammed the practice as “unAustralian” and against the spirit of the JobKeeper scheme as the pair discussed the $60 billion costings bungle that has rocked the scheme.
Mr Hadley told the Treasurer he had believed that companies that signed on to JobKeeper were promising to keep the job on the books for six months.
“Are you now saying that’s not the case?,” Hadley asked.
“We’ve never said that’s the case,” Mr Frydenberg responded.
“What their obligation is to the government, if they receive the JobKeeper payment, is that they have made that payment to their staff member. That’s always been the clear case.
“If they make a staff member redundant, then they need to meet their obligations to those staff as you would expect them to do under the Fair Work Act.”
But Mr Frydenberg stressed companies could not pocket the JobKeeper cash if they let workers go.
“Any other company big or small, if they have received a JobKeeper payment on behalf of their employees, they need to have paid those employees that $1500 a fortnight amount,” he said.
“They absolutely have to notify the ATO each month as part of their payroll reporting. If they have made people redundant they are not entitled to get further payments from the government.”
As the radio host continued to question why the JobKeeper scheme was not protecting workers from being laid off, the Treasurer urged companies not to sack workers.
“Everyone of these companies needs to explain why they are not keeping their staff in a job,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“Businesses right around the country should be endeavouring to keep staff on, if they are eligible under JobKeeper.
“I cannot see why a business would seek to make someone redundant who was eligible under JobKeeper.
“Businesses should not be using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to downsize their workforce.”
Food supplier Bidfood has been accused of making 100 workers forcibly redundant while receiving taxpayer-funded subsidies through the JobKeeper scheme.
Labor’s treasury Jim Chalmers slammed the $60 billion JobKeeper forecasting error as “the biggest error ever made in a budget by any government at any point in Australian history”.
“That’s catastrophic for hundreds of thousands of Australian workers who were excluded from the scheme on the basis the program was full,” Mr Chalmers told ABC radio.
“And what Mathias Cormann just said then … that for a large number of these workers, everything will be OK, because they are off to Centrelink to get onto the JobSeeker payment.
“And I think that’s an admission of failure that the objectives of this program, to keep as many people attached to their employer as possible, are not being met.”
Mr Chalmers said it was a bit rich for the Coalition to claim economic management credentials when it was struggling with “basic maths”.
“We will no longer take lectures on fiscal responsibility from these characters, who had already more than doubled debt before this virus, who delivered only deficits after promising only surpluses, and who are now responsible for the biggest blunder in the budget in our history,” he said.
“The days of these guys being taken seriously on the budget, or the economy, are well and truly over.”
Originally published as JobKeeper can’t stop you from getting sack