The federal government originally forecast the JobKeeper program to cover about 6 million people at a cost of $130 billion. However, the government subsequently announced that it expected about 3.5 million people to receive JobKeeper, at a reduced cost of around $70 billion, according to the first interim report from the Senate select committee on COVID-19.
The report noted that the Grattan Institute observed that the revision “arguably makes room to expand the eligibility of the scheme”.
However, despite being granted powers by the Parliament to expand eligibility for JobKeeper through regulation, the report noted that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg decided not to use this $60 billion error as an opportunity to include some of the workers and businesses that had been unfairly excluded from JobKeeper and in doing so save more jobs.
“The committee is concerned that, notwithstanding the urgency with which JobKeeper was designed, the Department of the Treasury forecasts were out by such magnitude,” the report said.
“It resulted in the government making decisions based on information that turned out to be highly inaccurate.”
Over 1 million Aussie workers excluded from JobKeeper
The report also noted that a whole range of JobKeeper exclusions meant more than 1 million Australian workers were prevented access to the scheme, including:
- Casual employees who couldn’t demonstrate 12 months of continuous employment with the same employers (around 1 million people);
- All temporary visa holders (around 750,000 people);
- All employees of local government (194,000 people), including workers in many childcare centres, libraries, and arts and recreational facilities;
- All employees of companies owned by foreign governments, including several thousand Dnata workers who were stood down in May;
- All employees of universities — while universities were not explicitly named as an exclusion, the government made multiple changes to the rules to deliberately exclude universities from receiving JobKeeper payments.