Premier Peter Gutwein is calling on the federal government to extend the JobKeeper payment beyond its September deadline, after it was revealed the estimated cost of the wage subsidy scheme was $60 billion less than originally forecast.
Mr Gutwein today issued a statement in which he urged his conservative colleagues in Canberra to expand JobKeeper and to focus on additional support for industries such as tourism and hospitality, which have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus crisis.
"The 'good news' that the JobKeeper forecasts have been massively overestimated by $60 billion presents an opportunity for the scheme to be extended," he said.
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"The scheme is an excellent one and is doing what it was intended to with all eligible workers being paid.
"However, now that it is apparent that it will cost significantly less than first thought, the scheme should be extended for a longer period."
Mr Gutwein said he would be raising the matter at the next national cabinet meeting.
"I'm certain that most states and territories will be of a similar view," he said.
The Premier also said the Coalition should consider using the savings to provide further support for "job-rich infrastructure projects that support the national interest", such as Hydro Tasmania's ambitious renewable energy plan Battery of the Nation and the proposed second Bass Strait interconnector Marinus Link.
The JobKeeper fiasco has been blamed on a reporting error which saw about 1000 businesses incorrectly fill out their application forms.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has knocked back any suggestions that the Coalition should use the additional money rather than save it. "This is not an invitation to spend more money, but, rather, to ensure that the program gets to those people who need it most," he said yesterday, adding that the scheme would still be reviewed at its halfway-point.
I'm certain that most states and territories will be of a similar view.Peter Gutwein, Tasmanian Premier
Mr Gutwein's intervention in the JobKeeper debate comes after state Labor Opposition Leader Rebecca White said yesterday that the accounting bungle should be seen as a chance to extend the payment to local government employees, temporary visa-holders and more casual workers.
Ms White said Mr Gutwein "continues to ignore those workers who are ineligible for payments under the scheme".
"Peter Gutwein must now demand the federal government extends eligibility for the JobKeeper program to cover all workers," she said in a statement today.
"There is no excuse not to extend it given the federal government's embarrassing $60 billion budgeting mistake meaning the 'line in the sand' which previously prevented these workers from being eligible no longer applies."
Greens leader Cassy O'Connor said the Premier was "right" to call for an extension of JobKeeper but agreed with Labor that it also needed to be extended to casuals and workers with temporary visas.
"The $60 billion in apparent spare change in [Prime Minister Scott Morrison's] back pocket should also go towards boosting the disability support payment and retaining the current rate of JobSeeker," she said.
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