ScoMo’s response to Aussies denied $1500
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has rejected claims the JobKeeper wage subsidy has been a flop, arguing the JobSeeker payment was available for those who fell through the cracks.
Mr Morrison fronted the media this afternoon to spruik his plan to fix the country's flawed skills and training system as part of the government's coronavirus economic recovery.
But attention soon turned to the JobKeeper scheme and Mr Morrison was asked point-blank by Sky News reporter Kieran Gilbert to explain why so many Australians failed to qualify for it during the crisis.
He asked Mr Morrison for a message for those who had missed out on the $1500-a-fortnight payment and referred to JobKeeper's infamous "$60 billion mistake" - the major reporting error that caused Treasury to dramatically revise its projections for the program, which was originally expected to cost $130 billion.
The JobKeeper program is now just $70 billion - $60 billion less than the original forecast.
"Well, first of all, I don't buy into the demonisation of JobSeeker. I don't. JobSeeker and JobKeeper - and it was actually the JobSeeker changes we announced first - we announced them as a priority," Mr Morrison replied.
"Because the JobSeeker measures is the ultimate social safety net for all of those who are affected. That is what is intended to catch everyone who finds themselves out of work.
"JobKeeper was designed for those who worked in businesses, who have full-time jobs, part time jobs, or what were effectively full-time casual jobs. That's who it was designed for. It was not designed to pay the bills of state governments or local governments.
"That is their responsibility. Nor was it designed to pay the bills of foreign governments. And those policy designs were put in place. And everyone who falls within those designs is getting JobKeeper. That's who is intended to get those payments."
Mr Morrison also argued that JobSeeker was "set at a commensurate level".
"Because, remember, JobSeeker is not the only benefit you get. JobSeeker - when you're on JobSeeker - you get access to a range of other benefits which includes rental assistance, Family Tax Benefit payments, and a whole range of other benefits and allowances," he said.
"And that has meant that those, in fact, on JobSeeker, in many cases, may well be getting more than those on JobKeeper.
"So I don't accept the argument particularly put by the Labor Party that JobSeeker is some sort of second-best option for Australians."
Mr Morrison said JobKeeper had been "very successful in that five million Australians are benefiting" and defended the reporting bungle.
"When JobKeeper was designed and first costed, the uncertainties were extreme. And it's always been my practice - as, indeed, the Treasurer's - and I always like it when Treasury does it too - that they are cautious in their forecasting,' he said.
"It's been said to me, if you're going to miss the mark, it's better to miss the mark on the right side of the line … What Treasury has done is made an estimate of what could be the case. It was the worst-case scenario, effectively, that they were forecasting - estimating.
"We are now in what is their best-case scenario. And that is something we should welcome."
He explained that "everyone that was entitled to that payment was getting that payment they should", but that a tracking mechanism "made it look like we were heading to the worst-case scenario".
"But, thankfully, we weren't. And I see this as a relief," Mr Morrison added.
Originally published as ScoMo's response to Aussies denied $1500