'A difficult transition': Frydenberg flags targeted support beyond JobKeeper

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg Picture: Elesa Kurtz
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has flagged targeted financial support for struggling industries after JobKeeper winds up, as he acknowledged pulling the wage subsidy would be a "difficult dismount" for the Australian economy.

Mr Frydenberg used a keynote speech at an Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry event on Wednesday morning to herald the success of JobKeeper in supporting millions of businesses and employees through the COVID-19 pandemic.

But with the economy bouncing back, jobs market improving and the vaccine rollout under way, Mr Frydenberg said JobKeeper had "served its purpose".

Mr Frydenberg pointed to Treasury's review of the scheme from last June, which found the wage subsidy could disincentivise work and keep otherwise unviable afloat.

"While JobKeeper has been a remarkable program, it is not longer fit for purpose post-March," Mr Frydenberg said.

While JobKeeper will definitely cease on March 28, Mr Frydenberg confirmed the Morrison government was considering options for further support for businesses and industries still crippled by Australia's international travel ban.

Mr Frydenberg said targeted assistance, which would be announced "in the coming weeks", would need to be proportionate, temporary and "accompanied by an exit strategy".

The Canberra Times this week reported the peak body for travel agents had called for an extension of JobKeeper until at least four months after international travel restarted, as it warned the industry could collapse if the lifeline was pulled.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry acting chief executive Jenny Lambert used Wednesday's event to repeat calls for the federal government to support industries decimated by the border closure.

"These are businesses who through no fault of their own have had their customer base cut from under them," Ms Lambert said.

"We need to work out a way that we can actually see a pathway to see those restrictions lifted, and until they are lifted, that they can look to their governments, federal and state, to provide the support needed to keep them viable until such time as those restrictions are lifted."

Mr Frydenberg acknowledged that the end of JobKeeper would be difficult for businesses and workers, but was confident the economy could weather the transition.

Treasury now expected about 1.1 million people would still be on JobKeeper in March, about 200,000 lower than had been forecast in December's mid-year budget update. The "majority" of recipients are expected to keep their jobs after the wage subsidy is cut, according to Mr Frydenberg.

"The transition will be a difficult dismount, with some businesses needing to adjust and workers seeking out more sustainable roles," he said.

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"But it is one that can be managed, and must be managed, as keeping in place an economy-wide JobKeeper program is not the best way forward to manage the vulnerabilities across the economy that still remain."

In his concluding remark, Mr Fydenberg insisted the federal government would support businesses until the end of the pandemic.

"Just as we had the back of Australian families and Australian businesses at the start of the crisis, through the crisis, we will have your back until the end of the crisis," he said.

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This story 'A difficult dismount': Frydenberg flags targeted support beyond JobKeeper first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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