CANBERRA, AAP – The Morrison government has launched a fresh defence of its $90 billion wage subsidy scheme, in the face of ongoing claims it benefited profitable big businesses.
The coalition is refusing to pressure eligible companies that received JobKeeper and then boosted revenues to hand the payments back.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said Treasury analysis showed more payments went to smaller outfits than major firms.
“What this data demonstrates is that JobKeeper overwhelmingly benefited small businesses, medium businesses, charities and not for profits,” he told Sky News on Friday.
“Yes, it also benefited big businesses, but across all of those sweeps, it benefited those businesses by keeping their staff on the books because none of those businesses got to keep a single dollar of JobKeeper money.”
People who wrongly received welfare payments or wage subsidies have been pursued by government debt collectors.
But decisions about handing JobKeeper payments back have been left to eligible companies, with some bowing to public pressure.
Senator Birmingham said ineligible businesses that had wrongly claimed payments would be pursued by the tax office.
“Individuals who have done the wrong thing, be it in JobKeeper, JobSeeker or any other payments, should also expect people to go after them,” he said.
“That’s about making sure that people claim within the rules keeping integrity around these programs.”
Labor and independent senator Rex Patrick have been demanding more transparency around JobKeeper, including public disclosure of big companies’ receipts.
Senator Birmingham said there would be no retrospective rule changes to force companies to reveal wage subsidy payments.