CANBERRA, AAP – Businesses have been told to prepare for life after wage subsidies with Scott Morrison adamant JobKeeper is still due to end in March.
The prime minister hasn’t completely shut the door to changing course, but seems increasingly unlikely to extend the program in its current form.
“Australians would agree that taxpayers’ money can’t be used endlessly to run the Australian economy,” he told reporters in central Queensland on Thursday.
“That is not a sustainable way forward. That just piles up debt. We’ve got a lot of it now that was necessary to do.
“But my approach on these things is (spend) every dollar you need to, but not a dollar you don’t have to.”
Mr Morrison said businesses should make decisions based on the JobKeeper end date of March 28.
“At this stage, the settings are as I’ve set them out and people should work on the basis of those settings unless they’re reviewed,” he said.
There are concerns sectors still under enormous pressure from coronavirus restrictions like tourism could drive unemployment higher without wage subsidies.
But the prime minister argues the same dire predictions were made when JobKeeper and the unemployment benefit were reduced in September and December.
“The assumption that is being made is there are not other things being done in the economy to drive the growth that supports businesses,” he said.
The government is talking up other programs, including hiring credits for young people and home construction grants, as evidence economic support will continue in other forms.
Labor is calling for targeted support for ailing industries with hospitality, tourism and universities all keen for a form of JobKeeper to continue.
“It would be much better than the boneheaded approach of saying we’ve got to cut this off regardless of where the economy is at,” shadow assistant treasurer Andrew Leigh told 6PR radio.
Dr Leigh wants the prime minister to pressure companies with major profits that received JobKeeper to hand back the cash, freeing up taxpayer support for others.
Mr Morrison has praised Super Retail Group and Toyota but declined to criticise Premier Investments which had record profits.
“He’s willing to smile, but he’s not willing to scowl,” Dr Leigh said.