Frydenberg rejects call to explain $60b Jobkeeper bungle

TREASURER Josh Frydenberg has rejected calls to explain the government's $60 billion JobKeeper accounting blunder to a Senate committee.

Labor called on Sunday for Mr Frydenberg to front a COVID Committee hearing after the Treasury and ATO revealed they had drastically over-estimated the scope and cost of the country's largest ever stimulus package.

Committee chairwoman Katy Gallagher had wanted to grill Mr Frydenberg on "exactly how he got the centrepiece of the Government's economic response to COVID-19, the JobKeeper program, so wrong".

The program was originally estimated to cover more than 6 million workers at a cost of $130 billion but authorities later detected "reporting errors" and were forced to slash predictions by about 3.5 million workers and $60 billion.

 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (left) and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. Picture: AAP/Lukas Coch
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (left) and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. Picture: AAP/Lukas Coch

In a letter tabled this morning Mr Frydenberg insisted he would co-operate with the committee but in a manner "consistent with longstanding practice and conventions".

He said House of Representatives ministers conventionally appeared at hearings through their representative Senate Minister, in this case Mathias Cormann.

"If required, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, will be available to attend a hearing of the committee in his capacity as minister representing the Treasurer in the Senate along with officers from the Treasury and the ATO," he said.

 

Chair of the Senate Inquiry into COVID-19 Senator Katy Gallagher. Picture: AAP/Lukas Coch
Chair of the Senate Inquiry into COVID-19 Senator Katy Gallagher. Picture: AAP/Lukas Coch

 

 

Committee chairwoman and Labor Senator Katy Gallagher said it was uncommon but not unprecedented for House of Representatives ministers to attend Senate hearings, noting Prime Minister Scott Morrison "did exactly that in 2014 as Immigration Minister".

"Josh Frydenberg is the architect of the Government's JobKeeper program," she said.

"He is the minister that signed off on the details of the scheme.

"He decided which workers were to be excluded from the program and has been spruiking the incorrect uptake of JobKeeper for the past eight weeks.

"He is the one who should front up and explain how this $60 billion blunder happened."

 

Originally published as Frydenberg rejects call to explain $60b Jobkeeper bungle


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