Calls for Treasurer to front Senate over $60b blunder

 

LABOR is calling for Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to front the Senate's COVID-19 Committee to explain the biggest budget mistake in Australian history.

The Government has been under increasing pressure since Friday when a $60 billion mistake was revealed in the JobKeeper wage subsidy, which is the country's largest ever economic stimulus package.

Chair of the Senate Covid Committee Katy Gallagher and foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong this morning said Mr Frydenberg needed to explain the bungle, which has been blamed on businesses incorrectly reporting the number of employees eligible for the payment.

 

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

 

 

On ABC Insiders Senior Wong stopped short of saying Mr Frydenberg should be compelled to appear but said it was a test of his "courage".

"It is ultimately up to him," she said.

 

"I would make this point, Scott Morrison did. Scott Morrison previously, when he was a minister, did appear before a Senate Committee. We'd say to Josh, when you've got a budget blunder of this size, I reckon it is about time you fronted up and explained it."

Senator Gallagher, who is due to address the media today, took to Twitter to call for Mr Frydenberg to "front up and explain his $60 billion budget blunder".

"The COVID-19 Committee is the primary accountability mechanism to scrutinise the Government's response to the pandemic and this is Josh Frydenberg's chance to be upfront with the Australian community and explain this massive mistake," she said.

Treasury and ATO officials advised the government of the mistake late Thursday after detecting reporting errors.

 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg speaks during of Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House. Picture: Getty
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg speaks during of Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House. Picture: Getty

 

A day later they cut estimates for the number of employees eligible for the program from more than 6 million to 3.5 million and the total cost down from $130 billion to $70 billion.

Mr Frydenberg this morning rejected more calls for the program to be expanded to include workers such as casuals, university employees and those in the arts.

"We're not about to make wholesale changes, we'll conduct a review of the program through the month of June and if there are changes that need to be made as a result of that review we will do so," he told 3AW radio in Melbourne.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor told Sky News the write down in cost was actually "very, very good news".

"The position is better than we had hoped and certainly that is important as we go into recovery," he said.

Originally published as Calls for Treasurer to front Senate over $60b budget bungle


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