Businesses face having to re-qualify for the JobKeeper wage subsidy when the Morrison government announces details of its planned overhaul next week.
Under current rules, the coronavirus subsidy is available to businesses with a turnover of less than $1 billion, if their revenue has fallen 30 per cent.
Big businesses must show a 50 per cent decline.
All businesses that have met the revenue test at any stage during the pandemic qualified for $1500 fortnightly payments for all employees.
The government has said consistently the JobKeeper wages subsidy will end on September 27. But last week – with the surge in cases sending millions of Victorians into a second strict lockdown – Prime Minister Scott Morrison committed to “a further phase of support that goes beyond September”.
The details are to be outlined in Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s economic update on July 23.
However, on Friday Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the next phase of wages support would be based on need.
“Businesses that have recovered or are recovering clearly won’t need the sort of support that has been in place over the last few months on an ongoing basis, but other businesses will,” he told Sky News on Friday.
“It will come down to making sure that we properly assess the need, and identify and target support into those areas where support is indeed needed.”
Senator Cormann said businesses that qualified at the start of JobKeeper remained eligible for the entire six months.
“The truth is, a lot has changed during this period,” he said.
“A number of businesses have seen strong recoveries, other businesses continue to be seriously challenged.”
The latest unemployment data, released on Thursday, showed almost a million Australians were out of work in June, when the jobless rate hit a 22-year high of 7.4 per cent.
Mr Morrison said the real rate was estimated to be about 11 per cent, down from 13.3 per cent.
“So we’re making progress. We’ve got a long way to go,” he told the Nine Network.
Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O’Neil warned there would be a huge jump in unemployment without an extension to JobKeeper.
“People need reassurance that Australia isn’t going over an economic cliff, so the sooner the government tells people the plan, the better for everyone,” she said.
On the other side of the debate, Mr Morrison is pushing for flexible industrial relations rules to be made permanent.
“If that ends, if we don’t get the support to keep that going for businesses, that will cost people their jobs,” he told Network Ten.
Senator Cormann urged unions and bosses to maintain the cooperative relationship fostered through the pandemic.
“This is not the time for everyone to go back into their corner and fight partisan battles,” he said.