Finance Work Mathias Cormann: Adjusting JobKeeper payments remains an option
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Mathias Cormann: Adjusting JobKeeper payments remains an option

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JobKeeper payments are scheduled to be reduced in September ... or maybe they aren't. Photo: AAP
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Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has hinted further changes to JobKeeper could be necessary in the face of an evolving coronavirus crisis, saying there was “flexibility” to keep the current payment rates instead of cutting them after September as scheduled.

Last week, the government announced a further $15 billion injection into the wage subsidy program with changes allowing easier access for businesses.

However, the scheme will step down from a fortnightly payment of $1500 a week to $1200 at the end of September, and then down to $1000 from December to March.

 

Asked on the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday if the reduction in September was too soon in light of problems in Victoria, Senator Cormann said while it was “the current intention” to reduce the payment, the government may change its plans.

“We’ve been flexible in the past when it comes to what has been a rapidly evolving and fluid situation,” he said.

“We’ve responded to things as they’ve emerged. But … moving forward, our intention is to transition the economy and to transition the fiscal policy settings back to the new normal by the end of March.”

Senator Cormann said that if the COVID situation continues to deteriorate in Victoria, or potentially in other parts of the country, changes may be needed.

“Of course, depending on what happens, we don’t know what we don’t know. And we can speculate, but it might well be that things will be better than anticipated,” he said.

“I’m not going to speculate. The policy settings are what they are.

“As we’ve demonstrated in the past, if facts change, we’ll reassess what may or may not be appropriate at the time.”

The Finance Minister also defended the government against revelations that a much-vaunted arts sector recovery package had yet to pay out any money.

 

The $250 million entertainment industry funding under the JobMaker program, announced to much fanfare with an event featuring pop singer Guy Sebastian, promised concessional loans and government support for events.

But last week, it was revealed in a Senate committee hearing that the paperwork hadn’t been officially signed off yet.

Senator Cormann said there were “administrative processes” that needed to be followed that had delayed the rollout of cash, but promised the funding would be delivered soon.

 

“Significant amounts of funding have gone into the arts sector, as they have gone into the economy as a whole. But the Minister for the Arts, Paul Fletcher, will ensure that that funding hits the ground as quickly as possible having followed all of the proper processes,” he said.

“I understand that the department provided relevant paperwork towards the end of this past week and the minister, no doubt, will act very swiftly.”

-with AAP