JobKeeper deadline splits senior ministers

Peter Dutton has confirmed the government is willing to be flexible with the end date for JobKeeper.
Peter Dutton has confirmed the government is willing to be flexible with the end date for JobKeeper.

Peter Dutton has broken ranks by raising the prospect of extending JobKeeper wage subsidies beyond their September expiry date.

The home affairs minister indicated the federal government had room to move in helping Australians recover from the pandemic.

"I think we are flexible and we will look at the way in which we could help businesses and people get back to a normal way of life," he told the Nine Network on Friday.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was far more reserved about extending the payment.

"We recognise that additional support will be needed for some sectors that are slower to recover," Mr Frydenberg told the Seven Network.

"It's not just always about JobKeeper, it's also about what other support packages and initiatives you can undertake in various sectors."

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who on Friday revealed the federal budget deficit had hit $40 billion at the end of April, said JobKeeper and JobSeeker were expensive programs.

He said the support measures would be temporary, limited to the 2019/20 and 2020/21 financial years, and the government would not be "baking material structural burdens" into the budget bottom line beyond that period.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also pointed to flexibility when it comes to government support, saying multiple mechanisms were in place.

"As time goes on, more of the economy gets stronger and more of your economy is less in need of those specific supports than it was at first," he told reporters.

"But some sectors of your economy will need them for longer."

The federal government originally budgeted $130 billion for the JobKeeper program, which provides workers $1500 a fortnight.

But they greatly overestimated the number of businesses that would sign up, meaning the scheme will cost $60 billion less than expected.

"We were planning for the worse, we were uncertain as to how long and how deep this crisis could go," Senator Cormann said.

Rather than expanding the payments to workers who missed out or extending the six-month program, the Treasurer appears more intent on redirecting the unspent money to sector-specific initiatives.

Mr Frydenberg raised tourism and housing sectors as two probable targets.

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe on Thursday warned a parliamentary committee that cutting off JobKeeper too soon could be a mistake.

Australian Associated Press