Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has revealed that the government is open to extending its wage subsidy scheme.
Dutton said on Friday morning that the government is “flexible” on the issue of extending the JobKeeper scheme, under which employees who have had their work status affected by COVID-19 restrictions receive 1,500 Australian dollars (994.9 U.S. dollars) per fortnight.
It comes after Philip Lowe, the governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), told a Senate inquiry into the government’s response to the pandemic on Thursday that JobKeeper should be extended beyond its planned expiry in September if the economy does not improve.
“We want jobs to be at the centre of every decision we make,” Dutton told Nine Network television.
“So 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.”
However, he declared that a final decision would be made by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg who downplayed the possibility on Friday.
Appearing on Seven Network television shortly after Dutton’s comments, Frydenberg said that the government would likely consider targeted support for certain industries instead of expanding the scheme.
“We know that there will be some sectors that will continue to need support, for example tourism, as the international borders remain closed,” he said.
“Also construction in the housing sector will be important to give support and we are thinking through those options. But as for additional measures, it is right now too early to say.”
The government has been under pressure to expand the Jobkeeper scheme since it was revealed on May 22 that only 3.5 million Australians are receiving the payment compared to 6 million previously estimated.
As a result the cost of the package fell from 130 billion Australian dollars (86.2 billion U.S. dollars) to 70 billion Australian dollars (46.4 billion U.S. dollars).
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