Most off JobKeeper by March: Treasurer

·2-min read

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg believes most people will be off the JobKeeper program by the end of March, making it no longer fit for purpose.

He says new preliminary data from the Australian Taxation Office indicates there were about 140,000 fewer businesses on the wage subsidy program in January compared to the previous month, and nearly 600,000 fewer individuals.

Treasury now expects the number of people relying on the payment in the March quarter to be about 1.1 million, a reduction of 200,000 compared to the 1.3 million estimated in the mid-year budget review released in December.

"Of the 1.1 million in the March quarter, we are expecting the majority to remain in their existing jobs following the conclusion of the program," Mr Frydenberg told an Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry conference in Canberra on Wednesday.

"While JobKeeper has been a remarkable program, it is no longer fit for purpose post-March."

He concedes the transition from JobKeeper will be difficult with some businesses needing to adjust and workers having to seek out more sustainable roles.

"But it is one that can be managed," he said.

He said the next stage will need to target those that require support whilst not getting in the way of the broader economic recovery.

"Over the coming weeks we'll have more to say on targeted support for various sectors and industries," Mr Frydenberg said.

Meanwhile, the first conviction for JobKeeper fraud has been recorded.

Raed Saleh was fined $3000 and ordered to pay reparations of $3000 and costs of $282 for making a false and misleading statement to the Australian Taxation Office to receive $6000 in JobKeeper payments.

The Heidelberg Magistrates Court in Melbourne found Saleh was not entitled to the payments.

He pleaded guilty to the charges after admitting to the ATO that he had not been carrying on a business as a sole trader, had agreed to be nominated as an employee with his full-time employer, and was not eligible for the JobKeeper payments.

ATO deputy commissioner Will Day said fraud against the stimulus measures is fraud against the community, "effectively stealing from the pockets of taxpayers at a time when the community needs it most".

"We have an important role to ensure the integrity of the stimulus measures and when we uncover fraud or people seeking to exploit them we will take action, as we know the community would expect us to do," Mr Day said in a statement.