The federal government’s coronavirus response bill has been slashed by $60 billion after about 1000 businesses made “significant” reporting errors.
Treasury and the tax office have revised the cost of the JobKeeper wage subsidy program down to $70 billion from $130 billion.
The businesses made the errors when reporting the number of employees estimated to receive help.
Hundreds mistakenly wrote they had 1500 workers when they only had one – with $1500 the amount received each fortnight through the program.
The number of employees forecast to be assisted is now 3.5 million instead of 6.5 million.
About $8.7 billion has already been paid out through the wage subsidy.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is resisting Labor’s calls to extend the program, arguing that the reporting error is positive for Australians as the recovery bill has reduced.
“This revision by Treasury is not an invitation to go and spend more. All the money that the government is spending during the coronavirus period is borrowed money,” he told the ABC.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese says the government has lost its credentials for handling the economy.
“This is a mistake you could have seen from space,” he said.
It comes as NSW reported its 50th COVID-19 death after an 80-year-old woman died in Concord Hospital, taking the national toll to 101.
There were 15 new cases across the country on Friday, with the number of active cases rising to just over 500.
Chief nursing and midwifery officer Alison McMillan says it’s important for Australians not to drop the ball as restrictions ease.
“It is up to all of us to play our part in making sure that we don’t see outbreaks and we don’t see a resurgence of this disease across Australia,” she told reporters in Canberra.
NSW has declared “happy hour” for pubs and restaurants with up to 50 people able to dine in restaurants, pubs and cafes from June 1 – well above the limits in other states and territories.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said strict rules would be in place.
“The last thing we want to do is have to shut businesses down because they have not complied. And the last thing we want to do is go backwards,” she told reporters.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro said it would be a boost for regional businesses hit hard by drought, bushfire and the pandemic.
“It’s our happy hour – it’s time to wine and dine,” he said.
Victoria announced its year 11 and 12 students will begin exams in early November and have their results by the end of the year, as schools prepare to reopen next week.
In the latest sign of economic damage, Wesfarmers announced the closure or conversion of up to 167 Target outlets.
Target Country has been hardest hit by the decision, with 50 stores to be axed and 52 set to become small-format Kmart shops.
Wesfarmers will also convert 10 to 40 Targets to Kmarts and close between 10 and 25 of its large format outlets.
However, in a bid to counter the downturn the federal government announced local councils would share in $1.8 billion for road upgrades and local projects.