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Frydenberg ignored advice on JobKeeper design flaw, Liberal member claims

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Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in Parliament House in 2021 (image via YouTube)

Josh Frydenberg's approach to JobKeeper has been criticised on both sides of the political aisle, writes Hayden O'Connor.

JOBKEEPER HAS BEEN heavily criticised for excluding universities, paying people double what they would usually earn and of course for the absence of a clawback mechanism.

The latest criticism however comes from financial adviser and Liberal Party member Steve Blizard, who claims his concerns on the design flaws of JobKeeper were ignored by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Stating quite clearly that he was speaking his personal views and not representing the Liberal Party, Blizard described his concerns with JobKeeper and how Frydenberg ignored those concerns:

“As an individual, I contacted our WA Liberal Senate Team with my concerns on JobKeeper. One WA Senator, who is currently in Parliament, passed my design flaw concerns onto Josh Frydenberg and Frydenberg ignored him. The issue was, you’re paying people not to work, instead of paying people who are out of work.”

Blizard added to this by claiming that Frydenberg often ignores backbenchers and that the rejection of their input and advice is a common occurrence:

“This is a common issue, Frydenberg ignores advice from backbenchers and listens exclusively to the Treasury. Morrison and Frydenberg are both beholden to the public service.”

This isn’t the only time Frydenberg has allegedly ignored advice on JobKeeper. He may have also ignored advice from the Treasury itself. On Friday 10 September, Treasury’s Deputy Secretary, Fiscal Group Jenny Wilkinson refused to deny that Treasury had recommended a clawback mechanism in the original design of JobKeeper when questioned by the Economics Legislation Committee.

According to Blizard, the lack of checks in JobKeeper facilitated a waste of taxpayers’ money by allowing individuals to rort the scheme:

Some people needed the money and some people didn’t and this is what happens when you throw money at people. I knew people personally who sat around for six months doing nothing, essentially having six months long service leave courtesy of JobKeeper.

 

This then created problems for companies finding people to work as people didn’t need to work because they had JobKeeper. That’s what happens when you pay people not to work, rather than paying people who are out of work.

When asked whether the money should have gone directly to the workers rather than companies, Blizard agreed and said:

“They could have done that. I thought JobSeeker was appropriate as it paid people who were out of work, I thought JobKeeper was not appropriate.”

Given the situation and uncertainty of the pandemic when JobKeeper was first implemented, Blizard was happy to concede the difficulties involved, recognising that money had to get out the door quickly but believes the issues with JobKeeper should have been fixed:  

To be fair to them at that point of time, there was no vaccine and the world had no idea what was going on. JobKeeper should have been better tabled via Centrelink for people who really needed it.

 

I accepted that the money needed to go out fast and Centrelink couldn’t handle that initially, but the program went on for six months, they could have transitioned the program to go through Centrelink within the first three months of JobKeeper.

On the clawback issue, Mr Blizard believes it may have stopped companies applying for JobKeeper as claimed by the Government but that didn’t stop him from criticising Frydenberg’s operation of the Treasury:

Why isn’t Morrison and Frydenberg running the department properly? Why are they doing whatever the Treasury suggests without questioning it?

 

They are entirely beholden to the public service and you have to wonder if Morrison and Frydenberg have a brain of their own, we are paying $152 million a year for the Treasury to come up with ideas to build the economy but most of their ideas aren’t good at all.

Despite not believing that a clawback was required Blizard did comment on the perceived double standard on paying back funds to the Government:

“Morrison’s got a big problem; he seems to be creating one rule for the rich and another for the poor. They won’t come after you if you’re running a big corporation like Gerry Harvey but if you’re an everyday person, they’ll take you to court.”

Blizard finished by stating that he believes many of complaints directed at the Morrison Government are coming from conservatives:

“I’m not a left-wing Labor Party supporter, I’m a hardcore right-wing conservative, but there are more complaints about the Liberal Government from people like me than there is from the Labor Party. That’s why the Liberal Party primary vote is going to crap.”

There is certainly anger with JobKeeper from the left side of politics and from swing voters.

If Mr Blizard is correct, the complaints from conservatives should be of great concern to Josh Frydenberg who holds Kooyong on a margin of 6.4 per cent thanks to the 8.2 per cent first preference swing against him at the last election and the recent redistribution of the now marginal blue-ribbon seat.

Hayden O’Connor is an I.T. professional from Tasmania who currently lives in Melbourne. You can follow Hayden on Twitter @HaydenJOConnor.

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