Government divided on package’s end date as new data reveals five Australian areas most reliant on it

Coalition MPs have called for more taxpayer support for hard-hit industries including tourism but are split about whether to continue the jobkeeper wage subsidy beyond September or replace it with new programs.
On Thursday, the release of Treasury data on the areas most reliant on jobkeeper prompted Liberal MP Warren Entsch to call for the $1,500 fortnightly wage subsidy to be extended.
But Liberal MP Rowan Ramsey told Guardian Australia that while jobkeeper was right for March, [it] may not be right for September because in some cases it is paying people to do nothing.
The Treasury data shows the five areas most reliant on jobkeeper are the Sydney CBD, Melbourne CBD, Liverpool in Sydneys south-west, Hoppers Crossing in Melbournes west, and Cairns.
Entsch, the member for Leichhardt which covers Cairns, told reporters in Canberra there was a very strong argument and the figures that were released today just shows you how important it is that we continue to have this support within our community.
Entsch said international tourism was one of the first [sectors] to fall off the cliff and would be one of the last to recover.
Im not even sure March next year will be sufficient time [for it to recover], but I think its a no-brainer we have to do this extension.
Entsch said he was confident further support would be extended to the tourism sector, citing consultation with the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, and the prime minister, Scott Morrison.
Entsch told the Guardian that support for other sectors should be decided on a case-by-case basis depending on a Treasury review that would show if businesses have recovered, or if theyre so called zombie businesses that will only survive if the payment keeps going.
Ramsey, who represents Grey, an electorate with a loss of 8.6% of jobs, according to the Grattan Institute, said it was pretty apparent that regional electorates are more affected than urban ones during the coronavirus crisis.
Ramsey said it was premature to make decisions about whether to extend jobkeeper beyond September because so much of what we do for tomorrow is decided by what happens today in terms of improved health and economic results.
Its debatable whether jobkeeper is the answer. Jobkeeper is a great program, it was the right thing at the right time but in some cases it is paying people to do nothing quite a lot of cases, actually.
Ramsey said the governments $25,000 homebuilder building subsidy is paying people to do something and leveraging private investment.
Paying someone to work is far better for their mental health and the health of the economy than paying people not to work.
Come September, we might think that there are far better programs. What was right for March [jobkeeper] may not be right for September.
On Thursday morning, Morrison reiterated that he had already said that jobkeeper will remain until September, despite a treasury review in June and the decision to remove the payment from the childcare sector.
Morrison told 2GB Radio the review is about how youre implementing the program … and thats a lot of administrative issues.
Frydenberg has ruled out wholesale changes to the program but left the door open to further support to the hardest hit industries, such as tourism.
However, the government could trim back the scheme by lowering payments for workers who ordinarily earn less than $1,500 a fortnight, and require businesses to show they had the necessary revenue downturn each and every month to qualify.
Ramsey said there was not much point having the review if the process was incapable of making changes.
If an industry or business is fully recovered there is an argument about whether to keep putting public dollars into it.
Liberal MP Llew OBrien said he would be closely monitoring my electorates progress through and out the other side of the Covid crisis before deciding whether to call for jobkeeper to be extended.
If my [electorate’s job] numbers are showing we need further help for jobkeepers and jobseekers, Ill be pushing to extend them past September.
Liberal MP Llew OBrien
OBrien said he believed some sectors, including the $1.5bn tourism industry in Noosa, would require more tailored assistance.
If my [job] numbers are showing we need further help for jobkeepers and jobseekers, Ill be pushing to extend them past September.
Liberal MP Andrew Wallace said as a matter of principle he did not support extending jobkeeper beyond September because we cant keep putting that level of stimulus out, citing its $70bn price tag.
But he said the government should continue to give assistance targeted to particular industries, such as building and tourism.
Liberal MP Ted OBrien said the Sunshine Coast and the tourism sector has certainly been hit hard but jobkeeper but noted it would continue until September and said it was prudent to wait for the review. OBriens seat of Fairfax has lost 10.2% of jobs since the coronavirus crisis.
What is encouraging is that the government has already recognised that sectors like tourism are under strain and have already acknowledged that some form of additional support may be necessary, OBrien said.
But Im completely agnostic on whether sector-specific support comes via jobkeeper or other programs. Whats important is that we provide targeted, temporary assistance to those sectors most in need.
Nationals MP Anne Webster, whose seat of Mallee has lost 8% of jobs, said the government had provided every support we can to get business back on track but the jobkeeper payment was understandably a short-term beast.
Its not a long term, endless flow of cash because whatever we spend now must be paid back, so its a fine balance on when to stop, she said.
On Thursday the Australian Institute of Company Directors released a survey of 2,371 of its members about the governments response to coronavirus.
It found 44% nominated jobkeeper as the biggest support to business during Covid-19, with small and medium enterprises (47%) and not-for-profits (51%) particularly enamoured with the wage subsidy.
Company directors were overwhelmingly (81%) in favour of a cautious phasing out of government policies, such as the jobkeeper subsidy scheme and coronavirus supplement, even at the cost of increased government deficits and debt.
The remaining 19% of respondents said they would prefer a rapid wind-down of government policies in order to start to rebuild public finances and restore the economy to normal operation.
Labors shadow treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said the survey revealed widespread concern about the Morrison governments snapback strategy and its lack of a plan for the recovery.
The less done to protect jobs and support vulnerable workers, business and communities in the coming months, the harder and longer the recovery will be, he said.
Having introduced support for the economy too narrowly and too slowly, Australians cant afford for the government to withdraw that support too quickly or too bluntly.