Government is not working on a fourth economic package or industry-specific stimulus, Senate committee hears

Treasury officials have defended the rollout of the $130bn jobkeeper wage subsidy scheme and revealed 757,000 Australians have been approved for early access to superannuation to survive the Covid-19 economic contraction.
The Treasury secretary, Steven Kennedy, said on Tuesday that Australia had never seen an economic shock of this speed, magnitude and shape, with unemployment set to top 10% in the June quarter, an even sharper slide than the Great Depression.
Appearing before the Senate inquiry into the governments Covid-19 response, Treasury officials revealed that after the government committed $320bn in fiscal stimulus and business lending they were not working on plans for a fourth economic support package.
Kennedy revealed just $10bn of direct fiscal stimulus and economic supports had been paid out in the last three weeks, including $4.3bn in payments to households and $4.5bn to small businesses. He said $30bn of support would be provided in the next month.
The government has not asked Treasury for advice on further expansions of the jobkeeper wage subsidy program, nor industry-specific packages for the entertainment and arts sectors.
Treasury is advising the government about tax and industrial relations changes as a way to boost growth, as well as Virgins decision to enter voluntary administration. Kennedy said the commonwealth had a strong interest in Australia being served by two full-service airlines.
Kennedy praised Australian governments handling of the Covid-19 economic contraction, arguing they had substantially lessened the impact by acting early in introducing restrictions and crediting them with a balanced approach that had allowed construction, manufacturing and mining to continue.
Jenny Wilkinson, the deputy secretary of Treasurys fiscal group, told the inquiry that 762,000 people had applied for early access to superannuation, 757,000 had been approved and $6.3bn had been approved for release.
The figures suggest financially distressed people have so far asked to take an average of $8,322 out of retirement savings.
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Wilkinson said 540,000 employers had formally registered for the jobkeeper wage subsidy scheme, covering an estimated 3.3m employees.
The scheme, announced on 30 March, is designed to provide $1,500 fortnightly payments to keep up to 6m people in employment for six months.
Asked why the scheme required employers to make payments through April before they were reimbursed at the start of May a key barrier to many employers Kennedy said it was both an integrity measure and reflected the time required to roll out the program.
Wilkinson said it had taken two weeks to land the rules and two weeks for employers to apply which was in our mind the earliest we could roll out a program like this.
Officials made a virtue of delay, arguing Australia had been able to learn from mistakes overseas including the incentive created by the UK wage subsidy to stand employees down.
Kennedy said the take-up of jobkeeper was broadly on track to reach estimates of 6m workers, while other officials noted the scheme had already been expanded through eligibility changes made on Friday and an extension to give businesses until 8 May to pay jobkeeper for the month of April and receive reimbursement.
Meghan Quinn, the deputy secretary of the macroeconomic group, said about 160,000 people applied for jobseeker, the $1,100 fortnightly unemployment benefit, between 21 and 31 March.
Labors Murray Watt, seized on that, arguing that 160,000 people had lost jobs between restrictions on pubs, restaurants and other businesses and the announcement of jobkeeper on 30 March.
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Wilkinson defended the integrity of jobkeeper, noting that the Australian Taxation Office would use GST data to check employers were eligible and had powers to demand money be paid back if they entered contrived schemes to claim the money.
Wilkinson told the crossbench senators Rex Patrick and Jacqui Lambie that employers could not force employees to pay back jobkeeper: eligible employees are entitled to a full $1,500 per fortnight and can make complaints to a dedicated ATO hotline.
Quinn said there was a direct link between higher rates of home-schooling and parents withdrawing their labour, conceding schools being closed does have a negative economic impact.
But Quinn warned against attributing economic contraction to Covid-19 trade restrictions, warning that businesses and consumers still have to have confidence to resume economic activity, even after restrictions are lifted.