Josh Frydenberg has ruled out another JobKeeper extension, saying the early vaccine rollout has improved the economic outlook

The vaccine will provide the Australian economy a shot in the arm, the Treasurer claims. (Ilia Yefimovich, picture alliance via Getty Images)
  • The Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has ruled out another extension to JobKeeper, trumpeting its success to date.
  • Despite urging from businesses, Frydenberg remains firm that the measure will expire in March as intended.
  • He also suggested an earlier vaccine rollout would improve Australia’s economic outlook, with four million doses to be distributed by the end of March, by the time JobKeeper ceases.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Australian businesses will be disappointed if they expect the government to continue to subsidy their payrolls, the Treasurer has suggested.

Speaking from a Cotton On distribution centre in Avalon, Victoria, Josh Frydenberg talked up the significance of the JobKeeper subsidy while talking down the prospect of another extension beyond its March expiry date.

“It’s the single largest economic support program that any government has ever undertaken. Already $77 billion is out the door, and, at its peak, it’s supported some 3.6 million Australian workers, and around one million Australian businesses,” Frydenberg said.

But those same workers and enterprises will need to kiss the subsidy goodbye come April, he continued.

“What we saw in October was that two million fewer workers and 450,000 fewer businesses were on JobKeeper compared to the month prior of September. Now, this was a direct result of the confidence coming back into the economy, the restrictions being eased, and people getting back to work,” Frydenberg said.

“But it was always meant to be a temporary program, it was always designed to help get businesses to the other side, and it’s not the only support measure that we have in place.”

Cotton On CEO Peter Johnson, flanking the Treasurer, sounded less sure as he was pressed on whether he was comfortable with the JobKeeper subsidy ending.

“Look, we will focus on what we can control,” he said.

Emerging from lockdown just two months ago, other Victorian business owners are even less convinced.

Representing 2,200 local businesses, Chapel Street Precinct general manager Chrissie Maus told Business Insider Australia the government needs to review its timeline.

“We really need to make sure that our government understand that the end of March is potentially going to give us a true perspective on the economy, but they may need to extend,” she said.

“We implore them to really make sure that this end of March date isn’t a cliff, which I’m concerned that it may be.”

Early vaccine to do economic heavy lifting

At this stage however, Frydenberg doesn’t seem too concerned by lobbying from his fellow Victorians, saying the “economic plan was working.”

Instead, the Treasurer suggested the national rollout of the vaccine, brought forward by some weeks, would provide some necessary economic stimulus.

“We hope to have some four million vaccine doses distributed by the end of March,” Frydenberg said, coinciding with the end of JobKeeper.

He noted the new timeline was “earlier than expected”, and ahead of the one laid out in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) numbers last month.

Frydenberg revealed the government now assumes Australians will be immunised before the end of the year, easing border closures and international travel restrictions, and improving the economic outlook.

With the next federal budget due to be handed down in May, Australians may just need to wait until then for any new support.

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