JIM CHALMERS MP
MEMBER FOR RANKIN
Butterfingers Frydenberg Drops the Ball Again
It says so much about the Morrison Government that Gucci and Louis Vuitton pocketed JobKeeper payments they didn’t need because their profits were going up, while working families and small businesses in Western Sydney go without.
It shouldn’t have been like this.
When Labor first proposed wage subsidies to get Australians through the worst of the recession, Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg dismissed our idea as dangerous.
When they changed their mind, we didn’t rub their noses in it, we welcomed it.
We supported JobKeeper in the parliament and we applauded every single job it saved.
The problem was that the parliament delegated the implementation of the program entirely to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg - the butterfingers of Australian politics.
He was responsible for the rate and eligibility, and for making sure there were checks and balances, transparency and accountability.
He took a very good idea and badly mangled it.
We shouldn’t be surprised.
Paul Keating famously described one of Frydenberg’s predecessors in Kooyong as a soufflé which wouldn’t rise twice.
The current Member for that blue ribbon Melbourne seat could only dream of being described as something as substantial as a soufflé.
He’s more like whipped cream in a spray can - all noise and fizz but quickly melting away when heat is applied.
Sydney and Melbourne are locked down and the economy is bleeding billions of dollars a week because he and Scott Morrison didn’t order enough vaccines or fund purpose-built quarantine facilities.
Treasury says 56,000 jobs were lost after JobKeeper was cut in March, well-before the economic crisis was over – 20,000 of them were in New South Wales.
We’ve seen $67 billion stripped from the economy and 200,000 jobs lost over the last two months when 60% of the country was locked down.
If he hadn’t wasted at least $13 billion on businesses whose profits were rising and didn’t need help, there’d be more room to help those that genuinely do.
His Treasurership is marked by one stuff-up after another.
Debt that had multiplied even before COVID-19 and now a trillion dollars of it with too little to show.
‘Back in Black’ mugs when his government has delivered eight deficits and is expecting forty more.
A budget riddled with car park rorts and dodgy deals, weighed down with waste.
Stagnant wages, rampant job insecurity and underemployment, weak business investment, poor productivity - all before the virus and all expected after.
Strip away the spin and puffed-up self-importance, and on the numbers alone it’s hard to think of a worse performing Treasurer in our lifetime.
Thanks to him, the days of being lectured by Liberals on budget responsibility or economic management are over.
So, having been solely responsible for the implementation of the most wasteful program in Australian history, what’s his response?
After eight years in government?
Morrison and Frydenberg are both temperamentally incapable of admitting their mistakes - even budget-destroying ones - and taking responsibility.
Another lie-fuelled scare campaign on Labor and the economy is no substitute for leadership.
No wonder Peter Dutton is now circling them both.
Labor will not try and claw back payments made to businesses which didn’t need them.
That $13 billion horse has bolted.
We welcome the repayments that have come from public pressure and a push for more transparency, and it would be better if the Treasurer had insisted on that from the beginning.
Labor believes our economy and our society can be stronger after COVID-19 than it was before and that small businesses can be a big part of this story.
That’s why we’ve supported them every step of the way, not taken them for granted or left them hanging like the Morrison Government continues to.
This opinion piece was first published as “Lending support ends up in the blame game” in The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, 29 September 2021