Budget push to speed up states’ spending

States will be encouraged to spend money as fast as possible to revive the economy in a federal budget plan to build on more than $54 billion in wage subsidies paid in just four months.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is considering measures in the October 6 budget to push the states to speed up their assistance plans and complement mammoth federal outlays on the JobKeeper wage subsidy.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the JobKeeper figures were part of an unprecedented level of federal support for the economy.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

"There are things that we are considering about how we provide opportunities for states to spend the money that the government is providing in order to create jobs," Mr Frydenberg said on Friday.

"We'll have more to say in the context of the budget. But it's fair to say that when we are providing support to the states, or to various industries, we want that money to be spent as quickly as possible."

While Mr Frydenberg made no criticism of individual leaders, some members of federal cabinet believe the states and territories need to spend more on economic support rather than rely on Canberra.

One month after Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe told state and territory leaders to pour at least $40 billion into infrastructure projects, they are yet to reveal their response.

Treasury figures show total spending on the JobKeeper subsidy reached $54.8 billion in the four months to the end of July, more than half the $101.3 billion total cost of the scheme in its scheduled life over the year to March.

Victorian companies and their workers have received $16.3 billion from the scheme so far, but this is expected to climb faster than elsewhere due to the state's prolonged shutdown.

JobKeeper payments have injected $18.6 billion into NSW, $10.2 billion into Queensland, $4.8 billion into Western Australia, $3.1 billion into South Australia, $843 million into Tasmania, $677 million into the Australian Capital Territory and $238 million into the Northern Territory.

This had helped 1.2 million employees in NSW, 1.1 million in Victoria, 670,000 in Queensland, 310,000 in Western Australia, 200,000 in South Australia, 54,000 in Tasmania, 45,000 in the ACT and 15,000 in the Northern Territory as at September 14.

About 53 per cent of the payments go to men, slightly below the percentage of male private sector employees, and 47 per cent to women, slightly higher than the proportion of private sector employees who are female.

While state leaders have outlined a series of economic measures, Prime Minister Scott Morrison hinted on Friday they could do more.

"I mean, JobKeeper alone is over $100 billion. If you add up every single thing that the states are doing in their COVID response, you won't even get to the cost of JobKeeper," Mr Morrison said.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews outlined $3 billion in business support last Sunday but some of the measures delayed rather than cancelled costs for employers.

One of the concerns in the Morrison government is that the Victorian plan defers $1.7 billion in payroll tax payments until next financial year, raising doubts over whether those companies could ever pay the accrued tax debt.

Mr Frydenberg said the JobKeeper figures were part of an unprecedented level of federal support for the economy.

"Over 900,000 businesses have received JobKeeper payments worth around $55 billion and this has been an economic lifeline to over 3.5 million Australians during the global pandemic," he said.

Victorians account for 41.6 per cent of JobKeeper recipients this month but that is set to change significantly as a result of the business shutdowns across the state.

Mr Frydenberg said there would be more Victorians on JobKeeper than from all the other states and territories combined over time.

The full JobKeeper payment falls from the original level of $1500 a fortnight to $1200 from the first week of October and $1000 from the first week of January, before stopping at the end of March.

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