JobKeeper paid to dead people
Dead people, criminals behind bars and people living overseas were signed up to receive the lucrative $1500 JobKeeper payment by employers looking to rort the wage subsidy.
The Australian Taxation Office had investigated the cases of almost 6000 people by the end of September, documents obtained under freedom of information reveal.
Of those cases, almost a third were found to be ineligible for the $1500 fortnightly wage subsidy.
According to the documents, the ATO flagged JobKeeper recipients as suspicious for the following reasons: 'Client is in jail', 'Has valid visa but client is out of the country', and 'Employee … is deceased'.
The JobKeeper $130b scheme was hastily put together in March at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Labor's treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers described the revelations as "humiliating" for the Coalition, which had criticised similar rorts under Labor during the Global Financial Crisis.
"Just for once, Josh Frydenberg needs to come out today and take responsibility for the fact that JobKeeper money is going to workers that don't exist," he said.
"If something's going well, Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison are all over it, in front of the cameras taking credit, elbow bumps, pats on the back for each other.
"But when something's going wrong as it clearly is with JobKeeper here, then we need to see the Treasurer and the Prime Minister actually take responsibility for it."
Asked if the revelations were an embarrassment, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said: "JobKeeper has been a remarkable program."
He said he was "confident" in the ATO's ability to manage compliance.
"(JobKeeper) has supported 3.6m Australian workers and around one million Australian businesses," he said.
The ATO would not reveal how many dead or incarcerated people had been registered for the payment, but said the vast majority of the 95,000 compliance reviews it had conducted had found no wrongdoing.
"The ATO knows the vast majority of Australians are honest, and we have uncovered very few attempts to deliberately cheat the system," a spokesperson said.
"Our sophisticated compliance measures quickly identify potential rorts and payments are automatically stopped for further verification.
"Since the first payments were made in April, we have monitored every payment, every day, every month, and we will continue to do so until the last payment is made."
Labor has joined a number of hard-hit sectors in demanding the scheme be extended beyond its scheduled end date in March.
"When Cairns and places like it are on JobKeeper life support, Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison shouldn't be pulling the plug," Mr Chalmers said.
But Mr Frydenberg stood firm on the timetable, insisting the scheme was always "a temporary and targeted program" designed to get Australia through the worst of the crisis.
He also hit back at Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk over her demand that the subsidy, currently paid to about 170,000 businesses across the state, be extended.
"We have delivered more than three times what the Queensland government has committed to," he said.
"We'd welcome further announcements by the Palaszczuk government and from all state governments to reach into their pockets and provide the support that is necessary as part of Australia's economic recovery."
ATO figures revealed about 450,000 businesses, and 2 million individuals, had come off the supplement between September and October.
It came after the government tightened eligibility requirement for the payment.
Originally published as JobKeeper paid to dead people