Peter Dutton has broken ranks by raising the prospect of extending JobKeeper wage subsidies beyond their September expiry date.
The home affairs minister indicated the federal government had room to move in helping Australians recover from the pandemic.
“I think we are flexible and we will look at the way in which we could help businesses and people get back to a normal way of life,” he told Nine on Friday.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was far more reserved about extending the payment.
“We recognise that additional support will be needed for some sectors that are slower to recover,” Mr Frydenberg told Seven.
“It’s not just always about JobKeeper, it’s also about what other support packages and initiatives you can undertake in various sectors.”
So too was the finance minister.
“Clearly we do need to move off this temporary support,” Mathias Cormann told Sky News.
“JobKeeper and the enhanced JobSeeker program … they’re very expensive.”
The federal government originally budgeted $130 billion for the JobKeeper program, which provides workers $1500 a fortnight.
But they greatly overestimated the number of businesses that would sign up, meaning the scheme will cost $60 billion less than expected.
“We were planning for the worse, we were uncertain as to how long and how deep this crisis could go,” Senator Cormann said.
Rather than expanding the payments to workers who missed out or extending the six-month program, the treasurer appears more intent on redirecting the unspent money to sector-specific initiatives.
Mr Frydenberg raised tourism and housing sectors as two probable targets.
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe on Thursday warned a parliamentary committee that cutting off JobKeeper too soon could be a mistake.