Labor leader Anthony Albanese has called on the government to extend the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme at the original $1,500-per-fortnight rate for Victorian businesses, amid the state’s ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Yesterday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced stricter COVID-19 lockdown measures, including a curfew for metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, and additional restrictions on shopping and exercise.
Further restrictions for Victorian businesses are expected to be revealed later today too.
The latest lockdown rules are in place for at least the next six weeks, until September 13 — just two weeks before changes to the JobKeeper wage subsidy are set to come into effect.
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According to the ABC, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has suggested JobKeeper eligibility requirements could be tweaked for businesses in Victoria, as it looks like they’ll likely be struggling for longer.
The $1,500 per fortnight wage subsidy is set to be reduced to $1,200 for full-time workers, and $750 for per-time workers at the end of September.
While Frydenberg hasn’t committed to leaving the original rate in place for Victorian businesses, he did say the Treasury is looking at “some flexibility around the eligibility requirements” for businesses in the state beyond the September cliff.
“But we’ve always talked about JobKeeper payments being at a transition rate, being a national scheme, and to step down over time,” he said.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese has called on the government not to withdraw either JobKeeper or JobSeeker support too quickly, saying this would create “more hardship, and in the long run means the economic downturn is longer and deeper”.
“We need to make sure that we have a flexible approach to these issues and that it’s tailored towards the economic conditions as they are rather than as we want them to be,” he said.
There may be businesses in Victoria that saw revenues increase in June, as restrictions eased, but that will now see their business come to a standstill once again.
“Businesses that weren’t suffering before but are suffering in the coming period need to be given support,” he said.
Albanese said the $1,500 JobKeeper rate should “quite clearly” be extended beyond September, for Victorian businesses.
“The government needs to deal with it as it is, and the early withdrawal of support will mean a deeper downturn, and more intense than it needed to be,” he said.
“The logic of JobKeeper, keeping those relations between employers and employees, is absolutely essential, and it needs to be at the heart of the economic response.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has not yet addressed the issue. But, on Sunday Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he has been in discussions with Morrison about ongoing support.
“There is an acknowledgment that JobKeeper and JobSeeker at the current rates continue out until the end of September,” Andrews said.
If there are businesses that do not qualify for JobKeeper payments “when clearly they should, then we will continue to work through those issues”, he added.
“I was very encouraged by the Prime Minister’s partnership, and his sense we’re all in this together and providing support, particularly income support and potentially cash flow support beyond that for businesses.”