Federal government pushes back on calls for new JobKeeper
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Victorians are being told to go to Centrelink for help if the state’s snap lockdown means they can’t get work in a message from the federal government that plays down any chances of a renewed JobKeeper wage subsidy.
There is a simmering dispute between the Victorian and federal governments over who should pay to support workers through the lockdown, with the acting Victorian Premier saying his government will help businesses but considers help for employees a federal responsibility.
Trade Minister Dan Tehan has talked up the federal government’s existing support for Victorians.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
Trade Minister Dan Tehan said on the ABC’s Insiders on Sunday that the federal government was already offering support to Victorians through Centrelink. “There is a disaster pandemic leave payment that is available,” Mr Tehan said.
But Services Australia, the government department that runs Centrelink, says the payment is only for people who have COVID-19 or are in isolation because they are a close contact of someone with the virus.
“This payment isn’t for people who need to stay home because of the stage 3 or 4 restrictions in Victoria,” it says on its website. Another crisis payment for people on welfare has similar coronavirus restrictions.
Pressed by Insiders host David Speers on whether the government was relaxing the payment requirements or announcing a new policy, Mr Tehan said it was not. “This is not a new government policy,” he said. “If you’ve lost your income and obviously it depends on eligibility, and you’re going to lose your income for the week, then you should go to Centrelink and see whether you might be eligible for an emergency payment.”
Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino said last week the state government would “provide additional support” to businesses but has not provided any details. Wage subsidies such as the now-concluded JobKeeper program were “entirely a matter for the Commonwealth”, he said.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions has called for a second round of JobKeeper to support Victorians, arguing the federal government’s management of the vaccine rollout led to the lockdown.
“Casuals in Victoria this week want to hear why Prime Minister Scott Morrison doesn’t think they deserve help,” ACTU president Michele O’Neil said.
“Working people should be able to rely on their government for support when they need it.”
Greens leader Adam Bandt is expected to call for a JobKeeper 2.0 on Monday.
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