Covid payments ‘fight with premiers’ – ALP
THE Labor Party has accused the government of “pulling the rug out” from underneath working Australians in an attempt to wage war with states refusing to commit to the national Covid plan.
The swing comes after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Wednesday morning said the Commonwealth Covid-19 disaster payments would be scaled back when states reached 70 per cent double vaccination and scrapped once 80 per cent was reached.
It means workers in Commonwealth-declared
hotspots in NSW, Victoria and the ACT may lose income within a month.
Eligible people have been getting $750 a week if they lost more than 20 hours of work, $450 a week if they lost between eight and 20 hours and $200 a week for those on income support payments who lost more than eight hours of work.
Mr Frydenberg said the program, which costs $1bn a week and services about 1.5 million Australians, was an “unprecedented level of economic support”, and that there should never have been an expectation that it would continue indefinitely.
“We need to learn to live with the virus, we can’t eliminate it,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“People have had enough (of lockdowns) … They’re at their wits’ end. They want their kids back at school, they want their businesses to reopen. They are getting the jab because … when they get the jab, restrictions will ease. That is what the state governments need to provide.”
Mr Frydenberg said the commonwealth would continue to work with states to help hard-hit industries. He said ending the payment was in line with the “best” financial and health advice and also with the plan agreed to by national cabinet.
Opposition Treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers, however, said the announcement was another example of “picking a fight” with those state leaders resistant to committing to the national plan.
He slammed the entire move to scrap payments, saying the government had failed to act with urgency with the vaccine rollout and building purpose-built quarantine facilities, but was racing to cut off support payments.
“The economic support should match the economic conditions, and people are hurting now and will be hurting for the foreseeable future,” Mr Chalmers told ABC Darwin. “We need to make sure that the government isn’t in a rush to pull the rug out from under workers and small businesses.”
The government will leave in place the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment – which provides support to Australians forced to quarantine or isolate – until June 30, 2022.