New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Wednesday announced the extension of the state’s lockdown restrictions, which won’t be lifted until at least 16 July. To ease the burden on the state’s businesses and staff, the Premier said her government had asked the federal government to reintroduce the JobKeeper wage subsidy, which expired on 28 March.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed that he had been approached by the state with a request for JobKeeper to be reinstated, which he said was answered with a firm “no”.
“The Treasurer of New South Wales has written to me asking for the reinstatement of JobKeeper,” Mr Frydenberg told reporters. “We are not bringing back JobKeeper.
“That was an emergency support payment that we introduced at the height of the pandemic. We then extended it beyond the initial six months to 12 months.
“We brought in a tiered payment to take into account the number of hours worked and that JobSeeker payment played a very important part in our economic recovery, particularly in keeping the formal connection between employers and employees.”
Mr Frydenberg said the state would receive the Morrison government’s COVID Disaster Payment, the same support provided to Victoria when the state succumbed to its most recent lockdown just weeks ago.
The payment offers financial support for areas defined as COVID-19 national hotspots and are undergoing lockdown for more than seven days.
Workers who are unable to work because of lockdown restrictions will be eligible for $500 a week if they normally work more than 20 hours each week, and those who work less than 20 hours receive $325 weekly until restrictions ease.
Eligible workers will include Australian citizens, residents and visa holders who are permitted to work in Australia, and aged 17 and older.
“That is, where there is a [lockdown] beyond one week and it is in a hotspot, the payments of $500 and $325 are available,” Mr Frydenberg said. “The $500 payment is the same quantity or quantum provided when JobKeeper ended.”
Mr Frydenberg said that, in a recent national cabinet meeting, it was decided that the federal government would provide income support in the event of future lockdowns, and state governments would provide business support.
“In Victoria, [Treasurer] Tim Pallas announced around $450 million in business support,” Mr Frydenberg said. “[NSW Treasurer] Dominic Perrottet announced up to $10,000 payments for businesses and I note the Premier today has said they will give further consideration as to what additional economic support [the state would offer], but we aren’t about to bring back JobKeeper.”
Speaking at a press conference, Ms Berejiklian offered sympathy to business owners, and hinted at further support.
“If we need to do more, we will,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“The message to businesses is we know the business community would prefer to live in a certain environment without having to go into lockdown every few weeks and we are giving our community the best chance of not having another lockdown until the community is vaccinated.
“I think the consultations with the business community have been deeply appreciated.”