Parliament passes $130bn jobkeeper wage subsidy
"The biggest stimulus package Australia has ever seen" has passed both houses of parliament on Wednesday. Labor supported the $130 billion wage subsidy package despite the Coalition shooting down calls to expand eligibility to short-term casuals and temporary visa workers. Two bills to create the $1,500 fortnightly jobkeeper payment passed the Senate after Labor waved them through without insisting on amendments that had earlier failed in the lower House. Member for New England Barnaby Joyce said it is the most significant stimulus package Australia has ever had. "If your turnover is under $1bn and you have had more than a 30 per cent reduction - by reason of COVID-19 pandemic - then the employer is entitled to $1500 a fortnight to support you in a job," he said. "There are two sides to this. We have got to keep the economy going, we have got to keep people in a job, and we have to make sure when the pandemic has passed that people are employed. "The other side of this is we are going to owe people an awful lot of money that has to be repaid." The jobkeeper has been the subject of intense discussion since it was initially raised, with calls to include casuals who had been employed for less than 12 months. Mr Joyce said it is tragic for those workers who fall outside that parameter, but the cutoff had to be made somewhere. "You have to draw a line around how much it is going to cost," he said. "If we expand it much more, it would have gone from $130bn to around $200bn. "It's just like how much you can put on your credit card. Ultimately, you get to a point where you can't go any further." Mr Joyce said speaking with residents in his electorate it has been clear may have been traumatised by the pandemic. He said most people are doing the right thing, however, and trying to stay calm.
Sally McManus, secretary of the ACTU, called it a "historic win for working people." "We called on the government to deliver a wage subsidy for all workers who needed a wage subsidy," she said. "It wasn't long ago that members of the Morrison government were suggesting people would have to rely on their savings and go on Newstart, now they have allocated $130bn to wage subsidies. "The scale of this union-won package is unprecedented. The jobkeeper wage subsidy, along with the jobseeker payment, will transform lives and bring many workers and their families back from the brink of economic ruin." Unless there is another emergency bill, parliament now won't sit until at least the second week of August. Parliament also granted treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, a broad discretion to vary the eligibility for jobkeeper payments, to bypass the need to recall parliament if further economic supports are needed. During Question Time, Jim Chalmers asked Josh Frydenberg whether he could confirm that under the government's legislation, he will have the power to extend the jobkeeper wage. Specifically, to casuals employed for less than a year, local government workers, university staff and teachers, and temporary workers. "Mr Speaker, I can confirm there is a power in the legislation for the minister to make changes to the system, but I can also confirm to the chamber, to the House, that national cabinet agreed that local government was the responsibility of state governments," Mr Frydenberg said. "I can confirm there is a power in the legislation for the minister to make changes to the system, but I can also confirm to the chamber, to the House, that national cabinet agreed that local government was the responsibility of state governments. "In terms of casuals, as the prime minister has already told the House, casuals who have been with their employer for 12 months or more are eligible for the jobkeeper payment.