Australian companies to get wage subsidies

Businesses will be given wage subsidies to help keep employees on during the coronavirus pandemic.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will announce the latest round of stimulus measures on Monday as the federal government tries to stop the economic bleeding.

“It’s critically important we maintain the connection between employers and employees because there is going to be the other side to the coronavirus,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

He flagged legal obligations for bosses to pass on the subsidies to workers. 

The government is not expected to follow the UK model of the government paying 80 per cent of wages.

“We’ll have an Australian solution to what is an Australian challenge,” the treasurer said.

But he’s remaining tight-lipped on the details, despite speculation businesses will get up to $1500 a fortnight for each employee.

Labor’s industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke is concerned the package may only help full-time workers, leaving swathes of employees behind.

“We want to make sure that this reaches all workers,” he told the ABC.

“That has to include people in insecure work, people in the gig economy, and we’ve got to find a way of helping sole traders as well.”

Hundreds of thousands of Australians have already lost their jobs, with vast numbers expected to follow as the expected recession bites.

“It’s heartbreaking to see the queues outside Centrelink,” Frydenberg said.

“This is the harsh reality of what is a global pandemic like we’ve never seen before.”

Federal and state governments have agreed to a six-month freeze on residential and commercial evictions.

Frydenberg said Australia was facing health and economic crises.

“We’re dealing with a war on two fronts,” he said.

Keeping people in jobs, stopping businesses from going bust while also stabilising debt, credit and equity markets was the focus, he said.

Part of the latest package will need legislation but federal parliament has been suspended until August because of health concerns.

Frydenberg said the government would talk to the opposition about the best way to pass laws.

Burke, who is also manager of opposition business in the House of Representatives, said parliament could be recalled with 31 lower house MPs.

“As soon as the legislation is ready to go they should be recalling parliament and we’ll get it done,” he said.

The third stimulus package is also expected to ease restrictions on claiming welfare benefits.

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