Labor demands answers on JobKeeper future

Almost one million Victorian workers could be relying on wage subsidies due to end in September as the coronavirus pandemic intensifies in Melbourne.

Treasury figures show 245,000 businesses in the state are involved in the federal government’s JobKeeper program, with an estimated 177,000 in the locked-down greater Melbourne area.

Based on the national average of employees per business receiving JobKeeper, up to 930,000 workers in Victoria could be on the payment.

Nationally there are 3.3 million employees receiving the $1500 fortnightly payment designed to keep businesses connected to staff.

Labor is demanding the government release its plans for the scheme’s future earlier than the July 23 economic statement.

But Finance Minister Mathias Cormann is sticking to the government’s timeline, saying JobKeeper in its current form will end in September.

“On the basis of assessed need, there will be continued support moving forward,” he told Sky News on Friday.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the federal government had indicated further assistance would be announced later this month.

The government has flagged ongoing support for industries still struggling beyond September including aviation, tourism and entertainment.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said the government should be looking at better targeting the criteria so people couldn’t earn more than their normal wage.

He also said the payment should taper off over time, rather than come to a dead stop.

“They shouldn’t just be turning off the tap at the end of September,” Dr Chalmers told ABC radio,

“That would send a lot of businesses and a lot of workers to the wall if they ended the program too soon … cruelling the recovery before it even gathered pace.”

In NSW, more than 310,000 businesses are relying on JobKeeper, while Queensland has 171,000 signed up.

Western Australia (85,000), South Australia (53,000), Tasmania (14,000), the ACT (10,000) and the NT (4700) are ranked next.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is considering bringing income tax cuts forward as a further economic stimulus measure.

Senator Cormann said the government’s instinct and track record was to reduce taxes.

“We will be looking for opportunities to provide appropriate incentives through the tax system,” the finance minister said.

“What specific form that will take, that will be a matter for the budget and budget updates beyond that.”

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