The Australian Parliament returns today after a 10 week coronavirus break, with JobKeeper and JobSeeker up for discussion. For the first time in Australian parliamentary history, the sitting will take on a hybrid meeting structure with many members expected to join via video conferencing.
In late July, the Government announced that both the JobKeeper wage subsidy and JobSeeker supplement were to be extended with lower rates from September 28. In this coming sitting fortnight, Parliament are expected to pass legislation in regards to the future of the payments.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann is focused on passing legislation to reduce and extend JobKeeper wage subsidies and the JobSeeker dole payment.
“That’s obviously important to give businesses and working Australians who rely on these payments certainty that the arrangements remain in place,” he said.
As it currently stands, JobKeeper will drop from the current $1,500 a fortnight to $1,200 from September 28 and then to $1,000 from January 4 to March 28 2021. The rates of those working less than 20 hours per fortnight will drop from $1,500 to $750 and then to $650 over the same period.
The JobSeeker supplement is currently $550 a fortnight. From September 25, it will reduce to $250 a fortnight until the end of 2020.
Labor wants both support payments retained at their existing rates for six months.
Labor says the Government should reconsider those reductions in light of recent coronavirus outbreaks, with shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers telling The Guardian Australia that the government needed to tailor income support to the current economic conditions as “we know the jobs crisis has been getting worse, not better.” But Minister Cormann says Australia should be “transitioning” away from unprecedented levels of help.
“At some point, we need to get back … into a situation where viable, profitable businesses pay for the wages of their employees out of their income, rather than on the basis of taxpayer support,” he said.
The “liquid assets test” is also going to be discussed, meaning JobSeeker recipients might have to wait for up to 13 weeks for payments if they have more than $5,500 saved themselves, or $11,000 between themselves and their partner. The Labor government does not want this measure in place, as they believe it will increase the difficulty for those struggling to get back on their feet.