Back to work by Christmas, PM predicts

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has backed the controversial decision to cut its coronavirus welfare payments next week, saying he expects “hundreds of thousands” of jobs to return before Christmas.

The Prime Minister said Victoria moving out of strict lockdown measures could help drive jobs growth, adding that 60 per cent of JobKeeper payments would be going to that state by the end of the month.

This week both JobKeeper (September 28) and JobSeeker (September 25) will be slashed by $300 per fortnight – to $1200 and $800 respectively – despite calls to keep them at current levels after the coronavirus pandemic led Australia into its first recession since 1990.

Those on JobSeeker will be able to earn an extra $300 per fortnight through work to “top up” their income.

Speaking on Insiders on the ABC Mr Morrison refused to answer whether the government had modelled the impact of those cuts on the economy, but said the government had always made it clear the boosted payments wouldn’t be around forever.

“Well, what we’ve seen in the last three months is over 400,000 jobs come back into the economy, and that is good news. That is encouraging news,” he said.

“We are just over half of the way back, and JobKeeper has played, with JobSeeker, an incredibly important role in keeping people in positions.

“You don‘t have to hold on to every measure forever. There are other measures that come in and pick up from where others left off.

“We are transitioning JobKeeper – it‘s important to do that. We always said it was not something that would be around forever.”

The PM said Victoria, which could see more people return to work from September 28 if an ease of Melbourne’s lockdown measures are triggered, would be key to the nation’s recovery.

Victoria on Sunday recorded 14 new cases, a new major milestone after recording the lowest daily number of coronavirus infections in three months.

“I think there will be hundreds of thousands of more jobs come back in between now and Christmas, particularly if we get this next step right in Victoria,” he said.

“The number of jobs went backwards in Victoria last month. Victoria will bounce back and that will add to the level of jobs growth.”

This week Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Dr Cassandra Goldie told the cuts would be “devastating” to unemployed people facing an uncertain future.

“There are 12 people receiving JobSeeker for every job vacancy and this is 28 people for every vacancy in regional areas,” she said.

“There are a lot of things that are not in our control in this pandemic but one thing that the government does have control over is ensuring that everyone has enough to cover the basics of life, including a safe place to live.

“Not only is this the right thing to do, it’s one of the best things we can do to support jobs now and on the long, hard road to full recovery.”

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